Thursday, December 23, 2010

..a kid thing...

Denny and I have a collection. A big collection. So big that most of them are in a storage unit in Pennsylvania. This collection is so important to us that we notice when one is missing or out of order. Both of our children are already claiming parts of this collection when we pass on. My dream house has a room dedicated solely to our collection. If we were weathy people there would be no end to adding to our collection.

The collection....books!

One of my favorite categories is Christmas Children's Books. I love them. I only buy one a year. Last year one of my gifts from Ryan was "The Polar Express." It meant so much to me that he gave me something I really wanted! No matter how old you get, you are never too old to read a children's book.

Last night's selection was "A Red Neck's Christmas," I read it out loud. When everybody laughs at the lines, it makes my day! You can never get to old to be read to! There is something calming about being read to. My mom is an avid reader, my husband is a voracious reader, my children loved to read while growing up.

Today I opened my book for this Christmas season and Renee and I really enjoyed it. The cover is misleading a little bit. Although it is about Santa, the story is about a little girl Holly and since it is Christmas Santa is in there somewhere!

When my children were growing up one of our favorite activities was library night. We would dedicate a night of the week to simply reading. No music, no television, no friends. Just reading our books.

Of course going to the library was always a regular routine. We would bring home literally bags and bags of books. Such treasures.

Being a reader develops critical thinking, good spelling, increases the vocabulary. Stimulates the imagination and can take you all over the planet without buying an airplane ticket. We have ministered in so many countries. The one thing we always buy is a book about the country we are in. That has become another special collection.

Since our passion is the ministry and preaching, we are continually made aware of how important reading is to a speaker. We can always tell when a preacher does not spend time reading. Reading is an important element in being a life-long student and learner. Reading outloud is also important. How distracting it is when people stumble over reading the text outloud to the congregation. It is such an important discipline. Disciplines can be just a natural overflow of your life or they can be very tedious and unwelcome. Either way disciplines are critical to our behavior and character development.

Well from a kid's thing to did I get there?

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

memories of Christmas goodies....

I really miss my Grama Hall and my Grama Niles. Grama Niles died when I was 9 and Grama Hall when I was 15 years old. Both left such indelible impressions on me in many ways. As I have been busy making holiday goodies I can't help but think about both of them.

Grama Hall loved evaporated milk. In my memory she always had hot tea at meals with evaporated milk. I never remember her drinking water or milk made from dried milk like us! Funny how I loved dried milk when I was a kid, white or chocolate! Back in those days soda wasn't a staple in the house.

I remember evaporated milk being used in so many things especially her Christmas cookies. My mom makes Grama Hall's cookies every Christmas and even some other holidays like hearts at Valentine's Day. I remember helping my mom stir, and stir, and stir some more! The bin of cookie cutters came out and we would make batches and batches of Grama Hall's cookies. We would be so tired by the time dinner came that we would put them in big tins (the ones that would hold the flour, today I guess people would call them the holiday popcorn tins). Then in the next couple of days Mom would make the frosting. When the 5 of us kids would help ice and decorate, Mom would put the frosting in Corning cereal bowls and add different food coloring to each bowl. We had to have green for the hollys and trees, red for the stockings and Santa. It seems like we always used white for the bells and stars and on the bells we would put a cinnamon dot candy for the ringer. We would use sprinkles and decorate to our hearts content. Of course some had to remain plain for Dad! Even today I leave some plain, I think I really like those too for dipping in my coffee or chocolate milk!

Back to the evaporated milk. Grama Hall's cookie recipes called for sour milk. She would add a tablespoon of cider vinegar to a cup of evaporated milk and yum! What a difference it makes in the cookies. Everytime I make the sour milk I think of Grama! Her sugar cookie recipe also has nutmeg and that is something I find different than other sugar cookies. Grama Hall's are the best! This year I made her raisin filled cookies and soft molasses ones too.

In the years that I grew up every girl would have a hope chest. A trunk or a box of future items to be used when married. I remember so clearly sitting with my Grama Hall, going through her recipe box. I am so happy today that I did that. She gave me the index cards to write the recipes. They are still the cards I use today, probably over 40 years old! When Current started making plastics I remember putting Grama Hall's recipes in the plastics first. They have always been treasures to me.

Another holiday goodie Mom always made are popcorn balls! Such a tradition that I can't let a Christmas go by without making Mom's fudge and popcorn balls. I still remember Mom standing at the stove bringing the popcorn ball mixture to a boil and then saying, "Kids come on! I just saw the hair!" You know when the mixture is ready because you lift the spoon and a hair forms! Doesn't that sound funny when you read it! Yesterday when I made the popcorn balls, Renee was intrigued with the hair! Well, when it is ready it is like sheer madness getting that hot mixture into the 4 batches of popcorn you've popped and getting the balls made while it is burning hot! We Hall kids have had our share of finger burns, that is for sure!

Mom was so concerned about Jamaica not having the ingredients for popcorn balls after our first Christmas here that the next time we went home she got Karo Syrup, popcorn and cream of tartar for me! I am so glad I have the right stuff here in Jamaica!

My friend Cheri sent me a really neat email the other day. It fits right into the Christmas Goodie Blog!

Christmas Cookie Rules
1. If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3. If a friend comes over while you are making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend. Because your friend's first cookie is calories free - rule #1 applies to your friend. It would be rude to let your friend sample alone, and being the friend that you are makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5. Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have 3 and green ones have 5 - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!

7. Cookies eaten while watching Miracle on 34th Street have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9. Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate has no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate. We all know how calories like to CLING!

And finally...
10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories.

The Niles side of me loves cookies. I think that if my mom and I lived in the same house we would survive on cookies and tea.

They our the #1 comfort food! Something I would really like to know is how far back to the recipes go? Where did Grama Hall get them? Like Grama Nile's suet pudding, (that is to good to be true) where did she ever get that recipe and whoever thought that suet would taste good in a cake with butter sauce? Memories, questions, longing for home kind of moments!

Happy Holiday Baking!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Luke 2 ...Patois style!

It is reported that Patois begain in the 17th century with the slaves from West and Central Africa. The language is a mixture of English and Creole.
In Jamaica, British English is the official language, however, Patois is the language of most homes, the street and I should say the heart.
Our students speak English in the classroom but in our home over a boxing match on the Wii it is Patois all the way!
The Bible College has a Christmas dinner on the last day of school and one of our students graced the gathering with Luke 2:8-20, Patois Version.
Take a minute and read it out loud. It may make more sense that way!

(vs 8) Di shepherd dem di some place. Innah di field, a watch dem sheep innah nite.
(vs 9) An wah angel af di Lard cume up pon dem. and father God cume down an shine pan dem an dem get fraid.
(vs 10) An di angel tell dem seh, nuh badda man. A good news mi cume, cume tell you. Weh afi every badi.
(vs 11) One pickney aago barne todah down weh David come from, dem a go call him Christ.
(vs 12) An it ago bi wah sign to you; you ago fine di pickney wrap up innah some cloth, lid down innah wah manger.
(vs 13) An mi seh, wid di angel some whole heep fram heaven an wiship father God, an dem a seh,
(vs 14) Glory to father God who deh innah heaven, an pan earth peace, good will to every man.
(vs 15) An it came to pass, when di angel dem left gone backa heaven, di shepherds seh to dem one another, mek we go down a beth-lehem, an weh see di ting weh fi came to pass, weh father GOd tell we seh Him a go do.
(vs 16) An dem run, run come fine Mary and Joseph and di pickney lid down innah oah manger.
(vs 17) An when dem see it, dem go tell everybodi all over di place bont di pickney.
(vs 18) An everybodi weh hear dem cant believe seh a so it go, weh di shepherd dem seh.
(vs 19) but Mary keep all a dem sintino, yah and panda dem innah har hart.
(vs 20) An di shepherd cume back, cume glorifying an a praise father God fi all di tings dat dem hear an si, weh di angel di tell dem.

and that my friend, is the beautiful story of the child that changed the world..Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in Jamaica

I find this piece interesting from the Jamaica Gleaner, dated December 9, 2010. During Jonkonnou (John Canoe) a traditional Christmas celebration, revellers parade through the streets dressed in colorful masquerade costumes. Traditionally, men wearing white, mesh masks play the characters which include the horned cow head, the policeman, horsehead, wild indian, devil, belly-woman, pitchy-patchy, and sometimes a bride and house head which is an image of a great house carried by the reveller on his head.

The parade and festival probably arrived with African slaves. Although Jamaica is credited with the longest running tradition of Jonkanoo, today these mysterious bands with their gigantic costumes appear more as entertainment at cultural events than at random along the streets. It is not as popular in the cities as it was 30 years ago but is still a tradition in rural Jamaica.

The Gleaner continues, The Grand Market is a community fair characterized by food, street dancing, crafts and music. In the past, the weekend before Christmas and particularly on Christmas Eve, markets all over the island were set up with vendors selling small toys, firecrackers, balloons and sweets of all kind, including pinda (an African word for peanut) cakes, grater cakes and peppermint sticks.

Traditionally some markets on Christmas Eve are decorated with streamers, large accordion-style bells and balloons. People are decked out in fancy clothes, including bright hats purchased upon entering Grand Market. Everyone comes to town for market and the celebrations last throughout the day and night.

Dinner on Christmas day is the biggest feast of the year. It includes chicken, oxtail, curry goat, roast ham, rice and gungo peas. Another holiday special is Christmas cake. It is made of fruit soaked with rum. The Christmas drink is sorrel. This is made from dried sorrel, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar, orange peel and rum.

After reading the article in the Gleaner that day, I was interested to learn more about the masquerade in the street. Jonkonnu has many different spellings and is essentially a musical street masquerade with music, dance, symbols and mime. It took place at Christmas time because that was the only time that slaves were relieved of their duties. The band actually consisted of 3 instruments, the fife, drums, and a coconut grater. This tradition takes place in most, if not all, of the islands.

Looking at some images, the characters look quite scary to me! Some of the props are pitchforks and batons for the police.

Somehow I think the nativity scene would be more pleasant. I haven't seen that displayed here. Renee did get her picture taken with a really cool Santa one time. That was fun. He wore sunglasses and was quite skinny, but he did have a white beard!

Christians attend the Christmas service no matter what day of the week Chrstmas falls on. It is not an abbreviated service but rather one that is full just like a Sunday morning would be.

I am not so sure that the emphasis is on gifts but rather community, family, food and the best gift of all....Jesus.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Royalty...that's my girl!

While I was hearing my son's band, The Interlude, on December 5th, Daddy was with Renee at the King's House in Kingston.

A beautiful house that we have seen from the street but never have been in. This is where the governor-general resides and works. The first King's House was in Port Royal in 1690. The second King's House was in Spanish Town in 1762. In 1872 the capital was changed to Kingston. The new King's House was located in Somerset Pen and this one was destroyed in 1907 by an earthquake. A new building was constructed in 1908 and was destroyed by fire in 1925. In 1932 Lady Slater collected money for the restoration.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles have planted lignum vitae treees on the grounds. Mahoe and Banyan trees have been sent from India and there are flowers and ferns from all over the world on the grounds.

The Governor-General resides on the top floor. The principal floor has his office, morning, drawing, and public rooms. The ground floor is the ballroom where all the portraits of previous Governors, Governor-Generals, Queens and Kings are kept. This is where ceremonies take place as well as the dining, kitchen and pantry. Another interesting fact is that the personal body guard of the Governor-General is housed on this floor. This is the floor where Renee played her violin.

Many important dignitaries have spent time in the King's House. Princess Anne spent her honeymoon there in 1973. Queen Elizabeth has been here many times and the last visit to this house was in 2002. The list goes on and on of the Kings and Queens who have been at this house.

The Governor-General is recommended by the Jamaican Parliament and appointed by the Queen as her representative. The Governor-General usually receives knighthood.

Renee met the Governor-General Sir Patrick and Lady Allen a couple of months ago when she played for an important event. This time she was able to be in their house. How special is that!

The occasion for Renee to play at the King's House with the ensemble and her teacher was the Feast of Lights. It is an annual presentation by the Music Department of the Northern Caribbean University. It is to celebrate the Advent of Christ. Miss Moyah's ensemble played Bach's Sheep may Safely Graze. Denny said that it was beautiful. I watched the video and I have to agree.

In the intermission, Renee and Den walked by the Japanese Ambassador and he said to Renee, "I love the carving on your violin and you played very well." Den asked if he could take a photo and they continued to have a wonderful conversation. His name is Hiroshi Yamaguchi and his wife Yoko! I wonder if they skate! :)

It is amazing the opportunities God has afforded my children down through the years with their violins. Who would have ever dreamed the places that would go when they started at 3 and 4 years of age! Music lessons are never wasted! They teach so many things the earlier they start. Character and discipline, love of music (all kinds), teamwork, peer learning, bond with teachers and instruments. Just so many advantages, why do so many quit, or should I ask, why do so many parents let their children quit?

Something else to ponder....

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Counting my Blessings....13 days!

I flew out on Air Jamaica November 23. A very early Tuesday morning. The alarm sounded at 3 in the morning however I was already up and about at 2:30 am. Too excited to sleep. I was also anxious about not hearing the alarm so my mind couldn't rest. So I bounded out of bed to get ready and make the trip to the Kingston airport. It was a very exciting day. One I had looked forward to since 2008. Valley Forge Christian College lights the luminaries and trees the first weekend in December and calls it "Christmas at the Forge." This was a performance I couldn't miss! Ryan is a senior and this would be his last one for playing the violin in the symphony.

Since I went to the states the week before the performances, I had lots of great times and experiences. Although my flight was to depart at 7 am on November 23, I actually never left Kingston till 11:30. We taxied out early in the morning but the pilot was not comfortable flying that plane so after a long wait on the mechanics and status of the plane, they grounded it and we were sent back into the airport. I was very disappointed because I missed Ryan's violin recital that took place on that Tuesday evening. I landed at JFK at 4 in the afternoon and his recital was at 5. Huge disappointment. I have missed every college recital of his and was so excited to learn about this recital after my flight was booked. But for some reason it was not to be. Maybe some day on the other side of eternity I will find out what was wrong with leaving on the first flight out of Kingston! Could it be that we were spared tragedy? I don't know but I do know that every step and every stop is ordered by the Lord. That didn't lesson the disappointment any but eventually I made it to Phoenixville, PA!

The next day Ryan and I began the trek to Mansfield. It was a long trip but so wonderful to be in the car with the apple of my eye, my firstborn. I am so proud of the man he has become. I am proud of his dedication to his music, his friends, and his surrender to God's will for his life. Our time together was balm to my "mommy" heart. AIM and Skype is our lifeline but "face" time is even better.

The next day was Thanksgiving. In 1971, one year before my Grama Hall passed away, Uncle Eddie and Aunt Kathy began to host Thanksgiving in their home in NY. Every year we feasted, watched football, made crafts, shopped at a local store that would open in the afternoon,and enjoyed family. Since Ryan has been a college student he has been there for Thanksgiving but this year I got to be with him and what a wonderful day we had with family. Still watched football,still made crafts, and even got to shop at Walmart that is now the store of choice! Well I should say it was the one in town that opened on Thanksgiving. This was really just whetting the appetite for the next big day of shopping, Black Friday!

Typically, Ryan and I always went shopping on Black Friday. Renee was always too little to appreciate the early morning deals and Den, well let's just say, shopping isn't really his favorite thing anytime of the day so he would always stay home with Renee and then meet us for breakfast! Ryan and I bounded out of our beds at 4:00 am and took off very quietly so as not to wake Mom and Dad in the very brittle air and cold car! The GPS got us to Target! That was a great start! It was peaceful, quiet, not a peep of noise in that store. I still think that everyone was sleepwalking when we got there at 5. There were lots of shoppers but no pushing and shoving like we had been used to in years past. We had a wonderful shopping experience there, then off to the mall. We purchased everything we went for and saved loads of money! More than getting the deals is the memory of shopping with my son. We had a fantastic time and a great breakfast at Bob Evans. After Old Navy, Barnes and Noble we headed home. I think Ryan was asleep before Mom and I went to Wellsboro to see what we could find there!

On Saturday Ryan had to leave Mansfield so he could fulfil his worship responsibilities in Phillie, I remained at Mom and Dad's. I spent the entire day and evening at my friend Donna's. When I am with her I understand the concept of friendship so much more. She is my childhood friend and knows me so well. She helps me to center. She helps me to be at peace. She helps me to appreciate past years and experiences. She helps me to rest in what is. She helps me to enjoy tea and cookies without fanfare. She helps me to relax. She is my friend. When she prayed for me to preach well the next day I felt empowered and ready to do it. I simply gained calm from her and I needed that.

I had a wonderful opportunity on Sunday to preach in the place where it all started for me. My home church. I left Mansfield in 1974 to attend bible school and basically never lived in Mansfield again. I have never preached there to my regret. A few months ago I asked the pastor if I could preach while I would be home for Thanksgiving and he so graciously welcomed me. I am so grateful to know Pastor James and Wendy Revie. They came from Canada to pastor New Covenant 4 years ago and I enjoy their company. They are precious people. If I lived in the area that is where I would attend. They are good people and wonderful pastors. They were so kind to me and even took me to my favorite place in the area to eat! What a great day!

That evening Mom and Dad had a birthday party for me with 20 friends and family. I really had fun. I treasure that night. I love my family. I love my childhood friends. I wish I could spend a month with them instead of just one night! My day was so blessed and it just kept getting better!

On Monday I started the next leg of the journey. Mom and Dad drove me to Lewisburg. My sisterinlaw picked me up and drove me to the turnpike. Ryan met me at exit 2 and drove me to VFCC. It was a long day but a great travel day. Good weather and blue skies.

The next day was November 30~my day! I spent the day alone at the mall looking for new glasses, my bday, Christmas, Mom's day, etc gift! The King of Prussia mall has many eye places so I was able to shop around and find the best deal. I felt so special. I imposed on everyone and told them it was my birthday! I met Ryan at 3:00 after he finished his classes and he took me for my bday dinner. I have a new favorite place to eat in Phoenixville. We had so much fun over the meal and little did I know he arranged with the server to bring me a lovely dessert! I had even asked about this particular one when he brought the dessert menu. A chocolate mound filled with ice cream, drizzled with raspberry sauce and anglaisse creme, with a candle on the side! Our meal at the Iron Hill was tremendous and I will remember Ryan's kindness forever I am sure.

On Wednesday I had a very special treat. Ryan was scheduled to lead the worship in chapel and I was there in person! For his entire college career I have watched the internet webcast to see his involvement. I have watched the VFCC webcast more times than I could ever count. VFCC chapel is my American church fix. I love it! But this day was even better than I could have imagined. Ryan is so gifted. He knows his stuff. He is a great musician.

Wednesday afternoon I traveled to Lancaster to preach at the First Assembly. Pastor Kris and Darleen Newman are people from my past, my Zion past! Funny I look older but they do not. They look just like I remember them from 1974-1977. Young, energetic and pastoring a wonderful church. I was so pleased to be able to thank them for their support through our missions career and preached from Luke 2. I spent the night at the Newman home and started my journey back to VFCC on Thursday morning.

While I was driving east, Mom and Dad were travelling southeast to be in Phoenixville for Christmas at the Forge. I returned to VFCC in time for chapel and it, as always, was terrific. I was able to hear a senior speaker preach from First Peter. She spoke on a transformed hope, a purified faith, an expressible joy and a magnificent salvation. It was a great message. I really enjoyed it.

On Friday and Saturday it was so much fun to hang out in Ryan's dorm/apartment. His friends/room-mates are wonderful. They are all musicians. Music is their life and passion! I love being around people like them. At any time, they would pick up their guitars and I got to enjoy their music. We spent those 2 days with Mom and Dad too. great, great fun! The performances in the evening were tremendous! To say that it was all I thought it would be would be an understatement. I always enjoy the webcasts of whatever is happening at VFCC but to be there in person was awesome. Both nights were packed out. It is a gift from VFCC to the community. When you turn onto the campus the luminaries are lit, the trees have lights. From beginning to end it is a Christmas extravaganza. The chapel is decorated so beautifully for the event. Mr. Bilotta and Dr. DeSanto are in their element when they direct the different ensembles and choirs. I am grateful to them and the rest of the professors that Ryan has had for their dedication to bringing out the best in the students. I was able to speak with Dr. Richmond and Mr. Smith as well. They complimented Ryan to me and that always feels good as a parent!

The "Christmas at the Forge" started out with the Wind Ensemble. A huge wind ensemble, they played selections like Emmanuel Variants, the Bells of Christmas, Christmas Classics and of course the wonderful standard Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride. One of my favorites from playing in the band from elementary school through high school. To me Sleigh Ride is in the happy music category. You can't hear it without smiling and bouncing. I love it, one of my all time favorites.

The Patriot Bells played Angel Songs and Fum, Fum, Fum. This was such a fun song that at first I thought the title was Fun, Fun, Fun. They actually placed their bells on the table and used what looked like drumsticks with a big puff ball on the end and hit the bells on the table. They did some interactive things with the sticks as well so it was a show stopper.

Of course we "Halls" are jazz enthusiasts. So the next segment really sparked our attention! We were sitting on the edge of our seats. The jazz ensemble played Greensleeves and the Little Drummer Boy. Absolutely tremendous!

AND THEN! the moment I was waiting for. I may have been sitting on the edge of my seat for the jazz but when the orchestra came on I was standing to get good pictures! My Ryan was so handsome in his tuxedo, the orchestra players are students and professionals. Their sound rivals that of any city symphony I have been afforded to hear. The orchestra played for the rest of the first half with the college choir and the entire second half which was 17 selections from Handel's Messiah.

The performance was so fantastic I didn't want it to end. Christmas at the Forge was my purpose for being in the states and I was enthralled with every moment of it. But lo and behold my trip wasn't over! The next day was Sunday, my last day, and I was going to see my son in ministry action!

A few months ago Ryan took on the responsibility of leading worship in The Worship Center, in Roxborough. It is a suburb of Philadelphia. I was able to attend with him and actually see him in another form of ministry, away from the college and the support it lends. Oh my goodness, he is great. The church responds to his style of worship in a really neat way. You can tell it is a worshipping church and they are completely engaged. I am so pleased that this is his first paying job. A great experience with wonderful pastors. I am so impressed. The church has supported us for years but I had never been privileged to attend a service. I was so blessed and it wasn't over yet. The only thing that could have made the service better was if I could have heard Pastor George Cunard speak! What a wonderful man and his son the youth pastor, Pastor Jamie. Beautiful people.

That evening I was in for another wonderful surprise...Ryan's band, The Interlude, played for a worship experience at The Worship Center. They loaded up 2 cars with equipment and the guys. I knew I was in for a treat. I wished I had a video camera with me to bring the worship experience home to Denny and Renee. They would love it! some day.

My 13 days in the states were truly wonderful. I am so blessed. I am so grateful that Denny sent me for Ryan's senior Christmas at the Forge. I so enjoyed living in his world for those days. I miss him so terribly but it made coming back to Jamaica easier for me to see how happy he is and for the last 3 years he has been growing in ways I would have never known except for being there. I am proud of my firstborn. I am proud of his giftings and his calling. I am proud of his decisions. I am proud of his friends. I am proud of his determination. I am proud of his future and it isn't even known yet. Jesus, thank you for holding Ry's future and revealing it step by step.

I trust you!

p.s. thank you Jesus for my last 13 are the best gift-giver....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Punkin, Punkin, Punkin Eater!

Living in a warm climate 12 months of the year sometimes gets me so confused. It is so warm I wake up thinking it is the month of July and not November. In the states many times you don't even have to look at a calendar to know what the month is because the stores have all their holiday wares in the aisles. So whether it be Valentines day or Halloween they have everything you need!

Here in Jamaica you have to look at the calendar, the stores aren't your brain. Whether you shop in February or November you find basically the same wares with the exception of Christmas. However even at Christmas time there is no comparison to the stores in the states.

On Thanksgiving day Renee has school and Den teaches at the college. Renee's weekly violin lesson still takes place on Thursday evening. In America it is a holiday, here it is just another day. That does take some getting used to! In Spain we celebrated the holiday with our food traditions but here it is difficult to purchase turkeys. When you do find a turkey it is very, very expensive.

Carving pumpkins is a favorite tradition of mine and the kids. Our first year here I searched high and low for normal, orange, round, easy to carve pumpkins. No luck! However, pumpkins are very common in Jamaica. As a matter of fact, our house has a pumpkin patch all year round!

Organic pumpkins are grown all over the island. In every grocery store and market you will find pieces of pumpkin, just the size you need to make soup, pumpkin rice with saltfish, or pumpkin fritters. YUM! Jamaicans will also boil pumpkin and eat it plain.

They can grow to be very large. Today I took pictures of the pumpkins growing in my patch. These look small compared to what you find for sale at the market.

I have used the organic Jamaican pumpkin to make my famous pumpkin roll, but it doesn't have the greatest flavor for that. But the pumpkins are fabulous for my pumpkin soup recipe. You may want to try it with the pumpkins you find this fall. The college students love this one!

Roast Pumpkin Soup
2 pounds pumpkin
Salt to taste
Black pepper
Coconut oil
2 ounces butter
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks scallions, diced
1 sprig thyme
1 scotch bonnet pepper (or an habanero pepper)
16 cups vegetable stock
4 ounces coconut cream ( I use heavy cream)
Dice pumpkin and place on tray. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and drizzle with coconut oil.
Place in 400 degree oven and roast 30 minutes.
In a large pot melt butter, sauté onions, scallion, garlic, and add the pumpkin, thyme, and scotch bonnet
Add vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes until everything is tender.
Remove the scotch bonnet.
Add the coconut cream, boil and season to taste.

Happy Fall and Happy Punkin' eating!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fast food isn't all bad!

You can learn alot about a culture by simply observing what the people eat. Part of identifying with another culture is eating what they eat and shopping where they shop. I am glad that our ministry here is in the Bible College because it gave us the opportunity right at the starting gate to do just that. Our first year here, we frequently ate lunch with the students. The kitchen is real close to the tables so I could observe what Miss Vivian was making and how she was doing it. Menus at the Bible college are made on a shoe string budget, some I like, some not so much!

Another time to observe and learn is when teams come to minister on the island. A Jamaican will be hired to cook and they succeed in tying some American dishes into the week. Spaghetti will be one of the meals and dishes that are common to us. While the teams are here, there will be at least one lunch of patties.

Patties are to Jamaica what hamburgers are to the American. They are wonderful! Renee can buy a patty for lunch at her school. We travel across the island alot and in almost every town you will find a Juicy Patty, a Mothers, a Tastee or an establishment that makes their own patties, not necessarily franchised across the country.

Patties are a half moon pastry crimped on the sides like a turnover, filled with meat. Of course the meat is flavored with scotch bonnets so the temperature is a tad spicy for a stomach like mine! But once I get accustomed to the heat, I hardly want to stop till I get near the end. They are so good! In the right season you can even get lobster patties. There are beef, chicken, veggie, shrimp, fish, soy and ackee patties.

Some say the patty took off here in Jamaica because of the British influence. Miners in the UK would take what they called "pasty" in their pail to the mines. The pasties would stay warm and could even be used for hand warmers! The filling in the British pasties would be steak, potatoes and onions. They were popular not just because they were stomach-filling, but also because they were easy to hold and eat.

Here in Jamaica a patty and a boxed juice is a common lunch. But you know what, I have seen them eat them for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner. So I guess I would say they are an all day kind of food.

Another thing I have observed is you can see a poor "street" man and a business man in the same patty line. You will see school children and street vendors buying their lunch at the same place....the local patty place!

Tastee is the leading name in patty making. This company began in 1966 by a Chinese man no less! They make over 100,000 patties each day. The last time we flew back into Jamaica we sat beside the son of the founder of Tastee's. He works for the company and it was so educational to hear the story of this company. He was such a handsome, distinguished man. I was very impressed with the story, the work ethic and integrity he described the company to have and the drive of his father. We have a Tastee in Mandeville and I love going there. It is a reminder of the flight we took with the Tastee man!

Juicy Patty is another popular company for making patties. It was founded in 1980. We drive by their headquarters every Thursday on the way to Kingston for Renee's violin lesson. It is a very popular spot because driving from Mandeville to Kingston is a tough drive with few bathroom stops in between! But the Juicy Patty in Porus is the stopping place for gasoline, potty and "patty" break!

Some eat their patty without the best part in my opinion. The coco bread tops it off. The roll that you put the patty in is wonderful! It is warm, dense, and huge! Sometimes I buy the coco bread to make sandwiches at home or just to eat warm. The coco bread absorbs the grease or filling from the patty that falls out.

You know what! I'm to Patty land!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back to Baby Steps

Mom, I am going to start with baby steps. This is what Renee said to me this morning! For her, baby steps probably seem like many,many years past. I mean she is 14 already! But for me, her mommy, it seems like yesterday that we were cheering her on and working those little legs and feet!

Renee had a major interruption in her life on Saturday, October 2. From Sunday to Friday of that week, tropical storm Nicole was causing havoc throughout Jamaica. We had no electricity for a couple of days, school was cancelled for 3 days. Life was chaotic to say the least!

Renee was inundated with tests so during the storm we tried to study, at least in the daylight hours. Study. Study. Study. By Saturday we were going stir crazy. She normally has dance lessons on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Wednesday was cancelled due to the storm, so I called on Saturday morning to see if, by chance, classes had resumed. Yes! Maybe everybody was looking for some normalcy on Saturday and wanted to get out of their houses like we did!

At 1:30 I dropped her off and came home to try to finish the Storm Nicole blog and my phone rang. It was Renee's number showing through on my phone, so I thought, well maybe nobody else showed up and class is cancelled after all. Only something was different, it wasn't Renee on the phone! A voice said, Are you Renee's mommy?

There is always a fear when a scenario like this happens and my first thought was UH-OH!
The person continued to say that Renee had dislocated her knee. I responded, Is she okay? Meaning, is it back in? is she frightened? is she emotionally okay? I'm thankful that without me asking all those questions the person was intuitive to what I was really asking and she responded, "No, she is crying out in pain. The teacher is trying to get it back in." All I could say was, "We are on the way!" I realized later I didn't even say thank you for the call!

We quickly hurried to the studio and rescued our little girl who indeed was very frightened. Now Den, on the other hand, was frightened for another reason!

Medical care in Jamaica is weak. Since we moved here we have an agreement. If one of us needs attention, get us on the first plane to Miami and we will get our medical care stateside. We have seen and heard too much to give us confidence to stay. On the way to Renee I was interceding for her and Den was interceding for guidance!

He called our landlord and asked her what she would recommend. She told us what hospital to go to. There are two hospitals in our town, one government run and the other privately owned. In the meantime the landlord actually called her friend, Dr. Audin. Wow, were we grateful for her assistance.

We arrived at the emergency and the wheelchair came quickly. The staff was so wonderful. As a matter of fact, one of the nurses said to Renee, "I heard you singing in the grocery store yesterday!" That was a surprise! During the storm we had gone to get more drinking water and my happy little girl shines wherever she is.

The xrays were taken and then had I wished for my camera! Dr. Audin was wonderful. As a matter of fact, he apologized for his appearance. He was still without electricity in his home, so he was not clean shaven and, I suppose, embarrassed but you know what, in that situation, who cares what anybody looks like! We were only concerned with Renee's knee.

The xrays revealed that there was no damage that would require surgery of any kind. We praised the Lord for that. The doctor said the dislocation was just a freak thing. When she was dancing she must have been twisted funny and the knee cap popped away. He told her about the basketball players that injure themselves in the same way and have to have drastic surgery. He said that with the knee cap popping away it actually spared her from damage so it was a blessing and not a curse.

A funny thing happened while he was reading the xrays. Out of the blue, Dr. Audin said, "oh my, her growth plates are not fused. Look at this line, look at this line and look over here!" We laughed out loud. How did our children get this height? We told him that Ryan is 5'11 and Renee is 5"9 and look at us! He said that for both of our children our recessive genes kicked in. It was not one-sided but both sides!

Renee has not been real happy with being so tall. As of late, she has complained about it. I have given the short person's perspective and its disadvantages but when the doctor told her she has a couple more inches to grow, I think she may have accepted the fact. Now she doesn't have to suspect that she will grow, she can expect it!

It was hard to get Renee to the car and into the house, especially in the rain, so Den went on a search for a knee brace and crutches. It was not an easy search but ended up being a successful search! They were found and without those 2 helps she never would have made it!

The pain was very intense at times. She did however go to school on Monday. Thank God for Nurse Randall and ice packs she got through the days. With a lot of help from her friends, she found out that she doesn't have to be independent and self-reliant all the time! Her dance teacher called and mentioned to get her on fish oil and caster oil right away. Today on day 12 she is doing much better. We also anoint her with oil every night and God, the sovereign one, is healing her.

We are celebrating Heroes week here in Jamaica and yesterday Renee's school had a program. She was able to sing in a little ensemble and was getting around quite well.....with a little help from her friends!

Well, what do you do with an interruption? How are you supposed to respond to an intrusion? What can we learn about ourselves when suddenly our days aren't normal? In our pondering and life-lesson talks,(and there have been many now that she is sofa-bound whenever she isn't in school) maybe there is a reason for this mishap. I shared with Renee what I heard Joel Osteen preach. Every step is ordered of the Lord and so are the stops. Ultimately, could this interruption turn into a blessing? Did Jesus allow this so as not to experience something else in the meantime?

When Jesus was interrupted on his way to something else, what usually happened? A miracle.

It is easy to get frustrated and angry when life hands us a lemon. Renee told me that at school she told someone to chuck her "walkers" against the wall. She was just plain tired of them. Tired of the hurt they cause, tired from them holding her back from her activities, tired of her palms hurting...just plain sick and tired.

Could it be that inconveniences, delays, interruptions are, ultimately, blessings from Jesus?
Could it be that Jesus is going to work IN ALL THINGS something for our good?

Renee has been dancing since she was 2 years old. She is frustrated not being able to dance right now. There are many things she can't do at the moment, but it will change.

In our discouragement we must remember that it won't rain always. The sun will shine again. Renee will dance again.....after the baby steps!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nicole's Visit

When some come to visit all is peaceful and when others come.......a different story! Our visitor this week....a different story. Less than peaceful, disruptive, not welcomed, major the island of Jamaica...devastating.

For a couple of months now, my favorite slot on tv has been the weather part of the news. Jamaicans around me were saying....Jamaica has been spared a hurricane since Ivan...we are due one. Not the kind of news one wants to hear but, nevertheless, probably the truth. The Caribbean Islands live in that realization. Just comes with the territory.

In 2008 we moved to Jamaica the night before Tropical Storm Gustav. We didn't have a place to go to, so we bunkered down in the Mandeville Hotel, skeletal staff, skeletal food, but with a generator we had water.We had a roof over our head, we were comfortable. It was a strange welcome. In that storm 18 were killed across the island.

When we got stir crazy we would try to venture out. Renee reminded me this week that during that storm I said to her, "this is the only time you will see the marketplace empty" usually you can't get through that area for the amount of people and chaos.

In 1985 we were itinerating on the Cape and Hurricane Gloria was upon us. I remember we were in a hotel waiting for our next missions service, which was probably in the next day or two. The manager of the hotel came on a speaker and said that we were going to be in the path of Gloria. I remember it so well because Denny and I were in the jacuzzi by the pool and under ominous skies the indoor pool and jacuzzi were packed. He looked at me and said, "WE ARE OUTA HERE!" We quickly rushed to the room, packed our belongings, checked out and booked it to Medfield!

That is the closest I ever want to be to a hurricane, that is for sure.

In May of this year I started collecting water in bottles. We lose our electricity enough without a storm and the lack of water is terrible. So in that way I was prepared for a storm should it come. Also soon after experiencing Gustav one of our first purchases here in the island was a generator. Thank God. We have used it so much with the electrical outages that we knew it would be worth all the money it took to get it. It is a necesity in the case of a hurricane.

Actually Nicole was revving up on Sunday past. It rained hard on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. On Wednesday when Nicole was directly overhead the Minister of Education closed the schools, so Renee and I were hanging out here in the house. Den left for the college at 7:30. This essentially was a "snow day" for Renee, so we had big plans without the snow! Have fun, do things that we normally can't do because of school and studies, which she does continually! Not to be, no time for games...about 9:00 in the morning floods came in the office and the tv room. We were moving furniture, mopping frantically and trying to figure out what was going on. At that time what would appear to be a wind sheer came through and that is when the tree landed on the roof. We called Den in a panic...get home quick. When he came home we went out in the rain and muck to see the damage at that point. It was unbelievable. I say unbelievable because the tropical storm actually left hurricane damage. I couldn't imagine what the low lying houses were experiencing.

We lost electricity at 9 in the morning and so we spent day 1 mopping. Every towel we owned was sopping wet. We were praying that it wouldn't get worse. We started using rolled newspapers in every window. It had gone from 2 rooms flooding to 5 rooms, and then the darkness came. It is hard to mop and towel when it is dark. Needless to say, Wednesday was a toughie. The homes in Jamaica do not have sealed windows. Every window is basically open to the outside elements and lizards! The water in the dining room though, was due to the ceiling leaking from the upstairs windows. You just couldn't keep ahead of the water coming in at that point. So no electricity, thunder and lightning, the noise of the generator, simple chaos I would call it!

The electricity did come on at 11:00 that night. Just in time to get the lights on to see if we had missed any pooling water to clean up! We went to bed until I heard major gusts and jumped out of bed to check the rooms again. That was at 1 a.m. It was a good thing I did. more water. It seemed like the storm was not going to end.

On Thursday we still had no electricity for most of the day and night and it continues to rain. Day 2 of the storm was much like day 1. Renee was worried about the books in her locker getting wet so we went for a drive to the school and on the drive we couldn't believe what we saw. The pictures of the church are very near to our house. We had to turn around and go a different route, even with an SUV it was unpassable.

Day 3 of the storm. The security guard at the school told us that there would not be any school till Monday so that took some pressure off. It is frustrating to learn if there is no school or not. There isn't a ticker tape going across the bottom of the screen with the names of school closures! There are no yellow school buses to indicate that there is school so to have that pressure off was a relief. Renee was really getting "snow days!" Of course the only thing related to snow is that we have worn sweat shirts since has been a little chilly, like 70 degrees! But for here that is chilly!

But on day 3 the men came to look at the tree laying on the roof and we were hoping to see a chain saw! Nope...just a man and his machete! Cool. It was raining so hard I felt for him. He kept coming under cover it was so torrential. I did go out and take his picture a few times! Here are a couple.

There is so much debris in the yard, here is the tree from the roof. Such a pretty tree. Our landlord tried to get here yesterday but had to turn around and go back for the flooding but today she made it. She was very sad to see all the trees down. This house was made to withstand hurricanes at the turn of the century, it is such shame that you cannot protect a yard.

Today is day 4. We lost electricity twice while I have been typing this blog. The clouds are very dark, the rain is continuing to fall. There is no dreadful lightning and thunder though. Thank you Jesus. The newspaper headlines are so sad. Thursday's paper-Killer Rains. Friday's headline-Death and Despair. Saturday's headline-More Bodies. It is so sad.

Thank you for praying for these precious people. Jamaica is not all about tourists. There are real people, people that live in shantys, with no running water even on normal days. There was a report of a man who was washed away when he went out to go to the bathroom. Sadness, Desperation, Trying Times for so many. When the storms come what do you do when you don't have material comforts?

Interesting side note! I started this blog this morning. It is now 5:00 in the afternoon and we just returned from our first experience at the hospital. Renee dislocated her knee at dance and while at the hospital the doctor told us that there were tornadoes during this storm. That now describes what it was. We thought wind sheer but when you see the path of destruction it took, it makes sense now to hear tornadoe. I thought when we left Springfield we would never have to go through those again....guess again Deborah!