Monday, December 7, 2009


We fell asleep in the van again on our way back. Victor brought us to his home for dinner. He built his own home from the ground up. It was constructed very well. I was impressed. It was the first house I walked into that didn't have a bad smell either. There were two bedrooms on the top floor. He had a kitchen, den, livingroom, and one bathroom. They also had a very plush garden taking up the whole area of their backyard.

The meal they prepared was YUMMY! My palette had finally been served justice. His wife made rice with pork. The sauce was something I had never tasted before. There is a vegetable called marrow. They grow it in their garden. That day, she had been pickling some vegetables, including the marrow. She threw the leftovers in the sauce. She also made a cucumber, tomato, parsley salad. The vegies were so vibrant in color. Of course, everything came from their garden. Their harvest had certainly been bountiful. Everything was absolutely delicious, right down from the bread with cheese with butter to the marzipan cookies as well.

We rolled ourselves into the livingroom after dinner to visit with Victor and his family. He had a teenage daughter and son. Victor asked me to sing for their congregation in church. I told him I had been considering it since the first time they asked me but I would let the pastors know prior to service that morning if I would sing. It would be my first solo singing a capella. (no music accompaniment). I was trying to remember the words to a song we had sang in choir the year before that would have been perfect. I kept running the words in my head and there were a couple verses I just couldn't remember. I had been writing them down in the van as they came to me on the way home from the village. It had come down to one sentence that I needed....I just couldn't remember. That night, sitting on Victor's couch, I said a little prayer to God. "God, please help me remeber the words to this song. If I don't remember, I know it is not your will to sing. If you give me the words, I know that it is." Two hours later, we were back in the van, being driven back to Posha's apartment. The words just slammed into my head. I got so excited! I screamed out at everyone and nearly gave them a heart attack. God wanted me to sing!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The pastor took us on a tour of the church they were building. It was directly behind their current church of service. Their new church was completely built . It was made of white brick. Each brick had been laid by hand. The mortar had been carved intricately in between each brick, not slabbed on. The interior was still in need of finishing touches. They did not have the funds to complete it. The pastor was a little emotional as he explained their situation. He had put his heart and soul into the project and they were at a stand still. He explained his intentions for the church once they were able to get it up and running. There would be a children's service on the top floor. The adult congregation would convene below.

While the men continued to discuss construction plans, the girls and I went outside to ponder on our surroundings. We sat on a pile of bricks and looked out into the country. A little girl from across the street came for a drink from a well. No drinking fountains here! She had to pump it a couple times for water to come out. There was a little boy herding a group of cows far off in the distance. I could hear roosters crowing, dogs barking and children playing.

I began to feel a calming peace. These people have such a different life than we do. We are always so stressed out and rushed to move on to the next thing. We want more and more luxeries and usually get what we want, even when we don't need them. They have the simplicity of only needing the things for survival. Their only hardship in life is to stay healthy and to be able to survive from winter to winter. While we have swing sets, swimming pools and grocery stores, they have gardens, chickens and cows. One elderly lady actually approached Kevin and asked him how his harvest was this year. He was a bit thrown off with the question but had to explain that we don't have personal gardens. At least most of us Americans don't. And most Americans don't fill their backyards completely with their year's supply of food!

Feeling quite humbled at that moment, I went back into the old church with the adults and we sang together.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Saturday, August 18, 2001

We set off for Pagar at 8:00 A.M. It was another two hour drive. The road we were driving on would have taken us directly into Germany. It was a two lane, back-country road. I observed many vendors on the side of the road. They were selling squash and watermelon. My nose did not handle the environment very well. I was miserable.

Pagar wasn't much different than Tier Baum. We had about thirty kids. We had about 30 adults too. The church was small. It was one room and then there was a kitchen. We did the same program but we had the crafts outside, underneath a bunch of fruit trees. I could smell the fruit. It was the smell of over-ripe apples; sweet and pungeant. It was warm and muggy too. Thankfully, there was a small breeze. The shade from the trees helped make the atmosphere peacefull.

Many of the women joined the children and made crafts of their own. One lady was having such a good time, we had to leave her with some more paint so she could finish her project. She was painting a picture of Jesus. The women were laughing at me because my scarf kept falling off of my head. (In the church, it is custom for married women to cover their heads with scarves.)

Some of the elderly women had a large mass of facial hair and gaps in their mouths where teeth should have been. That was interesting to say the least. They were all very sweet and hospitable people though. Once again, we were presented with a large meal. We had beet borscht, mashed potatoes, boiled hot dog (at least I think that is what it was. I disliked it tremendously. It wasn't pink like our hot dogs. It was a grey-white.) There was also a little morsel of fat and meat on the side of our potatoes. I couldn't eat those but the potatoes were good. The cooks also served curd over pastry. We were instructed to dip it into honey. I am not much of a curd person so I just couldn't do it. It looked too much like a clump of sour milk. I pretty much stuck with the potatoes, tomatoes and bread. By this time, I was feeling a bit discouraged with the food.

Friday, November 6, 2009


This is Posha, our interpreter

Victor took us to the boys and girls camp for a visit as we drove back into town. We were given a tour of the grounds. The children were playing ping-pong and badminton. Some were swimming in the lake and some were fishing. One of our guys from last year swam in that lake and got a really bad skin rash from the water. We would not be doing any swimming there.

We stayed for a short time because we had planned to spend more time with them during our stay in Russia. The children were all teenagers. They were going to be there another week. They were getting ready to eat dinner. When they were all eating, we walked through the dining room to tour the kitchen. The kids clapped and cheered at us. That was pretty cool, although we didn't do anything special. They did it again as we left.

Our day was almost over but there was one more adventure before we called it a night. Posha forgot his house key. We had to drive to his mom's house to get a spare key. Once again, people were all over the streets. It was dark out and it seemed as if everyone was out of their homes just wandering about. Kids were playing. Adults were walking. I have never seen so many people strolling around in my own neighborhood. It was very serene.

The road to Posha's mom's house was very bumpy. It was a dirt road that had huge pockets and pits. We were four wheeling in Russia! Posha got his key and surprised us all with apples from their tree. We all laughed because we knew he was mocking us. We didn't want to disgrace Russia so we ate the dang apples.

When we got back to his apartment, he prepared a meal for us before we went to bed. It wasn't as extravegant as the meal his mother prepared for us. He was only 20 years old and a bachelor at that. We had bread, cheese, sausage, and chocolate. It was 10:00 P.M. so we were not very hungry. Apparently, late evening snacks and full on meals are common as we soon found out. We ate the food anyways. We didn't go to bed until about 1:00 A.M.

Monday, November 2, 2009


We were invited to the pastor's house for dinner. When we pulled up to the house, I saw a plush garden pretty much the size of a lot. It was very green. Next to the house was a small, swamp-like lake they used for watering their garden.

A few weeks ago, the pastor's wife died giving birth. His sister was helping the family out during this time. She cooked us a meal of beet borscht, macaroni with chicken, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, bread, curd, potatoes, bagel pretzels that tasted like animal crackers, and two different chewy candies that tasted like sugary honey and the other that was minty-fruity. I didn't care for either of them. She served us milk straight from the cow. It was warm and interesting.

The problem with my meal here was my observation of the kitchen. The kitchen was the first room prior to entering the main body of the house. It was a covered porch. The smell was pungeantly rancid and once again there were flies all over the food she had obviously prepared for us. She had it all sitting on the counter, ready to be served. If I hadn't of seen that before we entered the house, I would have been fine. Out of sight, out of mind if you know what I mean. I really, really tried, but I couldn't eat much of the food. I noticed that many of my teammates didn't either. We all came prepared with medicine (Cipro) in case we ate bad food on the trip but I just couldn't get that image out of my mind.

After dinner, we proceeded to the living room. Toys were randomly displayed on shelves and tables. There were items of mismatch everywhere. There were curtains hanging up in the doorways and unfinished walls that didn't reach the ceiling. I later learned that the heat circulates better in the winter for them that way. They did have a t.v. and a vcr. They also had a piano that was in serious need of tuning. The pastor's tween daughter played and sang for us. Children of Russia are highly educated in music and know how to play an instrument or two. My hosts found out by my big-mouth teammates that I sing for our church back at home. I was a choir member and worship singer for our congregation. They asked me to sing for them but I was slightly overwhelmed so I wasn't quite ready to come out of my shell for them. I didn't really want to be the center of attention in that way.

We sat in the living room visiting; Posha translating for us as we talked. The pastor's wife kept trying to get us to eat apples she had picked from their tree. We kept politely refusing and she agrily said, "You will be disgracing Russia, if you do not eat these!" in which Posha translated for us. We ate them after that comment. We left soon after that, at about 5:00 P.M. If we didn't eat flies with our dinner, we were for sure catching them in our mouths while we slept in the van. We were out of it with exhuastion.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


We slept until about 9:00 A.M. Posha heated water up for us on the stove so that we could take a sponge bath; no running water! His mother came from her home and cooked us breakfast. We had eggs over hash browns and onions, bread and sausage, fresh sliced tomatoes, pickles, yogurt, cheese and chocolate. It was a real feast! From here on out, there was always coffee and tea with EVERY meal.

At 10:00 A.M. we were off to Tier Baum to work with the kids. We stopped at one of the village markets to purchase candy and bananas for the kids. It was an outdoor market, so we could smell the chicken as soon as we got out of the cars. was not fried chicken. I almost gagged when I saw it. It was raw, and all chopped up in pieces on a wooden display booth. First, it was a hot, humid day. We are talking August people! Second, there were flies buzzing all around the meat, and yes, on the meat. It had an awful odor. I tried taking my eyes off of the meat to experience the new sights. They were selling fresh eggs, vegetables, bread, canned and jarred foods, even shoes and clothing. We quickly got our goodies and left ten minutes later.

My allergies went overdrive on this trip. The entire two hour drive consisted of me sneezing and wheezing. My eyes were itchy and watery.
We were entertained by being educated from our driver, Victor, on the rules of the road. There were none! He would pass people on the right and left, even when there were not lanes. Pedestrians do not have the right of way in Russia, we soon learned as well. People were everywhere! There were hardly any sidewalks, so many were walking in the roads. There was no mercy for pedestrians walking in the road and there wasn't even any mercy for other drivers. Victor weaved in and out of the drivers and walkers like a crazy man. I think we would have a serious case of road rage if people drove that way in America.

We took a dirt road to get to the village. We had to slow down for a herd of cows crossing the road. Farther up, I saw a little boy with a flock of geese. We saw chickens and goats wandering freely. I felt as if I landed on another planet. We pulled up to this little cottage that served as the church. The children were all sitting outside on the steps with curious looks on their faces. They were all smiling and waving and very excited. We all entered the church together. They immediately sat down at the long, rectangular tables arranged in the center of the room and quietly waited for us to begin. Faye, went around and video taped the kids. They waved and made funny faces. Despite their goofiness of kids being kids, they were so well behaved and strangely polite. There were about twenty children in various ages.

We started the program by teaching them a song in English. That was my job. I was the music teacher. I taught them "This Little Light of Mine" with hand movements. Howard, our leader, taught them the scriptures from Matthew 14:22-32 "Jesus walks on water". The kids got to make scripture books by painting on the covers. They were so frugal with the paint. We had to give them another art project so the paint we poured out on the plates would be used. We actually had them make mobiles out of the plates. Talk about recycling! Kevin, my hubby, took a group of kids outside and showed them how to use the frisbee. We were all beaming when we left the children. Several of them gave hugs and said "good-bye!" in English. It was overall, a wonderful, fulfilling, first-time expereince working with the kids of Russia.


I do love to eat! Those of you who are reading about my trip to Russia will notice how much I talk about the food all throughout my journal. Let me tell you, the food there is very different, You will have to read it to find out. (By the way, I would love to know if anybody is actually reading this. Drop in a comment from time to time to encourage me to keep on going with the story).
I just love tasting different things. I have had snails, frogs legs, cow tongue, and cow stomach (menudo) to name a few. Anyways, that is not really the topic of this post. But it is about food!

Since it is Thanksgiving this month, I thought it would be nice to get a collection of recipes from you. Share a traditional recipe that you use in your family that is just to die for. Every year, we make homemade apple pie. I get chastised pretty heavily if I neglect to make it for my family. They have to have their apple pie. I guess I do too.

We have our own apple tree so we even use our own apples. My youngest daughter loves to use the apple, peeler, corer slicer I bought from Pampered Chef years ago. It is the best! It saves soooo much time. Below, is the recipe I use. It is yummy with vanilla ice cream.

For those of you who would like to contribute recipes, I will enter you in a drawing for a set of three 80z soy wax candles made by me and sold in my store! Yes, three!!! You get to pick the scents of course.

I would love to hear if anybody uses any of the recipes that have been posted. (Drawing will be held on November 30th - my birthday!) I didn't get a lot of participation last month. Hopefully this is more of a motivating giveaway. Please play and enter early so that we can plan for and use these recipes perhaps for Thanksgiving.


Pastry for one 9-inch deep piecrust
1/4 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups of peeled/sliced apples

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup of caramel ice-cream sauce

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Next, toss the apples with the sugar mixture and pour them into the prepared piecrust.

Next, combine the crumb topping ingredients. Sprinkle the topping over the apple mixture. Bake the pie for 20-30 minutes. Then, cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until the apples are tender. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle on the pecans, then drizzle with the caramel sauce. YUMMY!!!!