Last Saturday I tried to bake a pumpkin pie for the first time since we returned from the US five years ago. Reason? I was missing three main ingredients. Shortening for the crust, pumpkin and evaporated milk for the filling. I first started experimenting with the crust and figured out that margarine will have to do, even though it does give slightly different results. Next came the pumpkin. I tried to find out some kind of squash that would be suitable for American pumpkin recipes. I did find two different kinds of edible winter squashes that are orange in color. One is in a shape of a gourd and is orange inside and out. The other one, more often used her for recipes is kind of brownish green on the outside and is round, but has lots of firm orange pulp on the inside. They both work well. I studied some internet articles about using fresh pumpkin and then experimented. I first cut the pumpkin into halves or quarters and put it cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. I bake it until it is very soft. Then I let is cool a bit and scoop out all the pulp. Then I put the pulp in a blender or food processor to make it smooth. In the end I put it in a strainer lined with a cheesecloth (or other similar fabric) over a bowl and let it stand in the refrigerator overnight, so that the liquid all comes out. The next day I measure the pumpkin mush and put it in freezer bags according to the recipes I am going to use it for. So far our favorite recipes have been a pumpkin roll with cream-cheese filling and pumpkin bread. But I still couldn’t try the pumpkin pie, because I couldn’t get evaporated milk. Finally I got some from England and also brought some from Slovakia. So, I made the pie and it was very good. Not 100% like I remember it, but I will experiment a bit more, since the ingredients are a bit different here. Yet, I am so glad that I finally have this figured out and can bake some also for our parents to give them a taste of this American treat!
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005
For the last 13 years, since having children, we have usually been at the receiving end of help from my mom. She always came when a new baby was born (even flew to the US twice just for that – the whole family chipped in for the tickets) and took care of my household during the toughest times. Whenever I got sick or needed to go somewhere without children (doctor’s, legal stuff), she was there. And she cleaned my house many, many times. Well, it seems that the times have changed. My grandparents live in a small house behind my parents. They are both over 80, but have been managing pretty well so far. Well, grandfather got very sick last week. First it only seemed like a bad flu, but soon some other symptoms started appearing. It seems like it was a stroke as well. He is a very heavy man and it has taken all my mom’s and father’s energy to take care of him. Grandma herself can’t do much. But on top of that my mom has guests from Germany coming tomorrow and needed the house cleaned and things prepared. She can hardly move from my grandfather’s side for a minute, because he wants to get down all the time, but can’t stand up. So, I decided to take my oldest girls (12 and 10) and go and clean at least part of the house for her. It was a bit nostalgic, as I had grown up in that house, but didn’t have to clean it since I got married! And all this time, mom has been helping us. But she is also not feeling the best and it was a wonderful feeling to finally start giving back. It is also a special feeling to realize that I have old enough girls that can do these things not only at our own home, but also at somebody else’s home. It teaches them a lesson in helpfulness and sacrificial giving. It is also a way to say thank you to grandma, who has been so kind to us in all these years. I don’t know which grandfather’s condition will go. And whether my parents are going to be able to go to a regular lifestyle soon or it will take from now on to care for him like this. All we pray is that God would send him relief in whatever is His will, because he is suffering a lot right now. But whatever happens, we will be there for all of them, helping as much as we can. I am thankful that I have older children now and do not need the help so much. My youngest is almost 3, so we don’t have any babies right now. It’s time to start giving back and repaying all the kindness we have received from my parents.
Friday, November 18, 2005
November is half-way through and I am finally getting back to what should be a “regular” schedule for this month when all the girls are in school in the morning. Usually this is a very good schedule for me, because I can get a lot of work done in the morning when I only have my 3 year old boy and then spend the afternoon helping the girls and doing things with them. But this month so far has been unusual since first there was a week holiday, then I was preparing for the trip and after I came home I was sick. But I am planning on getting back on track next week (unless some other surprises pop up). 6:00 - devotions, coffee 6:30 - wake children 7:00 - get children ready, give them breakfast 7:15 - exercise/shower 8:00 - breakfast; get 3y. dressed 8:30 - daily chores (dishes, bed, laundry, pick-up) 9:00 - cleaning (Beni helps) 10:00 - break /email (Beni video) 10:30 - project/sew 11:30 - cooking/baking (Beni - table activity) 1:00 - lunch 1:45 - pick up Betka w. Beni (girls kitchen duty) 2:00 - finish some chores (children rest time) 2:30 - rest 3:00 - help w. homework (school girls homework, Betka computer) 3:30 - help children (every body chores) 4:00 - project (M - violin, T - computer; D - play w. E; E - play w. D; B – play) 4:30 - craft w. little ones (M – computer, T – flute) 5:00 - help piano (MT- free D - piano 15”/play, E - play/piano 15”, B - play) 5:30 - sew (MTEB – free, D – computer) 6:00 - prepare supper (children free time or help) 6:30 - supper 7:00 - get little ones ready for bed (MT - kitchen clean-up) 7:30 - family devotions / singing 8:00 - tuck in little guys 8:30 - time with big girls 9:00 - computer 9:30 - read/journal 10:30 - pray/good night
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I am finally feeling a little bit better, just coughing still. Praise God the rest of the family seems fine so far. Well, a little bit about my trip to Slovakia. Since we were going to a missions conference, there wasn’t much time to visit places and sightsee, but for me it was important to see some people, since I haven’t been there for a while. Now, the town we were staying at for two days is called Modra and it’s is where my mom grew up and also when my grandparents lived. Me and my siblings spend most of our school vacations there with my grandparents. It always has been the favorite place for us to be. My grandfather died when I was 7 years old, but my grandmother lived till I was 18. I had a chance to visit the house, because my uncle is taking care of it and occasionally spending some time there. Of course, most things have changed, but it was still a very nostalgic moment to enter the gates of the beloved place. This is the house: The house that can be seen from the front only had two rooms when I was little. A bedroom and a kitchen (no bathroom). This is how my mom and her two brothers grew up. This is how we spent our childhood days there. As I stood in those rooms, I just couldn’t imagine how all of use could sleep in that one room and how we could all fit in the kitchen, which served also as a living room, wash room and sewing room :) The bedroom had two large beds pushed together and a couch that could be folded out. There was also a large crib. This was originally my crib, but had been used in these 35 years for all the grandchildren who slept there. It’s still there, although right now it serves only for holding extra bedding. Somehow we all managed to find a place to sleep. The kitchen had a table in the middle, which also served as a cooking and mixing counter during meal preparation. Clockwise from the door there was a sewing machine, a small canapé and a chair in the corner. Then next to the door to the bedroom was a wash stand with a basin and a mirror over it. I loved watching my grandfather shave. Then there was a small table and in the corner a wood stove. That was on most of the time, because it served for cooking. Then there was a little cabinet that held cleaning supplies and on top of it were always two buckets full of clean water. Then there was a kitchen credenza which basically held all the dishes and food. Then on the last wall there was a cabinet that held pots and pans and at the same time had a pull-out washing table with two basins in it. Today there is a little addition to these two rooms, a little kitchen and a bathroom and this former kitchen is turned into a living room. But I still remember exactly how things used to be. The one thing that is still the same and holds special memories is a picture, the only picture I remember on a wall. It is a carving from wood and still hangs above the grandparents’ bed where I remember it. It is probably about 55 to 60 years old, as my grandparents got it right after they got married. I remember waking up always to this Bible verse and so does my mom and her brothers. I just had to take a picture of it. The text is from Psalm 17:15 The yard used to be filled with junk as my grandfather collected anything and everything, because he was very skilled and could fix almost anything and he kept parts “just in case”. My mother and grandmother weren’t thrilled about this, but we children loved all of that junk. It was a paradise for playing. Of course there were many animals in the yard like cats, dogs, chicken, dugs, geese. On the left was a stable with horses, goats and pigs. On the right were many cages with rabbits. It was just wonderful for us city kids. The only thing we didn’t like is that the outhouse was all the way in the back (still is :-)) And when I was little I remember grandma had a large gobbler and I was so scared to go to the outhouse that I had to carry a broom to defend myself. Today the yard is cleaned up and there is a vineyard on the right side. On the left the old house is still standing and there is an old summer kitchen, a vine cellar and stables. I got a chance to peek in the vine cellar, where my uncle still had a bit of wine. I remember my grandpa getting vine for visitors and I would usually go with him. I used to go everywhere grandpa went and I have the strongest memories of him. Too bad my siblings didn’t have a chance to know him that well. He was a wonderful man. Right across the street of my grandparent’s house is the cemetery. We used to go there often. And my uncle took me also to my grandparent’s grave. My grandfather told his children he didn’t want any grave stone, so they obeyed his wishes. And on the grave they only put two large stones, one resting on the other to symbolize my grandparents’ love. I am so glad that I got this chance to “revisit” my childhood a bit. Because of little time and bad weather I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the town, but I found a website that has pictures and more information if you would like to see it. I was able to see my sister and her husband and we spent most of our free time together. She has been living in Slovakia for 8 years now, so we don’t get much time together. I also saw many many people that I didn’t see for 15 to 20 years! It was wonderful meeting them and spending time with them. On Sunday night we then went to a town called Zilina, where my brother lives with his family. They have a 5 year old girl and an almost 1 year old son, whom I have only seen once. He is my only nephew. And he is so adorable. I can’t believe that it already has been 2 years since my son was his age. It was fun being an aunt at least for a little while. I slept with my niece and in the morning she talked to me about all of her stuff and it was so much fun spending time with her. She has grown so much and has learned to talk since the last time I saw her. I also got a chance to go to a supermarket and get some things for my husband and children, especially stuff we can’t get here or it is much more expensive here. It was a nice experience to go to Tesco (something like a Walmart), since it has been a very long time I went shopping in a mega store like this. I am so glad I took a chance and went on this very short trip. Of course I would have been nicer with the whole family, but I did have all of their pictures with me and showed them to many people.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Well, I am back home. It’s been a wonderful trip and I have nice pictures. The only problem is that I got a bit sick (flu type thing), so I feel horrible today. I am trying to rest, but on the other hand have to take over the management of this home =), so I am probably not going to write right away about some details. But maybe in a day or two, when I am feeling better and have caught up with some things again.