Thursday, November 15, 2018

Playlist Exchange

There is an unwritten rule that we don't play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.  More than anything, its intent is to keep us from getting sick of "Carol of the Bells" before mid December.
 The rule gets broken every single year.
Hanneli's the worst offender.

This year (per usual), I have an excuse.  I want the boys to learn some Christmas songs on guitar so I can have live music atmosphere throughout the season.  You know, practice now will make "Hark the Herald" sound a lot better on November 23.

Every Christmas, I seem to find one new-to-me song or arrangement that I'm just crazy about.  I play it over and over again 'til it swirls around in my head like never-ending sugar plums, eventually turning to prunes by New Year's.

Anyway, how about we share some of our favorites over the years?
So as to be ready after Thanksgiving, of course.
My very first obsession with a little out-of-the-box Christmas music was Amy Grant.
I've got to tell you, I was smitten.  I know she's old now (ha! not really!), but she is timeless, man.  Does everyone think that about their high school music loves?

If you are too young to remember these, I'm so sorry for you.  But thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you too, can experience Christmas the way God intended.  I'm kidding, gaspers. 
Kind of.

I'd never spent Christmas in Tennessee, but I could so empathize with Amy over this one:
I can't remember it sounding quite so tinny on my boom box though.

The classic versions of the next two always have me wishing they were Amy's renditions:

I love those songs.

Later, in the midst of 3-6 very small people who stole my heart, time and energy hourly, I grabbed on to this by Natalie Grant and liked to never let go:

I'll never forget the Christmas we were waiting for our gift from Africa.  She was born that December and came home six months later.  The kids and I had this one on repeat, laughing all the way:

This year's early leader is actually from last year, but I didn't pay it no mind then.
Today, however, I'm struck by the magnitude of Jesus coming to the poor.  To be them.  To know hunger.  And poverty.

Because sometimes I'm judgmental.  Smugly knowing things could be different for someone if they'd made different choices.  Or if they would only try.
Ah!  I hate admitting it.  It's so self-righteous.
Because smack in the middle of my arrogance, there appears a wide-eyed child, rich in loving parents but without privilege, rights or power.

He didn't make a different choice.  That was exactly where He was supposed to be.

So it's rocking my pre-Christmas playlist. But only because I want the boys to learn it.

What will you be listening to next weekend?  Let's do a little gift exchange of faves, OK?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Two Things

First of all, the fleas have retreated to the bowels of the house.
Not the bowls.
Hopefully, they'll die down there.  Vinegar baths and a dehydrating mix of salt and soda await them if they move a muscle.  Or an exoskeleton.
Thanks for all your prayers and ideas.  We implemented several--the multi-prong approach--and I haven't seen a live varmint for two days now.
Being flea-free has allowed me to focus on more fun, fall things.
In our fam, smelling autumn means simmering apple cider. 

We call it cider because it sounds romantic and legit and somehow more special, but actually it's humble apple juice.

It's cheaper and I can't get cider in Kstan anyway.  Ha!
If you add pineapple juice and spices, no one will know the difference.

Every year I lug home apple juice from the store, dreaming about the fragrance I'm about to create.
Then I dig through my cupboards to find cloves and cinnamon sticks.  I know I have some cheesecloth somewhere in here...  Ah, star anise!  That at least looks pretty.  String... where in the world is string? 
And so it goes.  Often, in the absence of cheesecloth and string, I throw everything in a pot and let the spices fall where they may.

But once, a guest swallowed a whole clove.  So cheesecloth is good.
Today, all my anise stars aligned;  I had everything (including inspiration!) to make up little spice packets in advance and therefore be ready to create instant atmosphere with a side of spiced cider.
I was so happy to have something besides fleas to photograph.
This is me encouraging you to grab the little things and celebrate. 

Third Thing Freebie:  recycled smelly candle
 I hate throwing away wax from depleted, fancy candles.  So I broke it up, microwaved it in a wee jar, and stuck in a skinny, hand-me-down, mini taper.
Flea-free kisses from Kstan,


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I Really Need Some Diatomaceous Earth

I have searched "where to find diatomaceous earth in Central Asia."
I have exhausted Google Translate, Wikipedia and the World Wide Web trying to find out if alabaster is the self-same thing.
Because they sell alabaster powder at the railroad bazaar.  I saw it there with my very own eyes.  I thought perhaps???
The Uzbek lady with the alabaster read the translation for diatomaceous earth on my phone.
Twice.  No, she did not have it.  Or, no, she didn't know what it was.
Either way, I'm sunk.

Apparently, diatomaceous earth is the best thing since sliced bread.  You can use it for cleaning,  facial scrubs and soil components.  You can supplement your diet with it and sprinkle it on your garden to kill nasty insects.
It is friendly to humans and unfriendly to fleas.
Right now we need something downright surly to fleas.
Fatal even.
They're crawling on our slippers.
We find them in our beds.
I picked off and killed six on my pants in the span of an hour this morning.
Here is one culprit.  
She and her kin were full of the varmints, and they all were hanging out in our basement.  I thought if we moved the cats out of the basement, the parasites would go away.
 Not so.  My intel tells me they can live 100 days or more without a host.  Which is not so bad if they want to stay in the unfinished basement with the furnace pipes.
But this fall chill has them searching for the hostess with the mostest, and I guess we qualify with our fancy in-floor heat.
"Foggers," say the internet sites.
"Wash your bedding."
"Sprinkle diatomaceous earth everywhere.  It causes insects to dry out and die."
 Wouldn't that be nice?
As it is, we located three varieties of Raid-type, chemical sprays intended for cockroaches and flies.  We (as in Curt) have begun the extermination process in the basement.
Fun facts while we wait for the perhaps-ineffectual process to conclude:

  • Flea Paranoia is real.  You can spot any one of the Van Wyks at any given time, wiggling and scratching away at imagined, crawling beings.  Or real.  We've all experienced both.
  • Fleas don't reproduce on humans.
  • They do feed an average of 4-7 hours on humans.  Depending on whether they're male or female.  The fleas, not the humans.
  • They seem to enjoy Curt's blood a lot more than mine.
Thus ends this warm and cozy blog post.

Happy Fall.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What the Guys Do

 It snowed today. The drippy, wet, soggy-leaf kind of snow that only happens in October.  It wasn't scenic.
But Zadie liked it.
The snow haled a new season and it's not the holiday one.
Gotta guess?
Homemade Hot Chocolate Season! 
Remember a couple years ago when we had a different kind every day for several days in the doldrums of January?

We're not doing that.

We're just making it

Because we can't bring ourselves to tell our milk lady that we only need 5 liters of milk instead of the usual 10 due to our numbers being cut almost in half.  That news would make her sad.  And maybe a little mad.  And maybe she wouldn't haul two huge baklashkas of milk, two liters of yogurt and a pint of the heaviest cream on the Asian continent to our front gate every three days.
That would be tragic.
We try to avoid tragedy.
Also our guests like chocolatey beverages.  Tonight Nial and Theo are hosting a weekly get-together in the shop.  They're making a wood project together.  They study the holy book.  They talk about guy stuff.  And they apparently eat Lays.
Zadie picked out their mugs.  I apologized for the floweriness.  They weren't overly concerned.
Then I went to search out my other guy.  The snow also welcomed in the Heat the House Season.
Curt's fave.
 It's not going that well.  He couldn't be bothered to open his eyes for a snapshot of this happy period in life.
I think I'll make him some hot chocolate.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Midnight on the Kazakh Border

When you turn 18 in Kyrgyzstan, you can't be on your family's visa any longer.  But you really can't get a different visa if you already have a valid one in your passport.  Solution?
Cross the Kazakhstan border at midnight, turn around and re-enter Kyrgyzstan with a 60-day tourist visa. ON YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Confused?  Welcome to the life of expatriates.  Otherwise known as Perpetual Visa Seekers.
 So Nial spent his birthday with his friend's family in Bishkek. (Said friend left home for a distant adventure, being a newly-minted adult himself.) Then he taxied to Kazakhstan and you know the rest.
 Except for this.
 He managed to get his sleepy self back to Jalalabad for a birthday supper the next day.  We lighted meatballs on fire which he clapped out after a sorry Happy Birthday chorus.  See coolness factor below.
One was left burning.  You know what that means.
One special friend.

What it really means is that even though he's an adult now, he won't be in a huge hurry to leave Jbad.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Drive

When I was little, Grandpa and Grandma Burt would take drives in their shiny Oldsmobile just to "look at the crops."  They'd be sitting in their living room, reading The Sunday Register out loud to each other, and Grandma would look over at Grandpa and say, "Let's go for a little drive, shall we?"

I got in on more than a few of these.  I was always up for spending time with the grandparents, but the recreational drives lacked true recreation for me.  I liked it better when Grandma suggested--as she often would-- "Let's have a little ice cream, shall we?"

 I did become conversant in soybean field conditions (were they clean?) and how the corn was faring--skills that aided me slightly in impressing my future husband.

Well, I have become my grandmother.
Yesterday afternoon, I asked Curt if we could go on a drive.
I was tired of being cooped up inside our little town.  Inside our walls.  I needed countryside. 
Curt has been especially kind lately.  He indulged my many requests of, "Can you stop?  I'd like a picture."
He even acted like he enjoyed it.  Maybe he was hearkening back to crop-checking drives with his grandpa and grandma.
 So this is southern Kyrgyzstan in the fall.
 It hasn't really rained for a very long time.
 We lolled about, drawing stares from people who knew we didn't belong in these here parts.
 We didn't care much;  we're used to it.

Women were out in the fields picking cotton.
I'm not conversant in cotton.

 As we circled the roundabout back into the city, we followed this guy with a load-full of ear corn.
Grandpa Burt used to enthrall us with stories of hand-picking corn when he was a youngster.
I think he would've liked it here.

We ended our excursion with a trip to the grocery store.
It's kind of a fancy one--I bought parmesan cheese and pretty napkins.
Sunday splurges after a drive in the country.
Say, let's have a little ice cream now, shall we?

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Friend Party

Cherry Turnovers for breakfast.  Thank God for puff pastry in Central Asia.
 We used to say that our children could have a friend birthday party every five years.  The other years we invited family.  After a while, cousins became best friends anyway.
Our candle is so awesome.
We have no cousins in Kyrgyzstan.
Poor kids.
 But friends?  Check. 
And what do you know--it was his 15th birthday.  We are so consistent with our rules.  When they work out.
Every family member in country was also present.  All four of us.
The friends were shy and quiet at first.
They ate a lot though.
There's a new pizza joint in town.  The Hawaiian and Mexican varieties are surprisingly yummy.  Just don't come with any preconceived notions of how those kinds are supposed to taste.  Open your minds, fellow pizza seekers.  Pizza nirvana can be yours. 
 Theo ordered caramel cake.
From his mother's bakery.  I need a catchy name.

 After the food, everyone lost their shyness, and the games got rowdier.

 Theo says it's often like that;  just when things start getting fun, it's time to go.
Ah, the last vestiges of childhood.

Apparently these guys have said "Tah-tah" to childhood and rowdiness.
Or they ate too much caramel cake.

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