Friday, August 3, 2018

Bright Spots

I thought I'd add a few bright spots to your summer.  If you're like me, the heat starts wearing on you and you can't see the flowers through the weeds.
Or something like that.
 Art in the Park every Tuesday evening has turned out to be a rousing success.  More and more kids show up each time, and they love the variety of projects that Calla picks for them to try.
               The sign above says,
But those who trust the Lord
    will find new strength.
They will be strong like eagles
    soaring upward on wings;
they will walk and run
    without getting tired.
Good news!
 This young man will soon brighten a little girl's life with her custom-made adapted wheelchair.
She lives at home with her family who's thrilled to be getting new transportation  for their little sweetie pie.

I thought you might like this too.
Aren't they adorable?  Nadja is the sparkle in Nial's eye lately.  But you didn't hear it from me.
 Summer birthdays are colorful.
 Private art lessons too.  My selfie skills at their zenith.
 New hair extensions are sunny AFTER they're in.  The process is still excruciating.
 My little diva on her way to the dentist.  She considers it a highlight that she gets to ride in an airplane to get cavities filled.
You can be thrilled you don't get to.
 Earlier this summer, lemon balm pesto brightened all our pasta and crackers and tomatoes.
 It's dead now.  No rain.
But the memory makes me happy.  And hungry.
We can make pesto with basil, but in Kstan they only have purple basil with green insides.  Do you know what color of pesto purple and green make?
It looks exactly like--never mind.  It's not bright.
 But Kyrgyz wildflowers?

I can't see the weeds through the bright spots. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Short Term Wonders

He cooked for us.
We sent them on their way today.  They'll arrive back in the United States of America many hours from now.
They were a short-term team of therapists, doctors, teachers and students.
And they were impressive.
With daily temps hovering between 95-100° this week, these super heroes painted with orphanage kids, stretched palsied limbs, diagnosed illnesses, and saved a couple lives.  I'm not kidding.
Some went to villages to educate residents about diabetes, high blood pressure, diet, etc.
They worked with families and special needs children.  They conducted free clinics and prescribed treatment and physical therapy.
They fixed computers and did IT trouble-shooting. (Okay, just one guy did this.  Curt is so thankful.)
They trained children's home workers and loved on the kiddos there.  (They didn't take pictures, per the director's instructions.)
They gave Curt an idea for building a table to enable nannies to feed children correctly, and it's already in use.  Heart eyes for my own adaptive equipment guy and Theo--they finished it in 24 hours.

One day it was so hot in the village that they held the free clinic out-of-doors near a stream.
It was our pleasure to host some of the team in our home.
A few had been here before.
Short-termers with long-term aspirations.
They used their vacation time to come.  They left their families.  They raised/paid a lot of money for airfare.
They brought medical equipment and crayons and occupational therapy toys and mustard.
They are smart and kind and genuine.
 Some are already talking about next year.

That will be wonder-full.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Wee Ones

Small things in a big package.
 The other day Theo and I were getting groceries at our local supermarket.  It's the real deal--automatic doors, deli salads,  Nutella...
So I was standing there bagging my groceries in cloth bags that I had REMEMBERED to bring from home (there should be a superwoman uniform awarded at the check-out lanes for women who save the world from plastic), when I spotted a tiny being coming through those fancy, automatic doors.
It was the scrawniest, weensiest, saddest thing ever.  And it headed straight for me and my cloth sacks.
The security guard raised his eyebrows, asked a few people if it belonged to them, and then scooped it up.  I watched him deposit it outside the doorway.

I knew I was taking it home.

When Zadie came to help unload the groceries from the car, I asked her to get the stuff in the front seat.
Zadie recently had a traumatic disappointment when she discovered her five, cherished kittens had all been killed in the night.  Decapitated.  It was horrible.
Anyway, she was surprised by the "groceries" in the front seat.  She didn't care if its face was smashed in and its eyes were sick.  She nodded, unhearing, when I explained that sometimes God just wants us to take care of His creatures while they're dying.  That maybe this baby needed her love for a short time.
Insurance, you know.
But I fully expected the power of love to restore.  8-year-old girls have a corner on that market.
 Turns out its face wasn't bashed in--it was just emaciated.  As I was snapping "Tillie's" photograph yesterday, she spotted a bee.
 I'd say she's in springing form.
 Zadie's not the only one who likes wee things.
A family with a newborn popped in last night. (Along with 26 other supper guests)  Nial nabbed the baby and walked her to sleep.  Whenever other people wanted to hold her, he would frown and proclaim, "She's sleeping."

They had to make do with the cat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Four New Things That Are Rocking Our Summer

 I can't take credit for the first summer-rocking idea.  My grade school friend mentioned it on instagram, (Hellooo, Catherine!) and I latched on to it and won't let go.

#1 . Balsamic vinegar on watermelon.

You guys, Kyrgyzstan is brimming with watermelons.  They sell them in front of the fields where they grow, on the side of the highway, at every street corner and in all the stores and markets.  We love them!

But how nice it is to shake a little zing on this heirloom fruit.  (There's no such thing as a seedless melon in Kstan, so I can call it heirloom.)

Sometimes, I get all fancy and forage basil from my flower garden and cube some mozzarella-esque cheese into the mix.

But mostly I just sit with a fork and a balsamic bottle and have at it.

# 2 . Wonder Bag
It looks like a tuffet.  Or a pouf.  I know.  But it is Saving. My. Life.

Because there are no crock pots here.  And the oven and gas stove produce a lot of unwanted heat in the kitchen.  Also--the electricity is sometimes out all day.

The Wonder Bag is like a slow-cooker without electricity.  You just boil your food for 5-15 minutes and stick the pan in the bag for 2-8 hours, depending on what you're making.  Then voila!  It's ready. 

Have you heard of that?  I am not in the know, so maybe you all are rolling your eyes straight up in your heads going, "Oh, Wen, that is SO 2016."

But, if you live in the boondocks like moi, here's the cool history behind the Wonder Bag. (Thank you sister-in-law, Joan for sending it.)

So far, I've made Filipino Beef, rice, and Indian red lentils in it.  Let me know if you have fun recipes.

#3 . A Bigger Pool
Last year's model got a hole.
This girl goes swimming five times a day.  We've been hitting 95-100° every day.  Self-explanatory.

Last and most summer-rocking...
Any guesses?

#4 . It's a heat exchanger.  

We ordered it from China sight unseen.  Curt and some friends here spent umpteen hours figuring out how it could work.  

There are water pipes running under all our floors.  This contraption cools the water and the water cools our house.

Basically, it exchanges the hot air in our house for cooler air outside.
It doesn't feel like there is any cool air outside.

But my house is pleasant, sweat is not dripping in my eyes, I'm not grumpy, and I baked a quadruple batch of brownies this afternoon.

It must be working.  

What's rocking your summer?  Do tell.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018


I think my favorite Kyrgyz food is oromo.  So when Isabel's Kyrgyz teacher volunteered to demonstrate how to make it while our guests were here, I jumped at the chance.  Oromo is taaastey.
We picked her up at her apartment.  She brought her own rolling pin and giant steamer pan.  Unfortunately, our water was out that day.  Fortunately, we had stored up some reserves.  Usually when we have no water, we try to conserve on dishes--sometimes even resorting to flimsy paper plates.
Thankfully, oromo-making doesn't require bunches of bowls.  Just one--plus a table and a large cloth.
"Kelley" is a friendly, take-charge sort of gal.  She teaches school to support her family and moonlights teaching Isabel.
Oromo lessons were strictly relationship oriented.  One Kyrgyz culture lover sharing her passion with eager learners.
We, the learners, helped dice potatoes, onions, zucchini, and beef.  Then we kind of stood around agog as she whipped out the dough by feel and then rolled it around itself on her meter-long rolling pin.
When it got too large for the table, she and Isabel moved it to the floor.
I apologize for the blurry quality of the next photo.  I could say it was an action shot (which it was) but even the fridge is fuzzy.
After spreading the filling, she lifted the cloth, and the oromo rolled up like a magic carpet.  She pulled up both sides and sliced it down the center.  I so want to try this with cinnamon rolls.
Then she snaked the oromo around her steamer pan.
And started over.  Her steamer has like five layers.
The stove steamed up our kitchen for about 45 minutes.

After the below shot, Kelley up-ended the finished product onto the platter, and then, with a-one and a-two and a-three, tossed the entire oromo up in the air, flipping it over safely onto the platter again.
I stood there with my mouth open.
"Why????"  It was so risky.

"It was upside down."

We set up a quick picnic in the backyard because--shade--and called everyone to the table.

Theo nabbed a piece of watermelon before we began.
I nabbed my favorite Kyrgyz food.
It was eye-rollingly delectable.   Offset by polka dot paper plates.

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