Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Still Relevant

wrote the following post a couple of years ago and want to repost, because I think it is timely. I also want to add that even though most of the world (who am I kidding: my 20 readers) were worried about my children, it turned out to be the second best Christmas the world has ever seen. I will post an update link at the end of the post.

And it starts:
The count down for Christmas. Except this year I won't be party to it. I don't really care how many days there are until Christmas.

Last week I cared. But this week I don't care.

This week I am already ready for Christmas.

You see, at first I thought, "This year I will make everyone's gifts." I hoarded links, and how-to's, and tutorials. I made a mental post it note list of everyone who "needed" gifts, and what I could give them.

A Christmas checklist. Like every other year. Like every other family.

And then I had a better idea. Why spend all this time frantically trying to make gifts that will never get completed? Just like every other year, I would be forced to run to the store- buying high priced, over priced crap for everyone. Why? For what reason? Did everyone really enjoy last years dollar store lotion?

So, my new idea was just to buy the stuff now. I would shop ahead, and therefore put thought into each gift. I would think about the person, and buy gifts that they would really like. It was a good idea, right?

But, then I had a better idea, helped out by a certain video I saw on youtube.

Why not buy nothing at all? Seriously? I don't even remember what my husband got me last year, much less his Aunt so and so. The gifts I so carefully picked out for my children now sit neglected on a shelf. What is the purpose of all this gift frenzy, the money spending, the debt building, the guilt induced fear of not adding up to everyone else's generosity?

So. I am opting out. No one is getting store bought gifts from me. No one is getting handmade gifts for me. Not my mother, not my pastor, not my son's Sunday School teacher... Not my children.

And I can hear a worldwide gasp. "What about the magic and awe of Christmas for the children?"

My response, " Under Control." My children will not open a single battery operated, plastic, hair growing, gun toting, miniature sized anything.

Nothing they open will have a price tag, a return receipt, or those nasty little screws that drive parents nuts every Christmas day.

They won't make a list, and if they do, I doubt their list will coincide with what they receive.

Because Esther is NOT getting a white horse with a horn out its head.
And Weston is NOT getting the entire Star Wars Lego set. No matter how much he begs for it.
And Marcus- actually, I don't have a clue what he wants. But it probably is long and shoots bullets which he most definitely WILL NOT GET.

As I travel to Ohio to spend Christmas with my parents and siblings. With my sister-in-law Carrie, and with my brother-in-law Jesse. With my little nieces- and my mischievous nephew, I will load my van with gifts wrapped in festive paper and tied with ribbon. Just like every other year. But this year, the gifts that I add to the tree will be far different than any other year.

My Christmas revelation has not turned me into the grinch. It has, rather made me a bit more Claus like. And far more Christ like.

Throughout the day, we will unwrap these gifts. The fist one will be a rectangular one. Under the paper and ribbons, our family will find my father's old black Bible, and he will open it and read the Christmas story. I will hold Esther on my lap and Marcus and Weston will be snuggled under my arm, and together we will have anew, the awe of that very first Christmas.
The Christmas story will remind us what Christmas giving is all about.

And in that spirit, the children will grab another package. Inside the gift bag filled with confetti will be a bag of chocolate chips. Together we will make chocolate chip cookies. And Marmie will have to swat at the children's hands when they try to eat all the cookie dough.

Maybe later, they will unwrap a movie. Not a new one from the store, but an old one. A favorite. Probably Star Wars because I am the only one who hates Star Wars. And we will pop corn the old fashioned way and have a family movie time.

I will have wrapped our well worn games; the ones that we already know the rules to, and the ones that everyone loves. When they are unwrapped we will play them. Grandma too. We will even make her play Bang. If I have to watch Star Wars, she can be forced to sit through a rousing shoot em up game of Bang.

I will wrap up a pair of socks for each kid, because we will need to keep our toes warm for our Christmas day walk, and maybe someone will stay home to make us hot cocoa for re-warming our frozen noses.

This is not a new idea. It's one I learned a long time ago, but the video reminded me of it.

On Christmas day, God gave me His heart. And I plan to celebrate that gift by giving mine.

Want to join me?

As this post gets read by more people and passed around, please comment and add your ideas of what could be wrapped and placed under the tree. Together, we can make this the second best Christmas this universe has ever seen.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Extraño Mucho

A few weeks ago, with the help of my oldest son, I realized something:

No matter where I am, for the rest of my life, I will be missing something.
Right now, what I miss is obvious. Dr. Pepper, chats with my best girls, marshmallow dipping parties, my church, my mommy, holidays spent with families...

When we go back to the states, I will have a whole new set of "missing". My best gal Vivi, my new church, The smiles of my kids in Sunday School, the cafe, chifles, empenadas, Gloria and Irma (my grandmas away from home).

I have a new life now. One of welcoming back those things I missed and saying goodbye to things I will miss again.

And I wouldn't give it up for the world. Not at all.

But, today, I will chat a bit about that thing I am missing the most in this moment.

Thanksgiving with family. You see, Dustan has a HUGE family and Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving unless they are all in one place. It's loud, it's laughter, it's young ones crying. It's Aunties holding babies so mommies can play games, and people eating. And eating. And eating. Until the men have a contest with all the pregnant women to see who has the biggest belly. The men always win.

Every year there is a gingerbread factory. Tables for miles filled with bowl after bowl of candy. Sticky fingers. Mouths dripping with red hots. Creativity and cooperation. Big cousins holding walls for tiny cousins. Uncles giving prizes hidden in paint cans. Chimneys with Ivy. Logs made of toostie rolls. Candy horses. Candy puppies. Children sucking on bottles of frosting. SWEET goodness of fellowship.

It's amazing stuff. Outrageously amazing. It's stuff of fairytales and novels. But, every year, for the Hester family, it's just plain real life. Hours of games. Snacking in between. Showing off those gingerbread houses. Big cousins doting on baby cousins. Great Aunts rocking great nieces. Children dancing. Adults playing dominoes. And cards. And Catan. Children joining in.

And I miss it this year. Something terrible. A bit of an ache, that I have learned to deal with. My kids have learned to accept as normal, that constant missing of things once normal has become a new normal. But, we all, every single one of us, are full of joy in the midst of this "Missing".

Because, we know. We know that the year after next, when we are in the middle of a candy house frenzy, a whirlwind of games, a house full of people...

That our hearts will be missing our home in Ecuador. A house in Gonzonama filled with missionary friends from all over the world who have gathered together to fill our hearts full of love. To give our hearts, missing home, a shot of pain killer. A dose of friendship, fellowship, games, and good food.

Even a turkey. And outrageously expensive turkey. But a real honest to goodness Thanksgiving turkey.

So. My heart is full twice over. Full of missing what usually is, and full of joy for what is now.

Gracias mi Dios por mi vida en este momento. Gracias para mis amigos en Estados Unidos, and en mi hogar nuevo. Gracias por todos. GRACIAS en este tiempo pr gracias. Gracia siempre.

(My spanish leaves much to be desired.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Visual Complaining

I have complained to several people about the dust here. It's not a real complaint. I have a floor. That is dirty. I could have a floor that WAS dirt!

Anyhow, I thought I would snap a pic of my daily sweep. This was done on a morning after our housekeeper swept and mopped AND I had swept the night before.

Nothing is airtight here so dirt and dust blow in through the windows and doors.

I have a confession: I like this. It almost feels like we are living in a tent. Anytime there is a breeze, we feel that breeze. It smells like the outdoors. Like the bakery down the street. Like the cows. Like the wet dog. Like the river. I love it.

Despite all the dust/dirt that is impossible to get rid of.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Today: (Is my day off)

I am going to move my furniture. AGAIN. (To the set-up in this pic, because I like it this way.)

I am going to listen to a sermon. In English.

I am going to watch the last two episodes of Burn Notice. They took me 48 hours to download. (season 3)

I am going to re-cook the granola. It came out chewy instead of crunchy. My children have informed me that they prefer crunchy.

I am going to bring all my laundry off the line before it rains on my clean clothes.

I am going to organize my linen closet. There is a tower of towels in there, waiting to kill anyone who opens the closet.

I am going to read some more of my book. "44 Scotland Steet" (At least I think that is the name).

I am going to drink a capuchino during my meeting today.

I am going to send an email to Chandra to remind her to send me an email with the recipe for cookies that are made with baby formula. These are to give to beggar children who come to my door for food.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Max Denson is a Winner

Who is Max? I think I know, but since I am not sure, PLEASE pretty please shoot me an email at bs king 75 @ yahoodotcom

Of course, you might want to reformat that email without spaces and change out that dot for a .

Also, because of regulations, I needed to change my prior post.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some people should stop growing. It costs me too much money.

I bought Marcus a new pair of pants three weeks ago. They were so long on him that the vendedora told me about a tienda that would hem them for me for just a couple of dollars.

I never got around to having them hemmed, and when he put them on for church, I noticed that not only did they no longer need to be hemmed, but they were a tad short!!!!

Me: Marcus! Ar you crazy?????!!!!!

Marcus: (pops his head up in surprise) Huh?

Me: You REALLY need to stop growing. It costs too much to clothe you.

Marcus: Easy solution mom. Feed me cola and let me stop eating my vegetables. You'll save money on clothes AND veggies.

I love him. But I guess we will let him grow. cause what kind of bad mother would I be if I let him get by drinking soda and not eating veggies????

PS. Tonight he asked to talk to me. (second talk in two nights. The first one was so deep it was disturbing).

"I have decided that I want to be a writer when I grow up. I think I really want to write Christian books to help people understand God. Oh, and I decided I don't want to wait until then to serve him. I want to start now. I think the best way to do that will be to help out around the house or at El Sendero if I am needed. So. If you need anything, just ask. Except dishes. I won't do dishes."

My Marcus. The growing boy. In more ways than one.

PS #2: Some Ecuadorian life:
We visited a small finka (farm) where there were about half a dozen cows. The farmer allowed the calves to suckle a bit and the shooed them off, squirted some fresh milk into a cup, added a spoonful of sugar and gave the kids some to drink.

It was warm, sweet, and the only way to get fresher would have been... never mind. bad image. Haha.

And, after he had filled his bucket, he allowed the calves to return to be fed. It was a sweet kind of day for us.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A to-do list from the equator:

1. Wash some of the filthy windows. August was a WINDY month (to put it lightly) and the windows are a muddy, messy, blechy brown mess. This will prove to be much more difficult than thought because my windows have bars. The bars have spikes. No one will want to steal the grime on my windows!!!

2. Clean out the green garbage. Loja has a great garbage system and it requires multiple cans. The green can is for organic waste, and in order to keep it separate, I have a small pail with a lid that sits on my counter for all the food scraps. Its a compost container of sorts. and sometimes it gets rather... disgusting. Today is the day to clean it out.

3. Haircuts for the boys. A haircut here is about 2.00. But, Dustan insists on saving the money and taking a razor to the boys hair. Last time I razed them, I made their ears bleed, so I am now without a hairdressing job. Dustan has taken over. I can hear Weston crying upstairs. Dear grandma, please send 2.00 for haircuts.

4. Move my furniture. Last Saturday I woke up and declared "This is the day I will change my furniture." It never got done. So, it must be done today. MUST. See, I get in a funk if my furniture is too stable and unchanging. I NEED change. My very soul needs to spice things up by moving things around. After being married to me for 13 years, Dustan has finally given up on coming home and finding his living room, bedroom, or kitchen dishes in the same place. So... today... I will move my furniture.

5. Walk to the store, tienda, or market and find food for my family. We have just returned from a week at our annual spiritual life conference and we ate ourselves to the bone before we left. Unless we want to eat Marshmallows for diner (leftover from smores), I had better get us some food.

6. Jerry-rig clothes line. Since we spent a week away from home, our laundry is... well... bigger than the mountain in front of my home. My lines are full and I have several loads left. Whenever this happens, I use brooms, pipes, misc sticks, prop them up on chairs and wipe my hands, pant myself on the back, and congratulate myself on my ingenuity. Little things. Right?

7. Make granola. Because my boys (including Dustan) think that they will experience daily death without granola for breakfast. I make six gallons at a time, and it lasts far too short a time.

8. Call my mother. Because I miss her.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Taste the Rainbow: Hannah's story

Hannah Banana. She was something else. When she was little, I was a teenager, and she liked to follow me around, chattering like a monkey on steroids.

One time, I just needed a break. People often needed a break from Hannah. Like I said, she was something else. When she wanted something, she wouldn’t let go. What Hannah wanted more than anything else was attention, devotion, and love. Anyhow, I was saying... I needed a break. So, I found a closet in Granny’s house. And I squeezed in with all the shoes, bags of brand-new underwear, slips, and who knows what else (my grandmother collected things for emergencies. You never knew when someone would need a slip), and just sat in the dark and quiet.

It wasn’t long. Maybe thirty seconds, before my solitude was interrupted by a curly headed boy. Hannah’s brother Matt.

“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Hiding from Hannah.” I answered with utmost honestly.
Matt climbed on my lap and declared he also needed a break.

Hannah kept up that intense energy throughout her childhood, but she blossomed into a gorgeous young girl, eager to be loved, and devoted to making the world a beautiful place.

The one thing that strikes me most about Hannah is how much she loved to make things beautiful. She loved hair-dos, she loved makeup, she loved fashion.

But Hannah wasn’t artificial. She was just simply gorgeous, and she wanted to share that beauty with everyone.

One time she told me I should always wear bangs. “Here.” She said, after taking a pair of my kitchen scissors to the front of my hair. “Here. Isn’t that so much better?” “And you really shouldn’t leave the house without mascara. It makes your eyes so beautiful.”

I was an adult when she gave me beauty advice. Married already, with two children, and broiled over with the fugliness of early motherhood.

Hannah was 15. High-strung, slighty flightly, but with an inner kindness that sought out prettiness wherever she could find it. Hannah, made me feel beautiful. And I wore my hair with bangs for years afterwards.

Hannah tried to make everyone feel beautiful. It’s what she did. It’s who she was.

Hannah loved sparkly things. She loved rainbows, and music, guitars, her family, me, my children, and life. Because those things were beautiful to her.

I would venture to say that now her life is so full of beauty that she can’t even stand it. I bet she is downright blinded from basking in the glow of her gorgeous new home.

Because Hannah lives in a mansion now. Built for her by her Heavenly Father. She is prancing (because that is what she did- prance) down streets glowing with gold.

Hannah was killed in 2006. She was in an automobile accident and she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Seatbelt promotions are not new. But “Buckle up for Hannah” focuses on teenagers. Because teenagers don’t think about that one time they slip the seatbelt off to root around in their purse, look for something under the seat, or scootch over just a bit to snuggle with a boyfriend.

Teenagers need a reminder of the importance of buckling up, not just for “almost all of the time”, but for every second they are in a moving car.

The one time Hannah did not buckle up, she died. And her family wants to help other families, by telling her story.

Buckle Up For Hannah has been able to pass new safety laws for teenagers, put reminders in the form of bumper stickers on cars across the nation, and raise awareness to teenagers by telling them Hannah’s story.

Now, my family has another opportunity to raise awareness. It’s through a contest and we need votes.

Here is the link. Please vote everyday! EVERY day!

For some reason, the link chooses to be difficult sometimes. While I try to fix it. Hannah's car is under causes and is on the second page of most popular. It is easily recognizable with a rainbow seatbelt!

Vote away.

And please, buckle up.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Feeding my skin

That's me. In my bathtub when we first moved in. I don't usually wear clothes in the bathtub. However, I also don't usually post pictures of myself on the web while in the tub.
I can't tell you how ecstatic I was to find out our house had a tub. Tubs are unusual in Loja. In fact, I don't know of a single other person who has one.
So... I am grateful, even if I have to kiss my knees while taking a hot bath (also incredibly grateful for hot water. Many houses do not have it).
Because bathtubs are rare, luxury bath items are non-existent. Bubble baths, bath oils, and the like are no where to be found.

So I made my own. I altered (slightly) a recipe I found online. It was like taking a bath in food. Really nice smelling food that made my skin ultra soft.

Peaches and Cream bath oil
Mix in a bowl

3/4 cup of plain yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vineger
3 large eggs
2 TBS melted butter
1 cup of milk
1 cup of peach juice

Monday, August 09, 2010

Paula Dean

Dustan: I don't even know who Paula Dean is.

Weston: What IS a pualadean?

Me: It's some kind of fruit. (I learned my parenting skills from Calvin's dad)

Weston: I think you are wrong. I thinks it is a kind of soldier. I wish I was a pauladean.

A cookbook for the Dad

Dustan is having to do far more cooking than he used to. Because my work at the cafe is in the evenings, he almost always needs to make the dinner meal, and I often need help for the lunch meal as well.

Dustan, bless his heart, is not a cook. He is, however, willing. And more than that, when he isn't overwhelmed by all the decisions, he actually enjoys cooking.

So, in an effort to help us both out, I am compiling a photographic journal of our meals. I am using Picnik.com to edit the photos and to add simple recipe instructions.

My plan is to have them printed and then to add them to a scrapbook page with helpful tips. Like:
"Weston won't touch corn with a ten foot pole"
"Marcus would rather eat bunny eyeballs than swallow a small piece of avocado"
"You don't really have to add every ingredient. If you don't have cheese, just leave it off."
"If you don't add cheese, Esther will see no reason to eat at all."

You know- that stuff all mommies know. I will add it to the page, just so he has a reference until he figures it all out.

I also figure that it will leave me space to add alterations when I can. I make alterations automatically. If I am out of mayo, I add yogurt. If I don't have taco seasoning, I know that I can use a variety of other spices to make up for it. Dustan hasn't been in the kitchen to figure all that out.

Without further ado, here are my first two recipes for our book, glamorously named:

Wash the Dishes When You are Done! (It truly is a book of helpful hints)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Rainy Day= Cooking Day.

Loja is a cold city. One wouldn;t think it- but it is truly very cold here. There are no heaters in Loja. we just dress warmly and suck it up. However, last night was the single coldest I have ever been. I laughed when I was lying in bed thinking that if I had been in the US and my heater had been broken on a night like last night, we would have gotten a hotel room.

Living without options has changed the way I think about living. Period. No heater? Live with it. Shoes falling apart? Take them to be repaired. Short full of holes? try not to look at yourself after you get dressed. Clothes still wet after three days on a line? Wear the same dirty clothes until they finally dry. City having a shortage on gas? Cry while taking a cold shower in the frigid morning (or night) temps. (I didn't have to do that. I forfeited my showers instead. Peeeuuuwww)

Anyhow... It's raining today. No sun makes for a cold day after a long cold night, and because I didn't have Spanish class, I decided to declare it a cooking day.

Tomatoes taking a boiling hot bath. I was jealous. I soaked them for a minute or so and then transfered them to cold water. The skins peeled right off. Easy Peasy lemon Squeezy. (My Spanish tutor LOVES when I say that.)

After being frustrated with my broken budget after making granola, I kind of made up my own method. However, it is amost identical to THIS ONE. Scroll down for a budget friendly method. I do exactly like it says, use what I have and can afford.

For the Pasta Sauce, I used Val's recipe for inspiration. Next time I plan to make it exactly as written. Mine is yummy, but IMAGINE that roasted tomato taste! I don't have a blender (or the 100.00 that they cost here) but the next time I spend the day making pasta sauce, I will barter to borrow one. One blender for a jar of pasta sounds reasonable to me!

I only have two small quart sized bags left (and they are as valuable as gold here) so I froze the diced tomatoes on old butter containers. We save EVERYTHING. And what I don't save, someone picks out of my garbage. One of these days I am going to do a blog post on the Ecuadorian version of recycling. They have a tremendous understanding on the re-use portion. Anyhow, I plan to use the diced tomatoes in soups.

I will use some of my precious gallon sized bags (because I have more of them) for freezing the sauce.

Next freezing cold day, I am hoping to use all the black bananas in my freezer. Any ideas?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning Spanish is hard. REALLY hard!

But I have found a few things that are invaluable in helping, and many can be used with youngsters. i thought I would leave a review in case some of you would like to learn Spanish. you know. SO YOU WILL COME VISIT ME!!!!

Coffee Break Español: This is a series of podcasts done by Mark and Kara who are actually from Scotland, but who are enthusiastic and capable teachers. Actually, Kara is a student of Spanish and learns right along side the listener. My kids have picked up a TREMENDOUS amount of Spanish.
Bonus: FREE You can't get better than free. We are on lesson eight. Hurry and catch up.

Easy Spanish: Step-by-Step: This book is also a great workbook functions as a building block mechanism for learning spanish. As you learn how to use articles, you also build your vocabulary by practicing with nouns. The next chapter adds adjectives and by chapter three you have some verbs down which allows you to make functional sentences.
I would say that a child would be able to use this from age 10 and up. But, it is highly effective for adults as well. Dustan and I are both using it and filling in some gaps that we have.
It's a great book and I highly recommend it.

Live Mocha: This is an interactive community of language learners. It's like facebook for people who want to learn a new language. The benefit of this is that if you learn a language in a vaccum you will get all dusty. Haha. No, really, it is helpful to communicate with native speakers and this allows you to do that.
It also has lessons that will help you build on what you are learning from the podcasts and from the workbook resource.
Bonus: IT'S FREE (they do have a paid membership that gives you more resources that i am highly tempted to pay for)
This site has better reviews than Rosetta Stone (which I don't recommend), and it is WAY WAY cheaper.

These will get you started, but I plan to come back with some other reviews and tips. If you have any questions, be sure to ask and I will make sure to feature them in a future post.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Guess what we have?


Okay, so we don't have THAT one anymore. And hopefully our new cat will scare off any others that might want to join in on the fun.

BTW, that is a RAT trap. Ugghhh, yuckkkkk, and eeeeeuuuuwwwww.

Also, Dustan made me post this. If I had any readers left, I bet I don't anymore.

And as another side note, we are now overrun with animals. We have Scooter the rabbit, Daisy the dog, Skywalker the parakeet, and now- Scout, the kitten who better eat rats or she gets to move to the mountain and find her food there.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The story of the not-so-ugly-plant

My missionary friend Anna went with me to the marketplace.
I saw the plant.
I fell in love.
I told myself "no". It was a pretty expensive plant...
But then I kept thinking about it. Eventually, we found our way back to the plant.

"Isn't it a beautiful plant?" I asked Anna.
Anna tried to be polite. But, Anna is a very honest person. She looked at me and said, "Well, it is not my taste, but I can see you like it." (read this in an Australian accent)

It was true. I did really like it.

So I bought the plant, the pot, the dirt and with Anna's help I hauled the whole load into a taxi. The whole way home, I kept thinking how much I loved my new curly-headed plant.

When Dustan saw us, he raised his eyebrow. "What's that?" he asked.
"It's a plant", I responded. "Don't you like it?"
"Well...." (I must interrupt to say my husband lacks the tact that Anna has) "It's ummmm.... interesting."
Anna laughed. "I tried to tell her."

My poor plant. So unloved by everyone but me.
Dustan curled his lip and wrinkled his nose. "It goes outside? Right?"
Anna just laughed. Again.

Our discussion brought on the curiosity of Irma, the lady who cleans my house twice a week. In Spanish, Dustan tried to tell Irma that the plant was not very pretty and should be outside.

The whole world was ganging up on me and my plant!

Only, Irma declared the plant was VERY BEAUTIFUL, and started to drag it inside.

Dustan gave in, and picked it up.

Irma and I stood back and inspected its radiance and glory. "Muy Bonita", she declared. "Si. A mi me gusta!" I said back.

Dustan thinks we are both loca and Anna still laughs when I talk about how she tried to squirm her way out of telling me I had purchased a very ugly plant.

So, what do you think?
Perfect for Becka?

Plant: 8.00
Pot: 8.00
stand: 2.50 (was 3 but she gave me .50 off. What a bargain!)
dirt: 1.50

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More pay-outs.

Here are the things we paid for the last couple of days:

One 7up and one bottle of water: .65 We went to Malacatos yesterday with the kid's school. Yesterday was Dia de Niños and to celebrate, the school planned an outing at a Finka. what is a Finka? Good question. Literally translated, a finka means a farm. Here in Loja though, it is used to refer to a vacation home in the outlying villages.
They can be very rustic (camping with walls and a dirt floor), or they can be very opulent. The one we visited was somewhere in-between.
It had very rustic shelter, but it also had a swimming pool and a hot tub. Haha! Hot tub is funny because it is more like "lukewarm bath" tub.

Anyhow, we went. And because I didn't fully translate the instructions, we went without something to drink. Hence the need for something on the way home. (also, I was rather motion sick and was prayerful the 7up would settle my stomach.)

Two packets of corn tortillas: 5.00
Want to hear something shocking? Torn tortillas are not a common food in Loja. However, a small tienda opened up a few weeks ago. The owner is Mexican, his wife is Italian and so they have a small stand (two point five tables) that sells tacos, sandwiches, and pasta dishes. The corn tortillas are made on the spot, and are frankly, "to-die-for". Since Marcus and I can not have bread, we like to use corn tortillas for things like sandwiches. Dustan bought us 24. Ooooh, they are so good.

One donut, one spirol, and a bag of coffee: 2.50
While I fried the eggs this morning, Dustan walked around the corner to get me some coffee. (1.50- don't kill me. I know you are paying 10.00 for a good coffee in the US) He couldn't resist the donuts and felt guilty, so he bought me a spirol as well. Since a spirol is basically just sugar and egg whites, I couldn't stomach it for breakfast. Maybe I will have it later.

One refresco, one bottle of water, one emendada de verde, and one tamal: 3:00
I took my friend Stellamarise for a snack at "Mimo's". Refresco is a Tang drink that has thousands of flavors. Stellamarise had Maricuya which is an Ecuadorian fruit. She could also have chosen coconut. We serve the orange flavor at El Sendero. Emenadas de verde are one of my favorite Ecuadorian foods. Basically, they are fried pies the dough being made from green bananas. The insides are stuffed with chicken and peas. But, this morning, I chose a tamal. Which is corn flour steamed in a banana leaf. Oh how I love tamals!!!!!!!! Sometimes I order two, and everyone thinks I am a pig.

Household goods from another missionary: 500.00
We had not completed setting up our house because we new we could buy some things when the Bacon's moved back to Australia. Used items hold their value in Ecuador. I am amazed at the used prices of things. I spent 15.00 on a used set of sheets, but because our only other option is 40.00, I snagged them as fast as I could. No garage sale or the prices that come with them, here in Ecuador.
We bought books, rugs, sheets, chairs, and several other items. The big purchase was the ping pong table which was 150.00. This is something that we will use for ministry. We hope to have the young people over often, and because Dustan and I are neither "hip" or "young", we will bribe them with a ping pong table. Our purchases from this missionary family pretty much wraps up our set up here in Ecuador. We still need a couple of things (like a blender, and another knife, and a pair of scissors), but for the most part, we now have everything we need, and even a few things just for fun (like books and a ping pong table)
As a side note: the rule of thumb for reselling in Ecuador is 50% less than what you paid. Because imports are both expensive and hard to come by. Since I bought 40.00 sheets for 15, it is actually considered a bargain! But, I guess it all evens out since I only pay 1.50/pound for my coffee!

Phone bill: 9.00
Dustan tried to pay this bill last week, but when he went to pay it, he found that the place had closed down. He found out that he could pay at the bank and so he went today. Downside, the bank lines are incredibly long. Paying bills here is VERY different than the US. If we paid them all on the same day, it would take us the entire day.

Meal at El Sendero: 10.00 Each Wednesday we have a family meal at El Sendero. Becka is working, and Dustan has English Club, so we find it easier to eat at the cafe. Becka's meal is free, But since Dustan and the kids are not working, they pay for their meal.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Aggravated beyond belief...

That is what I would change my facebook status to if I wasn't so attached to my current one.
Current status:
Esther: Look mommy!
Me: At what?
Esther: At the raindrops. Aren't they beautiful?

Holy petals batman, she makes my heart puddle into a pool of sunshine.

I can't find the kid's scissor, so I am feeling a bit more stormy than normal.
Why do I need the kid's scissor? Why don't I just use mine?
Good question. Hilarious answer.
I broke mine.
While using them to cut my lawn. Really.
There is not a single lawn mower for sale in all of Loja. Quito is a day's drive away.
The scissors worked. Until they broke.

But why do I need scissors so badly?

Because I was perusing the "World of Momcrafts" (That is my made of name of the collection of internet resources that make me want to craft. Quick! Someone trademark it!) and I found the following:
Apron made of T-shirts.

I doubt you will read the rest of my post. You are all already lost in ruffles... and stuff.
Just in case you come back:
I have a stack of t-shirts that have mysterious holes. Knit does not last long in Ecuador. It's a true mystery. Really. I hired Nancy Drew and she told me it was the fault of the clothespins. I quickly fired Miss Nancy. The holes are all on the front of the shirt, where no clothespins touch.
Then I hired that one lady who solves all those crimes in those books that use the alphabet for titles. (I forget her name) and she said it was my laundry detergent. Ding Ding.

Dong... I thought it worked. Two weeks later... more holes. Dingly dangly. Another shirt in the holey pile.
Agatha Christie (I don't care for Hercule Peroit OR Miss Marple so I went directly to the source), says it is because the buttons on my jeans are wearing holes in the shirts. Seems reasonable I guess. But why did it not happen in the States? I am still unsatisfied as to the cause of the mysterious holes... but back to the problem at hand.

The previous link gave me the immediate desire to turn my pile of holey shirts into an apron. Right now. This second! Ahora! Rapido! (I had café italiano tonight).

So--- Up I ran to get my shirts. Had to root around in the dark to find them because the light in my bedroom takes about half an hour to turn on. But I found them.

Found the needles I bought. (I bought them at a small hole in the wall fruit store. The guy stored them with buttons and matches. In a cookie jar.)

Couldn't find the thread, but decided that dental floss would be stronger anyway.

Everything was ready. Except that I realized I had broken my only pair of scissor.

No problem----
I would just use the kid's. It would be interesting. The kid's scissor are safety scissors, and it would probably be easier to just use my teeth... But I want to make an apron. Now! Right this second! Before I even post this blog post! (I don't think I will be sleeping tonight).

Okay--- so instead of making my apron, I decided I would torture you with this very long missive of nothingness that leads to no where.

But at least you have the link for an awesome blog. (not mine silly. The ruffles and stuff one.)

PS. It is my birthday. Someone send me a pair of scissors and a lawn mower. A human lawn mower is the best sort.

Shopping in Ecuador: part 1

I thought I would keep track of a month's worth of expenses, I think it will be a good portrait of what life is like here.

Monday is the day we shop at Supermaxi for El Sendero. Supermaxi is a large supermarket (I will try to get a picture next week), that is very modern. It reminds me of the grocery stores back home. Except that some praices are much better, and some prices... WOAH NELLY, I am lucky if I don't get a heart attack. Do not try to buy peanut butter or tabasco sauce in Ecuador.
We take a taxi to supermaxi, then take a taxi back to El Sendero we we unload the food and haul it up to flights of stairs.
After we put it away, we usually take our two market bags of food and walk home.

Today we took a taxi because we had to buy paper plates and wood chips (not pictured) and the wood chips were heavy and bulky.

Since we didn't walk home, we also did not stop at the local tienda where we buy our fruits, or the market where we buy our veggies.

Anyhow, here are the pics of what we did buy:

We spent 65.00 which is about what we spend at supermaxi each week. We have a challenge though to only buy things there that we can not buy at the tiendas. Sometimes, for convenience, we ignore our challenge. I can get brown sugar almost anywhere!

See anything interesting? Have a question? Want to know how much a specific item cost? (The snickers were a STEAL! Normally 10.00 they were only five! That made them about what we would have paid in the states! Now I am wondering if I should have bought an extra!) Just ask away.
Today was a boring shopping day. Not all that different than what we would have done back home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Future blackmail?

Elizabeth Greenwood is 15 now, and presumably too old for Polly Pockets. (I bet she still played with them when no one was looking.) So, in an act of extreme generosity she gave the entire collection which included no less than a bajillion microscopic shoes, to Esther.

I like to complain about them a lot.

I mean, they make a HUGE mess. H.U.G.E. You can not even imagine how long it takes to clean up that many itsy bitsy shoes. Not to mention the four hundred and fifty thousand kagoogle shirts, pants, skirts, hats, and purses.

Polly Pockets are the stuff that crazy mother's are made out of (and legos- but that is another post).
(When no one is looking, I sneak into Esther's room and play with them.)

But, Esther loves them, and so, I take a deep breath, and try not to curl up and die when I walk past her room and see "Polly Pocket Mall" look like polly pocket tornado after-effects.

Sunday afternoon when I went upstairs (and no, I wasn't going to sneak into Esther's room to play), I noticed a strange sight:

Yep. That's my boys, playing with Polly Pockets. I had to sneak to take a picture because...
Well, what boy would want his mom taking a picture of him playing Polly Pockets????

Apparently this one.
"Look Mom! Cute, right?"

"You realize I have a camera, right?"

"Take a picture of this one!"
"You are a strange child."
"What? Esther plays with my hot wheels."
"You better clean up those its-bitsy-teeny-weeny-drive-your-mommy-crazy-shoes."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Una pequeña rincón en mi casa.

This is a little corner in my house.
It isn't awesome...
Or interesting...
But I thought I would post it anyway, to prove that in some way, I am carving out a home in our little mud hut (which is neither made of mud, nor little).

The shelves are on loan from some missionaries on their way to furlough. I can't really paint them but I am considering wrapping the bricks in paper, and maybe using some more substantial fabric to wrap the shelves in.
Have any ideas? (This shelf is the first thing we see when we walk in the door.)

I am remember the good old days (no so good really) when I tried to turn our 1970's home into a cottage. Hahahaha. What a crock. One thing I learned through that experience to to be content with all things. Hey- I think that is even in the Bible!
Every woman longs for a beautiful home- to be sure, but in the states, I was inundated by beautiful places. Magazines galore were everywhere galore, just sitting around waiting to show me how "ugly" my house was.

There are no Better Homes magazines here. No Martha Stewart (save an old Halloween edition from 2007) to show me all the things I "need" to make a beautiful home.

Frankly, I think it is easier to be content here. No one else has more than me. Not even far off people in a magazine fantasy land of staged photographs. People here wrap their sofas in old sheets to keep the dust off and the decorate their homes with knick knacks my granny would adore.

The other missionaries have modest furnishings with decorations that they find around them. A piece of pottery that cost 2.00 in the market, a piece of original indigenous fabric weaving, a tourist token from their travels...
No one would take a photo and place it in a magazine, but I must admit, I admire each of these homes. There is something there that makes me want to sit...
It is definitely not in the carefully chosen wall colors (though I admit my love for the Ecuadorian LOVE of color), or the arrangement of the conversation area (some homes don't even have a sofa! They sit around and chat at a table).

The difference is in time. In Ecuador, relationships are built on time. In the States, we would always say time is money, and then we would buy things with that money to strengthen relationships... (well, maybe not you- but I fell into it plenty of times).
Here there is no money. At an hourly wage of 2.00 a day, there is not much hope for money. And for those who do have money, it is still so ingrained in the culture, that they will ignore everything else for the chance to sit down and build relationships.

I didn't mean to say all this, but I caught myself being embarrassed to post my exposed brick bookshelf (which is actually ingenious and incredibly functional- not to mention FLEXIBLE) because it does not look like something that anyone would want to show off.

When, in fact, I am very happy that I now have a place to show off our family picture (we brought with us), a stack of favorite books (brought with us), and my case of wooden tulips that I fell in love with and bought at Todo Hogar for myself as a Mother's Day gift.
My scarf is Ecuadorian, and I love the color.
And well...

I have learned to be content.

One of these days I will be so content that I will show off the ugly 1980's, and much too small, bedspread I have on my bed. Until then, I will just enjoy my new, my free, my rustic, bookshelf.

And as an aside, The Greenwoods (bless their hearts) let us borrow a tremendous amount of bricks and shelves and we have these located throughout the house.
One in the office houses all the games that we also borrowed from the Greenwoods (love them- and are really gonna miss them!)
One in Esther's room holds her puzzles and bottlecap collection.
The one in Weston's room holds his stuffed animals, lego, and geometric building set.

If you need storage in your house and can't afford the Ikea system (which is uber cool) then this system might also work for you in the states. (or elsewhere, if I happen to have readers in Timbuktu, Ireland, or Argentina) (I don't. I checked.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I made this simple meal for dinner tonight. Pork is is ready supply here in Ecuador, and the chuletas (pork chops), are outstanding. I hated pork chops in the states, but somehow I just can't get them wrong here. This is good- because the rest of my family loves pork chops.

I simply cut onions into rings, added largely cut up tomatoes, a bit of tomatoes, some garlic paste, and olive oil.
I added the chuletas on top of that, added some agua, covered and cooked on low heat.
I checked frequently and added water if needed.

THe kids all declared that I could "not have cooked them any better", and that they were "just as good as Irma's".
Anytime irma cooks for us, I am reminded by my children of how much better a cook Irma is than I am.
So, bravo for me! A+ for mommy.

I didn't make the rice however, because, everytime I even try, I am told "not to even bother." I have such kind worded children. I think they need a lot of prayer.
And obviously, they think I need cooking lessons.

Anyhow, this was uber easy to make, took almost no prep time, and it wasn't much of a bother except to add water every now and again.

Everyone else LOVED it, and I liked it pretty much (which is high praise for a pork chop from me)- so, you should try it.

Simple sometimes is the very best.
Marcus became less bored once the picture taking stopped and the eating began.

And, since Thursday nights are family night at the mud hut- we had desert as well. Ice box lemon pie, almost exactly like my sister used to make when we were growing up. The only change I made was to use a coconut crust instead of a graham cracker one in order to make it gluten free.
It's is also...
1/2 cups of lemon juice (I used fresh, because lemons are 3 for a dime- can't get anything cheaper than that)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk.
Blend with a mixer until thick
Pour into pie crust and refrigerate until set.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

Friday, May 07, 2010

A post about hair:

Esther's hair to be exact.
It has gotten long enough since the fun days when she thought it would be fun

I have promised several people that I would post the blog links to where I find instructions for our hair dos, and since I finally have a wee bit of internet access, and because it is almost midnight which means it is far to late to respond coherently to emails, I am finally making good on my promise.

Girly dos by Jen is perhaps the one I reference the most.
The Princess in her Hair is another good one.

Please check the blog roll on both these blogs, you will find many more blogs just dedicated to little girl's hair.

As a cultural side note, hair is a big deal in Ecuador. Every little girl sports a hairstyle each morning. I am so glad I started working with Esther's hair before I came here because otherwise I would have felt overwhelmed trying to help her fit in.
As it is, we have had several comments and requests for instructions.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Animales para Pasqua

Esther's friend Gabby had two rabbits. two boy rabbits who spent far to much of their time arm wrestling with their teeth. Lightning here needed a new home, and Esther was thrilled to provide him with one. Lightning was dropped off on the Saturday before Easter. Sort of an accidental Easter bunny.

and while you are meeting our Easter pets....

Meet the chicken yet to be named.

Our pastor and his wife brought me this sweet little fluff ball as a gift. It arrived on Easter Day.

How appropriate. An Easter bunny and an Easter chick, all in one year, and neither was intentional as an Easter gift.

Hooray! I have a chicken! And Rabbit the size of Godzilla!

PS. My chickie-doo has taken to Weston like hot on a dog.
PS #2: Do you have any idea how much poo a baby chick and a giganterous rabbit can create. Hint: It is more than you would think.

Friday, April 02, 2010

preparing for Easter- Toasty-Toes mudhut style:

This blog has seen:
Toasty-Toes mansion
Toasty-toes guesthouse
Toasty-Toes cottage
...and now...
Toasty-Toes Mud Hut. All missionaries live in mud-huts don't they?

Our home here is far from a mud hut, but it makes me smile to think that after three years of hard work preparing to come to Ecuador- that we are FINALLY here. Although I am spending most of my time learning Spanish, doing ministry, and taking care of the family, I do still have some time for homemaking.

I have always wanted to make a big deal out of Easter, but every year I procrastinated and most years we spent with family. This year, if we were to have any celebration at all... it was going to up to me.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Eggs: I can not tell you how eggcited I was to have the combo of peanut butter and chocolate. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love this combo. I once ruined my credit rating over a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup. They were offering free candy bars at college for anyone who signed up for a credit card. What can I say? I was enticed. And then I wracked up a very large bill buying Reeces cups.
Anyhow, Reece's Peanut butter cups are not available here (I did find a Mar's Bar for 2.00), so I tried to make an Easter version on my own.


These were a disappointment. I came home late from El Sendero last night, after having slaved in my kitchen all day, and worked at the cafe all night, and sat down to munch on these eggs. They just are not peanut-buttery enough. I used the peanut butter (mani, in Spanish) that I use for all my baking here. It is just ground peanuts. It can't be the fault of the peanut butter.

Fortunately, I also made bird's nest cookies. THESE, were, delicious! Yay!

They were also a hit with the El Sendero staff. I made up a little Easter basket for each of them and found them exclaiming over the cookies. I think they said something like:

"Oh my great goodness. How wonderful are these cookies? These cookies are beautiful. Becka is a genius. I don't even want to eat mine. Oh, it is so sweet, these little tiny bird eggs."

There are some advantages to not knowing the primary language being spoken around you. One of those benefits is that I can just make thing up that people say.

Gloria frequently says what a great worker I am and Susi says all the time that they just couldn't get on without me. (They are probably actually complaining about how often I break the dishes. I am known as the "person who breaks things". Dustan is known as, "the person who burns things".)

Preparing anything here, is VERY, VERY, VERY different than in the United States. I went to five different stores for ingredients for the treats and Easter dinner. It took me about 6 hours of shopping. Then I had to make sure I soaked my fruits and veggies in a solution meant to kill the bad bugs that want to eat my intestines. I had to hand wash all my eggs because they still had mud and chicken poop on them. I am adjusting, but I admit, I took all my conveniences in the US for granted.
I leave you with this very messy view of my kitchen. After spending all morning shopping, making treats, and assembling Easter baskets, we dyed Easter eggs.

(By the way, this kitchen is AWESOME. It is bright and airy, large and functional. It is still very different from what I am used to (the faucets are crazy and move in two different directions, so that it takes me ten minutes to figure out how to get the water turned off), but- I love it.
The yellow labels are part of my effort to learn spanish. Step one: label everything in your house.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saying Goodbye: Again.

I am including this post on my personal blog instead of my missions one because it is... well... personal. I seriously thought that I had said all my goodbyes when I flew out of St Louis. I had no idea that God was going to place someone in my life that I would love so dearly, and be with so shortly.

Tanya and her husband Everett arrived in Quito at the same time our family did. We all moved into the same temporary quarters when we arrived in Loja. I didn't have a coffee maker, so each morning I bummed a cup off of Tanya, and we chatted as I had my coffee. I knew that her family would only be in Loja for 2 months, but at that time 2 months seemed like forever.

And now that forever ago seems like 10 minutes ago. Tanya and her family leave this afternoon to travel back to Canada. I am overwhelmed with the probable permanence of this. I have never been to Canada. I am not likely to go to Canada. This separation is likely to be a veryyyyyyyyy long one. So, my heart is heavy with this.

Tanya was a gift to me when I needed it the most. I had just said goodbye to my two best girlfriends. I had said goodbye to my sister and mom. I had said goodbye to my pastor's wife and my cousin Lindsey who had become like sisters to me. My world was recently full of goodbyes, and God gave me a wonderful HELLO.

Tanya was brave. She was contagiously brave. I did things with Tanya I never would have tried with anyone else. She dragged me into the shops and we fumbled our Spanish as we tried to find things for my new house. Because she was so willing to venture out without the "tried and true" missionaries, I was able to move into independence so much earlier.
Tanya would try anything new. "What is up those steps?" She would wonder, and then up she would go. Tanya is a natural born explorer and I loved tagging along.

Tanya was seemingly fearless at new things and at new relationships. She would make friends with the Ecuadorian young people with complete abandon. Last night the cafe was flooded with young people who had come to say goodbye. She gave of herself so freely. She prayed so freely, laughed so freely, hugged so freely, and cried so freely. She taught me to be a better person. She taught me to be a better missionary.

And I will miss her.

But I won't forget what she gave to me. I won't forget that the God who sent her to me at just the time I needed her, will not leave me hanging. I will remember that God will continue to meet my needs, and not just the physical ones.

So. I love Tanya, and the goodbye is hurting like crazy, but I will remember that God is good, and although goodbyes are terribly hard, that I will hang on for the new hellos that are coming my way.

I refuse to harden my heart and grow crusty in order to avoid future pain. Like Tanya, I will throw myself into new relationships with abandon, because there are good things in store for me.

I am going to cry.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fruits and vegetables...

Fruits and veggies are in constant supply here. Every day I go to work across the street from a wonderful market. I have access to the most wonderful exotic fruit in the whole universe.

And my cabinets are stocked with fresh eggs (I mean really fresh) and all kind of other great choices.


I am going to eat icecream for breakfast.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fresh Lemons + Sugar + Water= Resfreshing...

Today was a hot day here in Ecuador. For those who are facebooks friends, I posted some pictures of our morning activity and by the time I got home I felt half baked. Not only are we on the equator but the altitude places us closer to the sun and today it felt that the sun had a desire to torch us.

Add that fact to a dozen lemons that wanted to go bad and you have a need for lemonade! Our lemons here are tiny and green. I have no idea why, but they are incredibly cheap and in constant supply.

While I boiled water on the stove I juiced my lemons. Then I added 2 cups of sugar in a glass measuring cup and added enough boiling water to equal 4 cups. Then I added my squeezed lemon juice. Because my only pitcher is holding the flowers of everlasting life (seriously- they are THREE weeks old), I decided to just make a concentrate that we can add to a glass of water whenever we want.

When I want some lemonade, I pour some lemon syrup in the bottom of the glass and add water. This also lets us vary the strength. I like my lemonade light and barely there. Dustan likes his strong, sweet, and tart. You can see he approves.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Some things to hope for

That she never becomes a fashion designer.

That she never changes.

That these precious moments never-ever end.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yo cocino crepes (I cook crepes)

One of the things I love about living in Ecuador is the availability of gluten free flours. For Valentine's day I dreamed up a crepe breakfast. By dreamed up, I mean I actually dreamed it. In my dreams I was making crepes out of banana flour. When I woke up, I decided that I didn't have much to lose by trying out my dreamed up recipe.

I don't think anyone loses out on this, except maybe you folks that don't have access to banana flour. Sorry. I guess that would be most of you. But yay for us! We can have banana crepes anytime we want!

You can however make your own recipe of crepes and stuff them like we did. One crepe has peanut butter and chocolate inside, and the other has mora berry jam and is drizzled with chocolate. I served it with the icecream from the previous post. Everyone deserves ice cream for breakfast!

Banana Crepes:
1 cup banana flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS sugar
1 cup of milk
2 eggs
1/8 tsp baking powder
2 TBS melted butter

Just mix and add about 1/4 a cup of batter to a hot, oiled skillet. Twirl the pan a bit so you get a nice thin surface. When the crepe is almost dry on top, flip and cook for another minute or so.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ice Cream in Ecuador

My children have declared the following Ice-cream the "THE BEST IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD" Marcus wonders why anyone would ever eat any other kind of ice cream. I can't ever understand what Weston thinks because his mouth is so full of ice-cream that it drips out the corners of his mouth.

It is definitely not a typical ice-cream. It has a more subtle sweetness and a much more "in your face" creaminess. It is definitely worth making.

I flavored mine by adding Tang!
Tang? Yes, it still exists. Here in Ecuador it comes in several flavors including our family's new favorite fruit: Mora Berry.

You could add any kind of flavoring you wanted. Play around with it and make sure you tell me how it turns out.

Thank you to Lucinda, the Brazilian missionary here in Loja. We missionaries are a diverse sort of folk, which will provide me with many different foods to try. YES!

PS. You can see my new dryer outside the window. I give it five stars for energy efficiency but only three stars overall. Unfortunately its consistency in performance is about as consistent as the weather in Loja. Which is to say- not consistent at all.
(However, I must admit that I LOVE hanging my clothes and think that they look very pretty hanging out on the line.)

PS # 2- Yes, those are bars on my windows. I have found the Ecuadorian people to be a very honest lot. Whenever I try to over-pay for my goods (which is all the time, because I can't understand money in Spanish), they always laugh and work diligently to make me understand that they said .30 cents and not 3 dollars. However. They ALL want my icecream and I have to protect it somehow.