Monday, December 26, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head

When we were planning the Christmas dinner for two zones of missionaries (50), it became clear that stove and oven space was going to be limited.  After taking an unscientific survey of our district we found that their favorite potato dish was funeral potatoes - except for Sora Wilson who is from Australia and had never heard of them.  So I found a recipe for crockpot cheesy potatoes that looked delicious, easy and didn't take up any oven space. Then I discovered that they don't have bags of frozen grated or cubed potatoes here.  But they do have potatoes so how hard can making frozen grated potatoes be?  Off to the piata to pick out 80 spuds (about 45 lbs.) we go.  We spend hours washing, peeling, grating and putting them in our treasured gallon ziplock bags. We put half the bags in our little freezer and the other half in the freezer across the street at the chapel.  Job well done!  But wait, there's more.  When we check them the next day the potatoes have all turned black or brown.  I guess Birds Eye has a flash freeze process we had not considered.   

On to Plan B........

So now we must solve the "spud" problem......what to do, what to do?   Back to the piata we go for 80 more potatoes.  The morning of the party we wash, peel, slice and put them into buckets of cold salty water.  Then 1 1/2 hours before the dinner is to be served, we race home to start boiling and mashing.

We walked into the serving room with our pans of mashed potatoes at exactly 6:00pm.  However, when we got home that night at 11:00pm we found that angels from on high had not come into our kitchen while we were gone.

The Dinner

                       Remains of the Dinner

The missionaries managed to eat almost everything on the table.  After the dinner they were allowed to take home left overs and the rest disappeared.  Thanks to all the Senior Couples in the Buc zones we served an almost traditional Christmas dinner.  Instead of turkeys, we had chickens and pork roasts in place of ham. There was the traditional red jello (thanks Jennifer!) and corn.  Delicious glaced carrots replaced yams. We even had dressing, green bean casserole and gravy.  We love our missionaries and they let the seniors walk away from the kitchen without looking back.  They had that building spotless by the time the night ended.

And because we just couldn't resist..........

Romanian Gothic

Craciun Fericit!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Someone Is Walking on My Sunshine.....or My Shoes are On a Three Year Mission, but I'm Not!

Upon arriving in Bucharest we were taken to the Mission Home where we were given a folder with good information for missionaries to know.  One full page was devoted to ingrown toenails.  I have never had an ingrown toenail in my life and have done lots of walking so I ignored those instructions.  The shoes I brought with me were chosen carefully and I loved them.  However, it became evident rather quickly they were not up to the task.  Within just a few weeks I had my first ever ingrown toenail.  Is this in the category of TMI?  Sorry, but I continue.  We found a Skecher store where there was a beautiful pair of shoes just calling out to me and my painful toe.  After putting them on I danced around and said "this is like walking on sunshine!"  We walk a lot here and about two weeks later my left ankle just collapsed.  It was freaky.  My ankle was on the ground.  Brent had to practically carry me home.  We immediately contacted our own personal orthopedic surgeon (Dr. Marc) who perscribed rest and an ankle brace.  After a few weeks my ankle seemed to be strong again so I put my lovely new shoes back on and went for a walk.  Sad to say the ankle did not cooperate.  So I boxed the shoes up and gave them to Sora Patton, our office missionary and told her to help the shoes find a good home.  Several days later our new mission president's wife, Sora Hill, came limping into a staff meeting complaining that the shoes she brought to Romania were hurting her feet.  Sora Patton happily gave her my shoes and now her feet are happy. And she looks great in them!

 I have gone back over the ingrown toenail instructions and follow them faithfully!

And speaking of Sora Hill......

Here we are helping with breakfast for a zone leaders conference.  I think Elder Wahlquist looks smashing in his apron.  And believe me, it gets lots of use.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Idle Hands are the Devil's Workshop, Busy Hands Make Hats!

When I received a set of hat looms and yarn from good friends and family, I decided that I should relearn how to use them so that I could explain the process to our YSAs.  However, once I got started I couldn't quit.  I was hooked (pardon the pun)!  We also found yarn at several places here in Bucharest.  Now, over 50 hats later, it is time to turn the looms over to whom they were originally intended.
Elder Wahlquist was kind enough to model one for me.  I think he looks very spiffy and his ears are warm.  The Humanitarian Aid missionaries have assured us they will be placed on some little cold heads soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Carpet Cleaning Romanian Style

When we decided that our two area rugs needed cleaning we called a carpet cleaning company.  The cost of them coming to our apartment was going to be about the same as buying new rugs so we looked for an alternative plan.  We noticed that there were rugs hanging on the fences and walls at many of the car washes.  I just thought they were selling rugs as well as washing cars.  But then we discovered the Romanian word for carpet and saw that they washed rugs and charged by the milimeter.  So on a beautiful fall day we borrowed the mission van, loaded up our two rugs and went to the car wash.

We were told to come back in two days and pick up our rugs.  The sun was shining, it was warm, what could possibly go wrong?

We woke up the next morning to a cold downpour.  We raced to the car wash and there were our rugs hanging on the fence in the rain.  We decided that we would take them home, turn up the heat and turn on the fan.  What could go wrong?

When we got the rugs home we put them over chairs and tables to help with the circulation.  Within minutes we had water pouring down on the floor.  We used all our towels to soak up the dripping water.  We relaxed and thought "what could go wrong now?" At first I thought the neighbors were cooking cabbage.  There is a traditional dish here that is made with cabbage that has been soaked in brine for weeks.  Then we realized that it was our rugs that had turned sour.  Happily after a week the rugs were dry and a little bit cleaner. But next time we buy new rugs!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Good to know!....or I really need to learn this language!

When we got to Bucuresti 7 months ago I was relieved to see that there was a Stomatologie doctor's office across the street from our apartment.  Because I never know when my intestinal tract will not perform as designed, it was reassuring to know we would be able to cross the street for some profressional help.
Imagine my embarrassment when I discovered this is a dentist's office!  Some words in Romanian sound like English words.  This is not one of them.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oh, the joy!

(the devil)

Ingerul meu
(my angel)
When we moved into our apartment we were so delighted with the location overlooking the church, the open layout, and large bedroom, that we were determined to make the best of whatever furniture or equipment we had to work with.  I made peace with the small washing machine and learned to use the drying rack in an efficient way.  We adapted to the hard bed (very European) with a thin foam layer. We do okay with the tiny single sink since we only wash dishes for 2 (except when we cook every week for the dozen YSA we feed across the streeet).  Our couch is unfit for sitting and has become a place to stack things.  We are only reminded how bad it is when we visit one of the other missionary couples and sit on their comfortable furniture.  I've learned to recognize military time on our clocks.  But the oven was a source of stress and frustration.  We finally decided to approach our proprietar about getting a new stove and offered to pay the difference for an upgrade to an oven with a thermostat.  Two days later, we had our new stove.  We still have to use a match to light the oven but the stove top burners have a striker.  The old oven had no temperature control so we had to constantly watch the little thermometer we had hanging in the oven and keep adjusting the flame to cool it down or heat it back up while anything was baking.  After this wonderful appliance joined our family, I fixed two big batches of sugar cookies to decorate for Halloween.  They cooked beautifully and evenly.  We have certainly learned to appreciate many things that we used to take for granted.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Halloween in Romania

Although Romania is the country of Vlad the Impaler (better known as Dracula), Halloween was pretty much a non event here in Bucuresti.  The week before the 31st we were in a large WalMart-like store and there were four small shelves with a few angel wings, pirate hats, and Scary Movie masks.  That was it!  And there weren't any huge bins or shelves of bags of candy.  But we celebrated anyway.  Thanks to our darling daughter-in-law Jennifer, who sent a large container of Halloween sprinkles, my old sugar cookie recipe that I was able to find on line at the "Betty Crocker" website, and my new oven (it even has a thermostat!!), we made and decorated several batches of sugar cookies and partied with our missionary district and the YSAs.  They all send their love and thanks to you, Jennifer.
After district meeting we had a sugar cookie fest. 

That night our YSAs discovered the joys of  decorated sugar cookies along with a few missionaries who got seconds.

Partying in the YSA Center (while eating cookies).

George with a Peep Sandwich which is a Peep between two sugar cookies.  Jennifer sent a couple of packages of Peeps which none of our Romanian friends had ever seen before.

The Sunday before Halloween we were invited to a Halloween dinner at the Farnsworth's home.  Brother Farnsworth works at the American Embassy here in Buc.  They take very good care of the missionaries, especially us senior couples.  Three of their four children go to an international school which celebrates Halloween.
Bradon and Claire in costume.

Ryan carving a pumpkin with Dad in the background.

Elder Wahlquist helping Bradon with pumpkin carving.

Bradon with finished product.
Bradon called Monday night to say that the pumpkin he and Elder Wahlquist carved won the pumpkin carving contest at school.  Pumpkins are hard to find here and tend to be long and skinny.  This one was a perfect size for carving.

Bran Castle
We hear that Bran Castle, which is promoted as Dracula's Castle, puts on a really great Halloween party for the tourists.  However, Vlad the Impaler probably never lived there and he only became famous across the world after Bram Stoker published his book "Dracula" some 200 years later.  Vlad's actual home is in ruins.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Flat Stanley visits Romania!

Our grandson, Tanner, sent his friend Flat Stanley over to see us.  He arrived just in time to go to the Senior Missionary Couple Conference in Brasov. As we were driving through the mountains we saw rows and rows of shops. Stanley wanted to stop but he unfortunately did not have any Romanian money with him.

Roadside shops for tourists seem to be the same everywhere!

The conference was held in the Brasov church building which was conveniently next to the hotel where we all stayed.  Please notice the lovely welcome bags with agendas and bottles of water on the table for each couple.  The conference was wonderful and we were instructed by our new mission president and his wife on the things they would like the senior missionary couples to do to help build the church in Romania and Moldova.

Eating dinner at a historic restaurant in a 500 year old building in Brasov.

We visited the Peles Castle, a beautiful 160 room castle where the King of Romania would stay during the summer.  It took 38 years to complete and included plumbing, electricity, central heating, and a central vacuum system as part of its initial construction.  After World War II it was used as a private retreat for communist leaders and occasionally for gatherings of World leaders, including 2 U.S. presidents.  The King also had a lovely palace in Bucuresti where he stayed in the winter.  It was good to be King!! We are on the left, then the McFaddens, Wolseys, President and Sora Hill, the Kitchens and the Pattons.

Stanley loved the castle!

We also took him to visit Biserica Neagra (the Black Church) which was started in 1385 and took almost 100 years to build.  After a fire in 1689 blackened its walls (that give it its name) it took almost another 100 years to restore. It is the largest gothic church between Vienna and Istanbul. 

The church towers above the rooftops of the surrounding buildings.

Here we are with Stanley in the Brasov town square.  Most of the buildings around the square are several hundred years old

That is the White Tower in the background.  It was finished just a few years before Columbus discovered the New World and is one of several towers around the city that were built for fortification.

When we got home from the conference, Stanley spent a lot of time looking out our kitchen window at Bucuresti.  We explained that it is a city of about 2.5 million people with most of them living in these concrete highrise "blocs."  Bucuresti has the highest population density (number of people per square mile) of any city in Europe.   

He thought it was funny to look out our window in the middle of the city and see a horse and cart clopping along the street among all the taxis, buses, and speeding cars.

Before we sent Stanley back to Tanner we took him across the street to our Church parking lot and took a picture in front of our bloc.  He was a wonderful guest. He ate very little and only spoke when spoken to.  One of the other senior couples said they took a Stanley to Africa on a safari but Tanner is going to need to get his other grandparents to take Stanley there!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Parker Stake Rocks!

Until we received our call last February, we didn't even know there was a church mission in Romania. Within a few days, we discovered we had two returned missionaries in our ward who had served in Romania.  By the time we had Stake conference in March, the conference program listed us and two more missionaries as going to Romania from the Parker Stake.   We are all here in Romania now. 

Elder Staheli is serving in Pitesti.

Elder Cox is serving in Brasov.

Elder Cross is serving in Bucuresti.

Panduri District

While it is always nice to see those from home, we love working with all the young missionaries.  They are hardworking and enthusiastic about their responsibility to preach the gospel.  We are grateful for the help they give us in our calling with the Young Single Adults.  Our activities are always more interesting when they are part of them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Our First Romanian Snowfall

While returning from a Senior Missionary Couples Conference in the beautiful Transylvania city of Brasov we encountered the first snow of our stay in Romania.  Brasov is located just north of the Carpathian mountains (sometimes called the Transylvania Alps) that separate Transylvania from the rest of Romania. The road over the mountains is a narrow two-lane road with numerous switchbacks. There had been a heavy wet snowfall in the mountains during our last night in Brasov. 

It truly was a winter wonderland that made us think of Christmas (and our Colorado mountains)

There are also a lot of broadleaf trees mixed into the forest that were just coming into full fall colors

Because they are just not designed for heavy snows before the leaves fall, several trees had fallen and at one point the road was down to one lane where someone had cut the downed tree and pulled it to the side enough for cars to get by

It was truly a beautiful mix of fall colors and evergreen trees covered with snow.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday Outing With the Pattons

We have become friends with the Senior Missionary Couple working in the Mission Office.  Because their only available days are Saturday and Sunday and Saturday is our busiest day, we very seldom see each other outside of Church on Sundays.  But last week Institute was cancelled so we joined Elder and Sora Patton in visiting a Romanian historical site.  It is an old Summer palace on a lake just outside Bucharest that has been turned into an art musium. 

Mogosoaia Palace

The back of the palace has steps leading down to a landing on the  lake that is gaurded by stone lions.   

Elder and Sora Wahlquist

Elder and Sora Patton

While we were there, a temporary stage had been set up in front of the palace where various children's stories like "little red riding hood" were being acted out.   

We thought it was funny that Mickey Mouse was also there entertaining the children.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Road Trip!

Last month our mission president's wife asked us to plan a senior couples conference for the second weekend in October.  We were incouraged to develop a plan that would include some time for socializing and site seeing as well as time for instruction.  We were thrilled to accept that assignment and got right to work picking out the place and planning what our activities would be.  There are nine couples in the Romania Moldova Mission including President and Sora Hill.  We chose the town of Brasov since it is centrally located and the most visited tourist destination in Romania. However, after doing some research online for hotels, restaurants, etc, I became so frustrated that Brent finally said, "tomorrow is P-day and we don't have anything scheduled until Tuesday night, let's rent a car and go check this place out."  So we did.  As he slid behind the wheel of our standard shift Dacia, you could tell that Brent was glad to be driving again for the first time in over 4 months.  By the end of the trip I was glad we don't have a car here!  But that's another story.

This is the city of Brasov.
We drove about 3 hours through the mountains.  It was so beautiful and we realized how much we missed our Colorado mountains.  Brasov is in the Transylvania area for you Dracula fans.  It is close to where Bran Castle is located.  The old section of Brasof shown above is several hundred years old and has often been used in movie sets.  When we go back in October, fall colors should be at their peak.

This is the Hotel Cubix where we will be staying for the conference.  The Chapel where we will have our meetings is visable next door on the right.  Very convenient. 

The central square in old town Brasov.

More Old Town Brasov with my companion.

Peles Castle
This is the castle we will be visiting.  It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.

Resort in Poiana Brasov
Just 20 minutes out of Brasov is a beautiful little ski resort town that we will visit and tour.  There is a little old church and some lovely resorts as well as little shops where we can spend our lei (lots of lei!).

We sat on a bench in a little open field and watched the grass being harvested with a two-hand cythe (picture the grim reaper) and pitchforks.  There were no fences and at one point the cows you see behind the horse cart were wandering through the tourists.

We returned home an alternate route which was definitely the road less traveled.  It was only us and hundreds of trucks on a mountain road of hairpin turns.  When we got to the bottom it only took Brent a few minutes to unhook my white knuckles from the dashboard and pull my right foot out of the floor where I "braked" all the way down. He loved the drive! (though he wished we had been in the MINI)