Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homemade Bread

I made my mom's homemade bread today.

If I write too much, this post will become sappy and the kind of post that my brother Rollie, who has blogged twice in his life, commented on: when I read blogs of people divulging very private emotions about being lost or broken, it made me squirm inside.

For fear of making you squirm inside, I'll keep this short. This is my first Christmas away from my family. I'm a little sad. I was making my mom's homemade bread this afternoon, and my belly was very much in my view as I was mixing, kneading, thinking. I took this picture to remember the bitter-sweet moment: me making my mom's bread, my belly sticking out, and my hands that look so very much like my moms.

IMG_4138

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cecelia's Birthday Surprise

When Brian and I were first married, I bought him a golden retriever for his birthday. We loved our dog.

Christmas Picture 2006

Zory, named after a Polish city, never made it over here. Brian's brother took care of her while we were moving and offered to keep her. It was a very hard decision to decide not to bring her over here. The combination of her age and the cost of flying her over here were our reasons.

Well. Cecelia (probably like most kids her age) loves dogs. We actually were going to wait awhile before getting a dog here, but we got an offer we couldn't resist.

A few years ago, the Ellenwoods bread their labradoodle. They donated one of their puppies to a lady in the Czech Republic who uses these dogs to help children with disabilities. This lady just bread that dog and offered the Ellenwoods a free puppy, that they offered to us. So, here's Cecelia's birthday surprise!

Cecelia's Birthday Surprise from Aleisha Stephens on Vimeo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mac and Cheese

If you know me well or if you read this blog, you know that I don't LOVE to cook. It doesn't bring me joy or make me feel relaxed to make something from scratch. However, because I like to eat healthy and because we live in the Czech Republic, often I need to make things from scratch. I'm beginning to embrace it.

I love mac and cheese, not Kraft, actually, but Velveeta Shells and Cheese. One summer, when I was an intern in Poland, my mom sent care-packages with me. One for every month. What did I find in the August package? Velveeta Shells and Cheese. I could have cried; I was so excited!

Velveeta Shells and Cheese is not healthy. When I lived in the states, I would have it once every few months, but I always eat green beans with it! (I don't like sweets, at all really, so it is like my chocolate cake.) Well. Cece loves mac and cheese too. I made some for her when we were at Brian's parents house (homemade, but with Velveeta). She just kept asking for more.

Well. We are back in the Czech Republic, and there is no Velveeta to be found. Maybe that's a good thing. So, today, I made homemade, like the kind where you make a cheese sauce with flour, using cheeses that are very easy to find here--Edam and Gouda. Here are the results!
IMG_4066

IMG_4071

IMG_4072

IMG_4068

Yes! I had some too!
IMG_4076

Living cross-culturally is a funny thing. It gives you this feeling of conquering the world when you do simple things like make mac and cheese. I love it!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Back Home from the States

This past month, we were in the states. Brian's parents had their 50th wedding anniversary, so we went to celebrate with them (a special thanks to Brian's siblings for making that possible). In addition, Brian also attended the Josiah Venture board meeting, we spent some time in Minnesota with my family, and Cece and I went to Charlotte and saw her birth family.

We are working on our November Update email that includes more about our trip to the states, and what it is like for us to be back home in Czech (and pictures:)). If you are not receiving our update mails, but you would like to, please email me: astephens@josiahventure.com. What is the difference between our blog and our update emails? Because the blog is viewable to "the world", our update emails are a little more personal and focus on our life and ministry here in Czech as we serve with Josiah Venture.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Too Much Fun with Grandma

We are in the states for Brian's parents' 50th wedding anniversary. Before heading to Tampa, we stopped in Minnesota to see my family. Cece went grocery shopping with Grandma Gaalswyk today. Enough said:)!

IMG_2071

IMG_2073

IMG_2074

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Apple Juice Making in Poland

Eight years ago I met the Eiflings (Daniel and Iwona) while serving as a summer intern in Poland. That same summer, I met Brian. Back then, we were all just serving short-term. Fast forward eight years: the Eiflings serve as full-time missionaries in Poland, and we are here in Czech. Today, we went to the farm where Iwona grew up to make apple juice "Polski style" (as Brian keeps saying)!

The apples:
IMG_0253

Washing the apples:
IMG_0237

Putting the apples in this Polish man's home-made apple juice contraption:
IMG_0241

Waiting with anticipation:
IMG_0231

The awesome Polish man at work with his home-made apple juice contraption:
IMG_0244

The other home-made contraption that makes the apples into juice:
IMG_0251

Cece being awesome:
IMG_0260

Cece tasting the juice; it is AMAZING:
IMG_0264

Cece trying to help:
IMG_0266

Canning the apple juice (I have NEVER canned in my life, until today):
IMG_0271

Me with sweet Iwona:
IMG_0284

Brian and Daniel:
IMG_0287

Look at all that juice (and that's not even all of it)!!
IMG_0280

Just think, if you were ever here short-term or if you ever come short-term, you could end up living here one day making some "Polski style" apple juice of your own! At least come visit us because I'll make you the best apple cider you've ever tasted!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chili Corn Chowder

So, how did the Chili Corn Chowder turn out? Well, let's first talk about the shopping and cooking (notice, I did not say meal preparing) process!

Jamie Oliver's app claims to help me put a delicious meal on the table in about 20 minutes. However, Jamie must not know where I live and who lives with me (little girl who likes to be with mommy all the time). I do appreciate that Jamie believes that "together, we can make a great meal".

Let's talk about the Jamie Oliver 20 Minute Meals App for a second. I've only made one recipe, so keep that in mind, but I'm super impressed. It tells you all the ingredients that you need, allows you to create a shopping list and tells you the supplies that you'll need (which I didn't check first, oops). The best part is the actual step-by-step cooking instructions that include vibrant pictures of each step, and sometimes Jamie even talks to you while you are cooking. Really amazing.

Shopping list:

frozen corn--got it

potato--in the Czech Republic, no problem

vegetable broth--had to call Connie to ask if I could even get it, what it is in Czech (starts with z ends with ovy)

onion--already had one

celery--have only seen it one time in the Czech Republic, and I found it at Macro--30 minutes away; no celery in this corn chowder

fresh red chilis--I got something that was probably more like a small red pepper

butter--no problem

fresh thyme--no fresh thyme at Albert this time, so I went for the dried kind (used google translate in the store to find out what it is in Czech, but didn't have to because the word is very close)

scallions--I wasn't even sure what those are, so I looked them up on google images and found something that looked close, but when I translated the Czech on the label, it said onion bunch (hmmm).

cheddar cheese--just bought some at Macro for a pretty good price; although, you can get it at Albert, you just pay more than one would want to pay for cheddar cheese

sour cream--already had it

olive oil--no problem

black pepper--got it

sea salt--I brought over a huge tub of kosher salt that I'm still using

Cooking:

Like I said, the app's instructions are awesome. Jamie's voice even comes on a few times to give you helpful tips. Every direction has a picture. However, Jamie never had any tips for the little girl that was hitting my butt with a block (like a drum, not like a spanking). I didn't even realize for a few seconds because I was so focused. I also had to deal with: "I wan seee". Cecelia is a talker (I know--shocking), and at one point I made a really scary noise--then, I had to say I was sorry to her!

The only other issue is that the recipe uses a hand blender (who has one of those?). This is used to make the chowder chowdery. I could have used our blender, but it broke that morning (Dear European manufactures, please do not create blender parts out of a flimsy rubbery material. Sincerely, the girl who is embracing life here!) Instead, I used my food processor but had to do it in three stages.

Needless to say, the meal was not on the table in 20 minutes.

Now, for the most important question: how did it taste?

IMG_0214

IMG_0218

Pretty AMAZING if I do say so myself. Everyone scrapped as much as they could out of their bowls--Cece LOVED it--she just has a harder time getting that last spoonful out of her bowl. Everyone was smiling!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Community and Cooking

The other day, I watched this video that was posted on a blog that I follow: Nomad. The video stirred two things in me: one really important and one important in a different kind of way.



This video, along with a conversation that Brian and I had the other night, brought about a significant epiphany in my life. For the last year, I've been learning more about what this video is saying--more about living in community. Both in a very practical sense and a very deep sense.

When we lived in Charlotte, I felt like our life was much like this video illustrated at the beginning (church far away over there, live here, work far away over there, friends there, etc). Don't get me wrong, we had a great church, great jobs, and great friends--we just had to drive about 30 minutes to reach them (in a few different directions).

Now, I live in Frydlant nad Ostravici, Czech Republic. There are some things that are hard about that. Some are things better shared over a cup of coffee, but one of the challenges is cooking.

Stay with me, I have a few different points I'm trying to make here:). Cooking. The real truth is that I wasn't much of a cook in Charlotte, NC. I just don't love it. So, I'm more of a meal preparer than a cook. Well, then, I moved here and while things can be found, one has to be a little more creative and cook a little more from scratch. Not my things when it comes to that meal preparing thing.

So, I watched this video the other day. The true epiphany for me (which I discovered while talking to Brian the other night) is that this is more the life that I've always dreamed of having--this life, the one in Frydlant. That has a lot to do with the fact that Brian and I are doing ministry together, which is a level of really living life together that is truly incredible . It also has a lot to do with the fact that we are living in community. Church, work, shopping, and dear friends are all within walking distance (think Europe walking distance)!

Like I said, there are hard things about living overseas as a missionary, but I know one thing that I DON'T want. I don't want to look back at this time in my life and think, I was living my dream, and I didn't enjoy it, embrace it and really LIVE it.

So, how does this all relate to cooking/meal preparing? Well, I have decided rather than cry when I'm in Super Target the next time (well, actually there might not be a thing I can do about that), I'm going to LIVE life in my community and enjoy shopping here. How, you might ask? Well. I'm also hoping to get a little help from this great recipe app that I downloaded.

Jamie-Oliver-20-Minute-Meals-app

And, I'm going to shop at the local grocery store, doing my best to find the ingredients or being really creative--hmmm. So, Cece and I went on a walk to Albert today in search of the ingredients for Chile Corn Chowder.

IMG_0211

IMG_0213

How did it go? Well, I didn't find exactly everything I needed, but I think it will work. I'm making it tonight, so we'll see.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Rumbolds, an Inspiration!

Cece and I went on another mother-daughter adventure last week. Brian was in Romania with Dave, Josiah Venture's President, so I decided to take Cece on an adventure to visit another JV missionary family, the Rumbold's.

The Rumbold family arrived on the field one month before we did. They live on the Eastern side of Slovakia--about a five hour drive away from us. They are literally the only Americans (that they know of--besides one 80 year old man) in the city where they now live. Talk about an inspiration. They are amazing.

The parents are two of the calmest people with five kids that I have ever met. Totally taking this whole cultural transition in stride, even the kids laugh about things that they are faced with. For example, the two oldest boys went to their first day of school with their backpacks full of books (sounds reasonable to me); however, in Slovakia, the custom is for the students to leave their backpacks at home, and bring flowers to their teachers the first day. One of the boys said, "hey dad, how about tomorrow when the rest of the kids bring their backpacks, we'll bring flowers?!"

I have never seen a picture of a family that expresses the heart of a family more than this one (I stole it from their blog).

DSC_0089

Cece would like to join this family, I think!

IMG_3739

IMG_3736

IMG_3730

IMG_3733

After all, they have a trampoline! :) Cece and I went with them to an English camp follow-up meeting. The oldest kids all sat ever so quietly against the wall, Cece joined them:

IMG_0201

Seriously, an inspiration!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Finally!!!

I finally feel some success in language study! Finally. I just have to share. Brian did this numbers activity with our language helper, Marcela, last week. I was home, so I was listening, and I was thinking--Brian is amazing at language; Aleisha is well, learning.

Brian told me I should try the activity in my language today, but I was thinking--Aleisha is not ready for that!

Well, Marcela and I had fifteen minutes of language left, and she suggested the numbers thing. I was like, fine, I'll do it! Marcela suggested that we do it a little differently than the way Brian had done it; great suggestion. She said a number from the first column (in Czech, of couse), and I pointed to it. I got the first one right, and the second. She moved from column to column saying numbers in Czech. Sure, I missed a few, but as we went through each column, I was able to point to the number correctly, almost every time! Then, she said some two-digit numbers, and I wrote them all down correctly. Ahhh, the joy of FINALLY getting it right! (Don't ask me to say them, yet:)!)

IMG_3729

Sunday, August 22, 2010

More Hair!

I continue to be inspired to press-on trying to learn more and get better at doing Cecelia's hair. I just started following a blog of an African-American women with four "mocha girls", as she calls them. The "Mocha Mom" is very passionate about teaching her daughters to love their natural hair, and she feels like she also needs to teach them how to take care of it. I'm fairly new to this journey, but I also feel like I want Cece to love her natural hair, and that, as her mom, I have to help her know how!

Here's the latest style. I've actually been doing the rolling twists for several months (after a dear hair stylist in Chicago showed me how). They are pretty easy in all actuality, but this time, I did a lot more, so it was a bit more time consuming. I really want to find styles that take under an hour, but . . . . this one does look so cute on her (took a "little more" than an hour--okay, more like, almost two), but I feel like I could have done it faster.

IMG_3711

IMG_3712

She was being a stinker and not smiling for the camera, so this is right after I had a little chat with her:

IMG_3714

But, then, she cooperated:

IMG_3716

IMG_3719

She's pretty great!

IMG_3722