Sunday, February 27, 2011

ikea & tacos

i know i'm in italy when...
people write weird quotes in english on the bus.

on another note, we treated ourselves to TACOS after church today. my mom sent a few packets of taco seasoning with clayton and i already used 2 of them to make taco soup. this was the last one :( i also made a modified (i can't get cilantro or rotel tomatoes in italy) version of pioneer woman's salsa. it was all really good and it really hit the "mexican" spot.
on another other note, through a very random series of events this weekend we discovered that ikea is actually about 1 mile behind our house. we have gone 3 times before but twice in the car from the bible school and once from the bus on a weird route that got us very turned around. one of the only things i pride myself in is being good with directions and knowing where i am, so this one really pulled the rug out from under me. ANYWAY, we have needed a lightbulb from there for about a month (who knew you have to use only an ikea lightbulb for an ikea lamp), so today we saddled up and battled the elements for a sunday afternoon at ikea (every other person in the city had the same idea).

i really mean saddled up, the freezing rain was not going to stop us from enjoying this new and blessed discovery. i think we would have gone even if we hadn't needed the lightbulb, just because we know it is so close now. also, something that is missing from this picture is the humongous green umbrella that i was carrying while riding the bike. ryan was laughing the whole way there :)
ryan wanted my mom to see what the inside of the store looks like (this was in the "study" section, not as interesting as other sections)
this is really why we do it...
40 cent SOFT SERVE gelato that comes out of a little machine!!!

ok, other stores that sell fabric need to take ikea you measure and cut your own material, you lay it on this little digital scale, click on the fabric you got, it spits you out a little barcode sticker, and you slap in on your fabric. i loved it! i got a piece of fabric to fashion a makeshift curtain for our bedroom (that window is all too revealing).
other things we did this weekend:

friday night we had dinner at elizabeth whatley's (the pepperdine director) house. i never blogged about it, but a few weekends ago she took us to torino with her to scout out the city before she takes her students there. she needed some company and we were free, it was a great weekend. so friday night, she had us, 2 of her neighbors, a fellow teacher of her's at pepperdine and his wife, and 2 pepperdine graduates that are living/working in florence now over for dinner. it was a fun time and the food was wonderful.

saturday night we went to mona and robbie's house to celebrate mona's birthday! they had us, keith and christy smith and their kids, the other avanti workers, david and debbie, their friends sandro and chiara, and their son jonathan and his girlfriend all over for dinner. we ate and ate and laughed and mona pulled out the old family photo albums so that was really entertaining. it was a great time!

*the pictures of friday and saturday night are both on our little camera and clayton has the cord so none of those on this post sadly

then this morning before church (we do this the last sunday of every month) all the church members came together and had coffee and pastries. it's a great time to catch up and share breakfast together before worship.

now that we are all settled in our new home and the women's retreat is finished, ryan and i are just focusing on meeting as many university students as possible and hopefully starting a college age bible study/worship service thingy on sunday nights.

keep praying for us and our work here. happy first week of march!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


it has been surprisingly still very cold here in florence. this is bad because i'm tired of wearing my heavy coat and tensing my neck and shoulder muscles every time i go outside (which is alot), but i'm happy because it means that it is still "soup weather". i love soup and making soup and eating soup and smelling soup. this is my favorite soup to make and eat right now:

lentil soup (did i mention i also love lentils)
*adapted from my friend jessica ganus's original recipe

2 yellow onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp parsley, dried
1/2 tsp garlic powder
4 cups vegetable stock
1-2 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
16 ounces crushed tomatoes, with the juice
salt and pepper to taste

saute onions and carrots in olive oil for 5 minutes. add oregano and parsley and saute until fragrant. add salt, pepper, garlic powder, stock, lentils and crushed tomatoes. stir and bring to a boil. turn down to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils are done.

that's it, but it warms my soul and my stomach. this is also one of the few "vegetarian" meals that my husband loves and doesn't say "but can we have some meat too".

also, peeking their little heads up outside my kitchen window are these little happy beauties:
if you know me at all, you know that flowers make me absolutely giddy. buttercups are especially exciting because they are telling me that spring is coming, and from what i've heard about tuscany in springtime, it's heavenly.

what's starting to bloom where you live?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

separate but equal: men's weekend

as you can see, the women of avanti italia went to a women's convention this weekend which left the MEN of avanti italia with the responsibilities of 'running the operations at the bible school.' scary? we thought, "no." so here is a brief summary of what the men of avanti did while the women were convening:

we knocked out a wall putting in these:
a new industrial refrigerator AND...
the new washing machine & industrial dryer. one word: HUGE.
we read & taught "the giving tree" to 30 children at the scandicci library
we played scrabble for game night at the bible school.
on saturday, we did a 4 city tour in tuscany. we started in montalcino where we tried to dispose of zoey. sadly, she has excellent upper body strength.
we had lunch in pienza. this was our view while we ate.
at twilight (hint), we visited montepulciano which subsequently was a filming site for the movie twilight: new moon. this specific piazza was the site of the filming for the movie.
we finished our day with dinner in siena.
on sunday, we taught the children's class at church and then peter, kyle, and i traveled to pisa for the afternoon.
we finished our sunday at the movie theater. we met my student, gabrielle, to see 'il grinta' or TRUE GRIT (which wasn't released in italy until february 18th). it was the perfect movie to cap an unbelievable weekend.
also, it was a 'farewell tour' of sorts for eric because he & jessica will be headed to taranto, italy on thursday morning to begin working with the church(es) in the area. we hope that God blesses them as they begin their new work there.

Monday, February 21, 2011

women's retreat!

this past weekend, about 40 women throughout all the churches of christ in italy convened in velletri italy for a retreat. the theme was the beatitudes and we had a really great time! we played games, sang, had small group sessions on each beatitude, met a lot of great women, and came home encouraged.

(i didn't have a camera because ryan took it on his "men's weekend", so these are some of angela's pictures that we didn't take until right when we were about to leave, sadly.)

me and ang
emily being herself
VIRGINIA! our favorite roman nineteen year-old
florence women!
friends from catania: cinzia and concetta
chit chat with rosa (she's from aprilia)
climbing trees and sliding on slides with roxana (she's from romania but lives in italy now with her husband and daughter, they go to the church in ancona, she is so much fun!)
we had a ball and learned a lot. i'm so glad we got to be a part of this and i'm already looking forward to next years retreat or just the next time i get to see all of my new friends. i'm so blessed!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

recent crafting

a friend and past avanti worker, danielle, is having a baby in may and we had her baby shower last sunday at church. for her, i attempted 2 things i have never done before, both turning out to be the most tedious things i have ever made. i wanted to make a blanket because i've never made one before and i figured a small, baby blanket was a great place to start. i'll probably never make another blanket as long as i live though, it just took forever. the next thing is "charles", ryan thought he looked like a charles and i made it because danielle said they weren't registering for any toys because they didn't want to carry them to the states if they move back. i thought this could be a toy that would be pretty easy to get back. see what you think...

the blanket
"charles" pattern here
the "art" (it's ok if no one likes it, my husband does and i'm sure my mom and grandmother will)
happy crafting!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

la cucina americana

well, friday night we conducted our first american cooking school. this is a part of our friday night activities in an attempt to let our students practice/hear english and strengthen our relationships with them by doing these fun things together. we had 10 attendants and we prepared all day friday.

this is how it went down: since debbie had done this before and is a cooking wizard she was the captain. she typed up sheets for each dish and we made "prep trays" for each dish with every ingredient, utensil, bowl...that she would possibly need. while we made the prep trays, debbie prepared the actual meal so that after she demonstrated each dish we brought it out (already prepared) for them to eat. after it was over, we cooked all the "demonstrated" food, so there were plenty of leftovers (thank goodness).

this was our menu:
sweet tea with lemon :)
pot roast (with potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery) and gravy
steamed green beans with butter, salt, and pepper (yum)
yeast rolls with butter (yes please)
berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream (thank you maam)

prep trays
some random pictures of the night:
rising rolls
finished rolls (mmmmmmmmm)
pre-baked cobbler and crust
had to taste it
finished cobbler (it even tasted better than it looks!)
last minute pep talk before the big show
our team
some of our students + emily who attended
my student sara (in the middle) and her friend carmella (you can see the wonderful decoration and set-up done by ermenita and angela in the background). i slapped a big wad of butter on my roll and showed sara that was how she was supposed to eat it, and i think she was horrified (the italians didn't touch the butter!!!)
i don't really know what our students thought about our silly food, but i think they had a great time and man, i sure enjoyed the food! cooking, kind of like gardening, is something so important to me because it reminds me of time spent with the most important women in my life. helping prepare this wonderful "american" meal was such a good reminder of those times and it was so fun to share that with our italian friends. next month we are doing thanksgiving...

p.s. if you want a copy of these amazing recipes of debbie's (and maybe some of my mom's and grandmother's) we are making a cookbook of all of the recipes we use at the american cooking schools and then at the end of the semester we are going to have them printed and sell them as a fundraiser. email me if you'd like a copy.

happy cooking!