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So, I was praying a few months or years ago that I’d have opportunities to practice hospitality. And I’ve had them. And this weekend is a big one.

I’ve been using Gina Garland’s prayer journal/organizer for a few years now, and she has listed to pray for myself (as a wife) “to be a good cook… willing to learn.” And it’s being answered in ways I never thought of myself.

Here’s her video, by the way, and you can email her to get the pdf file for your own journal:

So I noticed that instead of just following recipes, I like learning the tricks and understanding behind cooking. So I signed up for SmartKitchen lessons for a few months and that gave me a good bit of insight.

The War in Ukraine started, and that really somehow motivated me to express patriotism through cooking Ukrainian. In my teenage-hood, I really enjoyed making breads, too, and still today my bread-y things (like challah, pelmeni, vareniki) turn out well. I remember observing how Vitaliy’s mom does some things, too, like her borshch tricks (adding a spoon of sugar, for example).

So anyway, This Weekend.

It’s my test.

Saturday we’re having a baby shower at our place, and I’ve signed up to make pizza (practiced that) and peach cobbler (practiced that, too). And I want to cut a watermelon to look like a basket or baby stroller or something, but not sure about that yet.

It’s all about timing, too, because then  on Sunday we have 2 older Ukrainian couples coming for lunch (probably but not for sure). And I want to make zharkoye (Ukrainian dish with meat, potatoes, carrots– kind of like stew) and salad (tomato, cucumber, onion) and another peach cobbler for desert.

So, I’ve carefully made my shopping list and today is my buying day. Then tomorrow, I’m starting with pressure cooking the zharkoye meat and getting that cooked up (for reheating Sunday). Then the pizza and cobbler for the evening shower. Then getting the rest cut and ready for quick Sunday prep.

And then to see if it all can look fairly effortless … :)

Yesterday when I wanted to find a youtube video showing how to fold the hinkali, I found this man who does this cooking show in Russia, and I love his style! So I started watching, and I made his pizza today. It was so good!

Here’s how it turned out:

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I’m learning new ingredients, too! I bought real mozzarella cheese for the first time, red wine vinegar, and used the homemade tomato sauce a friend had given me here. It was so wonderful, Vika and I scarfed it down!

Also, I cooked the pizza on the bottom side of the cookie sheet (sprinkled with flour) as he recommended, and it was a great tip!

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Vitaliy had hinkali in Georgia (the country) and wanted me to try to make it.

So today I did! Thin dough (flour, water, salt) pinched around ground meat (made with onion, garlic, spices and water)20150825_181745

(These are the extra that I’m freezing.)

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Boiled then eaten.

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My only problem was that I made them too big at first. We didn’t realize how much they expand when they cook. So when I saw that, I made the rest smaller.

Turned out pretty good for the first try!

Here’s the mess:

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I need a Home Ec class on this topic: Forsaking One’s House.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Mtt. 19:29

Pretty much every book out there tells me how to decorate, clean, and organize my house. I’ve been urged to love my house, to invest myself in it. To let it “express” myself.

However…

Sadly, I think that God wants me to forsake my house. I think in 2 senses. Not only that I give up the dream or desire to have a somewhat normal house. But that I also live constantly in the state of not being emotionally attached the houses I live in.

We moved to Kiev 9 years ago. We’ve rented 4 different apartments in that time.

We rent cheap, old, Soviet apartments that I hate.

I have attempted a variety of nice-i-fi-cation projects with extraordinarily limited success. When you aren’t going to change the wallpaper, the light fixtures, the furniture, or the carpets/linoleum, or make holes in the walls, there’s not much place to go with that.

It brings me to tears if I think about it too much. I had to stop buying my favorite magazine for this reason–it just inflamed all these desires.

So, I just don’t think about it a lot. I leave my house pretty much daily in order to rest from it, perhaps. I go to the mall next door where I can sit in modern, brightly lit, clean surroundings. Over the years, I have gotten more used to my surroundings, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

But I was thinking lately that by ignoring it, I’m not really drinking down the lesson to the full. Maybe I’m not getting the full blessing of the “forsaken” house by just trying to cram it out of my what-I-care-about circle.

The Bensen commentary says this about the 100-fold reward:

shall receive a hundred-fold — In value, though not in kind, even in the present world, in the inward satisfaction and divine consolation attending real religion;

I’ve not really reached that point. Maybe God wants me to, and is why He wants me to think more deeply about this in His way.

Matthew Henry gives this humble reminder, too:

We are too apt to make the most of our services and sufferings, our expenses and losses, for Christ. However, Christ does not upbraid them [the disciples]; though it was but little that they had forsaken, yet it was their all, and as dear to them as if it had been more. Christ took it kindly that they left it to follow him; he accepts according to what a man hath.

I guessing that a lot of us have to “forsake houses” for Christ’s sake. Maybe a dream house or some emotional investment we’d like to put into our earthly possessions. Many of us have to live in less-than-ideal places.

How kind of Christ, that He let’s us do it for His sake. Rather than just working out of some idea of toughing it out. That He lets the idea and emotional desires for a house multiply somehow through this giving up.

I can’t believe I’m writing this. But hey! I’ll be happy at my humbling :)

(Take this not in command form, and maybe you need to adjust it for wherever you live.)

Go camping!

I really used to struggle with our summer “vacations.” (We changed that word to “trips” pretty fast.) First, I had two young children and I wasn’t used to almost-complete life invasion all that entails. Second, my husband is into cheap vacations. No plane tickets, no hotels. It’s camping, babe, with the gas cooker, meal prep, and all.

I had friends taking “vacations” in Turkey and other exotic places.

But, no fun comparing is there.

However, 8 or 9 years into this deal, I’m becoming a “happy camper!” Hee, hee.

Go camping! It’s cheap! Kids love it! Go fairly regularly– then it’s even better! We camp several times a summer– with our Harmony group rafting trip, an annual trek to the Black Sea. Oh the memories we have!

I do well to find a café I can go to each day, now, no questions asked, no guilt. I even guilt myself sometimes– can’t you just read your Bible and think and write around the tent now? …. Then the incessancy of young ages reminds me that, no, nothing involving books, gadgets, meditating, and writing is going to happen much there. And it’s nice if there’s at least a sliver of “vacation” in the “trip.”

We’ve gradually improved our gear, too. We used to sleep in the van floor. Try that pregnant–I sure have. Then we graduated to a tent, and now we have a two-room tent and one room is entirely for my loads of bedding and pillows, and it’s nice. With six in there, it’s a bit crowded, but we might move the girls out at some point.

We bring V’s mom with us to help with cooking and baby watching sometimes. She loves vacations, too, especially by the sea. Between the three of us adults, we swing meal prep, holding a baby, and entertaining the others.

I used to hate really not enjoy too much our camping trips. But, with learning to give out, give up, and still recharge myself how I can, I’m starting to enjoy them a lot. The sea sounds are interesting. Watching the kids grow into new experiences. Trying local foods (that was really interesting when we used to go to Crimea every summer). Having water experiences we can’t have in the city.

So, what I’m saying is, sticking with it, camping is a pretty good long-term “trip” choice because it’s cheap, many-kid-friendly, repeatable, improvable, and generally all around great (for us, at least).

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In the back of my prayer journal I have a list of birthday gifts I want for my 40th birthday in December.

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Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Another baby

Well, OK that was a joke. But maybe I gotcha there, even just for a second ;)

  • A paid-for website
  • A set of very nice kitchen knives
  • A nice camera (and some photography or photoshop lessons–lots of stuff on youtube)
  • A good cake decorating set (and youtube lessons)
  • A professional photography session with Vitaliy and then our whole family

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We’re having fun planning it all and researching options.

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Skyla’s gone to camp, so we’re filling the days with 3 kids :) We spent a long while at the lovely Art Mall that’s not far from us.

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Then we made chocolate cake cupcakes with frosting.

We all love doing the frosting! Vika got the excitement all to herself!

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Of course, babies were somehow involved.

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