This Blog Has Moved!

Well, after eyeing the cuteness of my blogger friends’ blog for a long time, and being envious of the almost infinite customization options for a free blog, I have made the switch to blogger.  I have also taken the opportunity to shake things up a bit on my blog and give it not only a whole new look, but a more defined purpose.

Please come visit my new blog, My Messy Manger, and if you’re wondering how I came up with such an odd blog title, check out my explanation page, Why My Messy Manger?


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The Evolution of Curls: A Pictorial Review

Believe it or not, I didn’t have naturally curly hair when I was little.  I remember well all of those Saturday nights I spent unable to find a comfortable way to lay my curler-laden head (and I have very thick hair, so it was a LOT of curlers) so that my hair would be nice and curly for church on Sunday morning.

Here’s an example of a very small me with curler-curled hair, a superman t-shirt, and one of my best buds, MJ:

And a picture of me a little older showing off my long, only slighty wavy hair (and my rockin’ early 90’s t-shirt clip):

In the second grade, I decided I needed a perm, of course:

By the 6th grade, my hair had started to be a little more naturally curly, and I began the long, long process of learning how to live with my curls (yep. that’s MJ again).  It was several years before I would really figure it out:

Somewhere around 16 years old or so, I had finally mastered the curl-care routine that would be my standard throughout high school and college.  It involved obscene amounts of mousse and/or gel, and lots of scrunching as I blowdried.  I don’t think I have to point myself out in the picture below—the hair is kind of hard to miss:

By college, I had grown out what I now lovingly refer to as “the doo-doo bangs” (don’t ask), and went through a couple of phases of very long and very short hair, and every length in between, still working the regime of lots of mousse/gel and scrunching:

A couple of years ago, I discovered something called Curly Girl, and it gave me the most awesome curls EVER:

I’ve blogged about it before.  But it was a lot of work.  Plus, I’ve always enjoyed the flexibility of being able to wear my hair straight or curly, and I couldn’t do that with Curly Girl.  I felt trapped.  I blogged about that too here and here.

So finally, taking some of the ideas from Curly Girl, I developed a curl-care routine all my own.  These days, before getting out of the shower, I turn my head upside down and rinse with cool water.  Then, I scrunch my hair with a towel for a bit, and gently stand up right.  I spray it with a dose of TreSemme No Frizz Ultra Light Shine Spray, and then put a dollop of conditioner in my hand.  I water it down a bit and apply it very sparingly to my hair almost as if it were gel.  My goal is to just tame the frizz enough to let it curl on its own.  Then I flip back upside down and blowdry on low while scrunching until my hair is about 80% dry.  That’s usually all the patience I’ve got, so I just let it air dry the rest of the way.  I think that helps with the frizz, too.

The result is a softer, more natural-looking head of curls than my old mousse/gel routine, even if the curls aren’t quite the ringlets that they were with Curly Girl:

I’m really happy with it!  (Most days, anyway.)   I hope you enjoyed my trip down hair memory lane!


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Sylvia’s Plăcinte

Mmm… plăcinte.  Having to give these up has been one of the hardest things about going gluten-free in Moldova.  The flaky crust, the warm oozing filling… you just really can’t beat a good plăcintă.  Today, I’d like to share with you the recipe that Sylvia, our school cook, uses and shared with me.

But first, let me pause for a quick Romanian lesson.  Plăcintă is singular for pastry and is pronounced “pluh-chin-tuh.” Plăcinte is plural and is pronounced “pluh-chin-tay.”  Actually, the most common translation of plăcinta is “pie,” but I am here to tell you that plăcinte are NOT pies!  They are pastries!  Let’s see some examples:

This is a pie:

My first (and possibly only) apple pie. Made to impress my starving fiancee.

These are pastries:

Assorted pastries

These are plăcinte:


Beautiful plăcinte with sesame seeds.

You tell me which word is the more accurate translation.

Anyway… back to the recipe.  There are probably as many ways to make plăcinte as there are Moldovan gospodinele (housewives), which is why I call these “Sylvia’s Plăcinte,” and not just “Moldovan Plăcinte.”

1 liter (about 4 ¼ cups) water
25 grams (or one packet) yeast
3 grams (about half a teaspoon) salt
desired filling (I’ll get to this in a bit)
sugar (granulated or powdered, see step 10)

*Sylvia didn’t tell me exactly how much flour she uses because she doesn’t know.  She just adds flour until it looks right (as described in step 2).  I’ve made these once but didn’t measure my flour either.  Other recipes I’ve seen say 8-12 cups… so… use your best judgment.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  Combine all ingredients, adding as much flour as needed until dough feels sticky but not too dry.
3.  Cut dough into baseball-sized pieces (my description, not hers), generously flour your workspace, and roll out pieces very thinly with rolling pin.

Rolling dough for plăcinte

4.  On a different workspace, cover the counter with oil and stretch dough until very, very thin.  It’s okay if it tears a little.
5.  Take ahold of the end of the dough closest to you, and bring it up and away from you to fold it in half.

Iuliana folding the thin plăcintă dough.

6.  Place a generous spoonful of filling on one end.

Folding a plăcintă with brînza filling.

7.  Fold triangularly until it is all folded up into a nice little triangular pocket.

Sweet little raw plăcintă ready to be baked.

8.  Place evenly on greased cookie sheet.
9.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden.
10.  Boil sugar and water to make a glaze and brush on top while plăcinte are still warm, or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I can’t believe I’ve never taken a picture of freshly baked plăcintă.  You’ll have to trust me, they are so flaky and golden and amazing!

There are several different kinds of fillings that Moldovans use in plăcinte.  The most common are potato, brînza (a soft, salty homemade cheese), cabbage (which is better than you’d think- it’s Josh’s favorite), fruit butter or jam, and pumpkin.  My favorite would probably either be apple butter or pumpkin.  Below are some instructions for making your own plăcintă fillings, borrowed from a 2005 Moldova Peace Corps cookbook, or you could just use your favorite store-bought fruit butter or jam.

Potato filling: Boil 4 peeled potatoes and 2 chopped onions.  Mash and season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

Cheese filling: Mix 2 cups cottage or ricotta cheese, 1 egg, chopped dill, salt, and pepper.

Cabbage filling: Sauté 2 cups shredded cabbage and 2 chopped onions in oil until limp.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

Apple filling: Peel and grate 4 apples.  Sauté over medium heat with ¼ cup sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Let cool.

Cherry filling: Mix 1 pound sour pitted cherries and ¾ cup sugar.

Pumpkin filling: Boil and mash 500 grams (about 4 1/3 cups) of raw pumpkin.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter, spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ground ginger… or just pumpkin pie spice) and sugar to taste.

You can find another good plăcintă recipe at the Gourmandine blog (the link is to the google translate version of the website, since it is written in Romanian).  There, she has also posted a lot of step-by-step pictures that are similar to the way Sylvia makes plăcinte, except that she doesn’t stretch her dough out so thin and then fold it in half.  If you want to do it this way, it would be a lot easier, but your final product will just be thicker and not as flaky.

Well, I hope this is enough to get you going on some authentic Moldovan plăcinte!  If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me.


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Long Story Short

This is a post written by my husband and posted on our mission website, GospelLife.  I wanted to share it here as well:

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a dad is leading family worship.  Fathers have the duty and privilege to train their children in the fear of the Lord, and the best way to do this is little-by-little, consistently over time.

To help with this task is the new book Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.  The current volume covers the Old Testament.   The New Testament volume is still forthcoming.

I have read the introduction and a preview of the first two weeks of devotions, which are available here.  Let me outline a few reasons why I am excited about this resource and why you should check it out too:

It is simple. You don’t need an hour every night.  All you need is ten minutes, five times a week–fifty minutes a week.  Furthermore, all that is needed for dad to prepare is a simple read through–at most five minutes.  That makes discipling your children not feel like such an impossible undertaking.  You can let the Word of God transform your children’s lives with only fifty minutes a week.

It spans age ranges.  The author explains in the introduction how with some tweaking the material can target children from four to teenagers, and also how to use the material when you have a combination of ages and maturities.

It is creative. Every week begins with a creative activity or object lesson to introduce the week’s topic.  Almost every day contains an illustration to help the kids understand.

It is systematic and comprehensive. The entire curriculum for both Old and New Testaments will take a family three years to complete.  The topics and stories are intentionally chosen to give your child a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.  Once you have finished the three years, then it is time to start over again since about every three years your child reaches a new developmental stage.  They will be able to think about the stories and questions in a way that is different and more complex than in the previous cycle.

It combines teaching of stories with teaching of the Story. This is probably one of my favorite parts.  It is hard to find resources that both teach the details of individual Bible stories and show how it connects to the great Narrative of Scripture–the Story of Jesus.  One night of every week is spent showing how the current topic connects to Jesus.  Many resources simply give Bible stories with moral lessons, but the story of David and Goliath, for example, is not about having courage in the face of adversity.  It is about how God’s anointed king is empowered to destroy the enemies of God, which points us to King Jesus.  In the “Introduction to Parents,” the author explains:

A man-centered gospel is always threatening to supplant the cross-centered gospel we read in the Bible. But if we trade Jesus, who bore our sins and received the wrath of God, for a Jesus who is merely a good example, we don’t have the same gospel. If we remove a call to repentance and replace it with an invitation to be God’s friend, we’re not passing on the treasure of the gospel in accordance with the Scriptures (p. 1).

So, you can trust this resource for both Bible knowledge and Gospel-centrality.

It gets children to use their Bibles. This is not a Bible storybook.  Bible storybooks have their place, but this is a book to be used alongside your Bible.  Children will turn to and read directly from the Bible rather than just being told about what the Bible says.

It is not based in a  particular translation. When quoting from Scripture the book uses the ESV and NIV, but the questions and answers are not bound by the words of a particular translation.  So, you are free to use whatever translation your family chooses.  In my opinion, it is best to use a single translation throughout a child’s life rather than using a “simpler” translation like the NIV or NLT when children are young, and then graduating children to a more literal translation like the NKJV or ESV.  Gone are the days when all English speakers read, know, and quote from the same translation.  However, in your home, it is good to be consistent, and thereby plant the words of Scripture firmly in the minds of children.  Children will passively memorize Scripture through repetition, just like many of us who grew up in Christian homes can almost quote verbatim passages from the KJV that we have never tried to memorize.  Therefore, I think it best to stick with one translation throughout a child’s life, and I think a literal translation is best.  We use the ESV in our home, and this resource allows for that choice.

Jude is still too young to use this book yet, but we are looking forward to the time when we can give it a real test-drive.  However, those of you with children a little older should go ahead and check it out.  God will bless you as you are faithful to teach your children the words of Scripture and bring them before the throne of God in prayer.

Preview and Buy Online


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I Have a New Addiction

So, at the local market, there is a very sweet, very beautiful older lady (which I have to say is rare in Moldova… women here just don’t have gobs of money to spend on anti-aging stuff like women in America) who has a booth full of used aprons imported from Germany.  I stop every time I pass by and chat with her while I look through the piles of beautiful vintage patterns and designs.

Here’s the thing, for a long time I thought that the full aprons were 50 lei (which is currently $4.32), and had only bought one.  It was a justified purchase because I am a messy cook and didn’t want to get the one I made dirty because it’s more for cuteness than for work.

It's a little wrinkled from being in the drawer.

It wasn’t until today when I offered her 40 lei for another one that I figured out that they are actually 15 lei ($1.30) for a full apron and only 10 lei ($0.86) for a half apron!  Wow!  (In my defense, 15 and 50 sound very similar in Romanian, just like they do in English.)  So of course I bought two.  Another full apron for cooking:

Seriously... look at that gorgeous pattern and piping!

And a half apron for cleaning.  It’s hard to tell in a picture, but this one has two pleats under the waist band on each hip, which gives it nice shape, and it has two huge, deep pockets on the front.  Perfect for toting random things from room to room while I clean:

Half apron

A great half-apron for cleaning.

And, because I know it’s hard to see in the above picture, I took a close-up picture of the red apron to show you what REALLY sold me on this one:

Sailboats and windmills! How am I supposed to resist that??

Oh my… now that I know they are so cheap, I don’t think I’m going to be able to stop myself!


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A Cat Nap

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Foxes Have Holes…

October 20th (I know, I’m a little behind in posting this) officially marked a milestone in Jude’s life.  It was the longest that he has ever lived in one house without moving.

For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with our lives, we decided before Jude was born that we were going to follow God’s call to serve in the country of Moldova for two years following Josh’s graduation from Bible college.  Jude was born in February 2009, and four months later we moved to live back and forth between our parents’ houses for three months before leaving for Moldova in September.

Because of Moldova’s visa requirements, before we got our green cards, we were only allowed to stay in the country for three months, and then we had to be out of the country for three months.  So in December, we packed up and moved back to our parents’ houses for three months.   Back to Moldova in March, we lived for three more months in our tiny apartment on the camp property where the school is.  Then, on May 20th, we moved down the road into our current residence where we are house and dog-sitting for an American family we work with who are back in America on furlough for eight months.  We have now lived here for five months.

Whew!  That made me tired just typing all of that, much less living it.

So why have we put our son (and ourselves) through so much moving and instability?  Because Josh and I resolved a long time ago to follow God’s call no matter what, and we know that this is what he has called us to do.  Throughout it all, we have clung to Matthew 8:20- “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”  When we follow Christ, he doesn’t promise us a life of ease and stability.  What he does promise us is that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

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