Category Archives: personal

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.”

Ingredients:
1 liter (about 4 ¼ cups) water
25 grams (or one packet) yeast
3 grams (about half a teaspoon) salt
flour*
oil
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.

Directions:
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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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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Like Mother, Like Son

I was going back through some of our pictures from Greece yesterday, and I saw something I hadn’t noticed before.  There was a picture of me and a picture of Jude that looked strikingly similar.  What do you think?

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Our Fall Harvest

My goodness… I’ve been lazy on the blog front lately.  On a positive note, however, I have been a lot more industrious on the home front lately, and isn’t that more important anyway?

 

Helping Daddy pick cherries in the yard.

 

We have had quite a harvest around the yard this fall.  The house where we are living does not have a big yard, but, in true Moldovan style, the perimeter of the small back yard is completely lined with fruit and nut trees.  We have 3 cherry trees, 5 plum trees (1 with round yellow plums and 4 with the oblong purple ones), 5 apple trees, an apricot tree, a peach tree, a walnut tree, and one little tree that I can’t remember what fruit it bore.  In the front of the house, we have another apple tree (this one was really our big apple producer- it had so many huge green apples), 3 walnut trees, and a couple of grape vines.  The grapes are pretty much wild, they just grow all up the side of the carport and into the trees and we really didn’t know how much they would produce, but we got quite a harvest of tart green grapes!  We also planted 6 tomato plants in a little patch of dirt beside the house.

 

Josh hoeing our tiny tomato garden.

 

We were traveling when most of the plums and the apricots were ripe, so we missed out on those, but there is one little plum tree hidden underneath the walnut tree that wound up with a huge late crop of delicious sweet plums.

Knowing that we couldn’t use all of the plums and walnuts, I kept a few for us, and then a group of students from the school came and picked the rest of the plums and walnuts to take back for them to enjoy.

So what else did we do with such a bountiful harvest?  Not as much as I’d hoped, but given how busy our summer was—2 weeks of family visiting, 2 weeks of staying at the northern camp, and 2.5 weeks of vacation—I’m fairly happy with how domestically productive we were able to be.

We made:

  • 3 jars of delicious apple butter
  • An amazing gluten and dairy-free plum cake
  • A cherry pie (Which actually didn’t taste that great because the cherries were really bitter.  I later realized that I’d picked the cherries way too soon… but it still counts!)
  • Several jars of applesauce
  • And 2 jars of white grape jelly

 

Cutting apples for apple butter.

 

In addition to the things from our yard, I also bought apricots, strawberries, and tomatoes (not at the same time) from the market and made apricot compote (a popular fruit drink in Moldova) and Stephanie taught me how to can strawberry jam and salsa.   Stephanie, her daughter Angela, and I made 6 quarts of salsa together, which we halved between them and me.  Then a couple of weeks later, Josh and I decided that we wanted more and made a whole ‘nother batch of salsa by ourselves!

 

My first-ever batch of homemade strawberry jam.

 

And I have to brag on my husband for a bit too, because not only was the grape jelly completely his baby (all I did was sanitize the jars for him), but in the last month or so, he has started craving his mom’s homemade sourdough bread.  With me being gluten-free, he knew he couldn’t ask me to make it for him, so he made his own starter and has been making delicious sourdough bread (I’ve cheated and tasted a piece or two).

 

Josh showing off his homemade sourdough bread.

 

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