Monday, May 28, 2012

The Perfect Trio

What better combination of food can there be than banana, chocolate, and peanut butter.  To me any recipe that combines those three flavors gets a thumbs up.  In fact, I like that combination enough to part with my "beloved JIF Peanut Butter."  We can get some Spanish varieties of peanut butter, but nothing like JIF.

Tonight, in need of using some very ripe bananas and in need of a brunch food for a guest coming tomorrow, I googled those three ingredients and came across a muffin recipe.  I heated up my kitchen (yes, it was 80+ degrees and we don't have air condition but I turned on the oven anyhow - thank goodness for the kitchen door that blocks all the heat in the kitchen!) and tried out the recipe.  They were fabulous!  They are definitely a make again recipe!

(taken from

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed, golden brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 large, ripe bananas, mashed-enough for 1-1/4 cups banana
1 cup milk
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, sift together (make sure to sift), flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and the cinnamon; combine.

In another mixing vessel combine mashed bananas, milk, peanut butter, egg, oil, and vanilla; mix well.  Add this to the dry mixture previously prepared; mix just enough to combine.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Spray muffin tins with cooking spray, if you are using liners, spray those too, and fill tins 3/4 full.  This will make 18 nicely sized muffins.  You can double the recipe if you need more.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Different, yet Alike

As I walk this crazy life I am now living there are days where I think I must be the only crazy person here.  I want "my readers" (those few of you crazy enough to keep coming back here) to experience life here, yet it isn't so easy to find a way for that to happen.  How do you explain the crazy experiences in such a way that someone not here understands?  How do you explain with laughter and acceptance the way things are done here?  How do you celebrate the small accomplishments and yet understand how monumental they are? 

Yet, every now and then you come across a like soul, someone walking just a few steps ahead of you that helps you realize, oh wait - I am not the only one walking these exact same steps.  Maybe we are taking a little different path, but you are reminded that you are a lot more alike than diffent.

Shar Carlson is a middle school English teacher at Hannah's school.  She celebrated her one year of life in Spain anniversary this week. She wrote a blog post that had me rolling in laughter and a few tears rolling down my cheeks.  She lives in a neighboring small town, is single, and is here for a two year term, yet in the midst of those differences there were so many similarities I had to share it with you.  It is a little long, so pull up a comfy chair, get a cup of coffee (or iced team for me), and enjoy the laughter as you read her account of her first year in Spain.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Won't Find Me In Any Book

Yesterday I had a break from ordinary life and got to spend a couple hours sitting on a park bench chatting and sharing a chocolate Neapolitan (ahh - one of my favorite things in Spain) with a co-worker and friend.  We were sharing the triumphs and the heartaches of our lives during the past couple of weeks.   We were mourning the loss of a common friend and discussing the possibilities of our futures.

Somewhere the conversation turned to some heartaches we had both seen on the mission field and the question arose as to where many get their "picture" of mission work.  Many have a glorified vision of the field, while others see it as an escape from the problems in their homeland, and others believe God must be more present to those serving in foreign fields, and most (including me) have some warped picture.  But where did these ideas come from?  In the end, we decided books.

I love to read the stories of the spiritual warriors that have come and gone before me.  I love to read how men and women gave up everything and moved to the ends of the earth and saw great movements for Christ.  I marvel at the courage of those who boarded a boat, forsaking all that was being left behind, and moved to a forgotten place in the world, knowing their lives would be lost at that moment.  I find encouragement in reading the stories of those who, through serving in the jungle without running water or indoor bathrooms or being imprisoned, grew so close to God that the giving of their lives was a gain.

But you know what, I think those people are the exception.  There isn't much about our life that I would say was glamorous.  There isn't much that I would even say was earth shattering.  Even less, I can't say that I am one of those with the courage to forsake it all (yeah, I moved to Spain and sold all my worldly goods - but I have Internet and re-bought a lot of material things once arriving here).  My life is ordinary.

I don't live in a country without running water or indoor bathrooms (although we don't have air condition and summer is fast approaching).  I don't have to walk miles to the nearest market and I don't fear death for carrying a Bible.  I doubt anyone is ever gonna write a book about my life as a missionary.

But this is reality - there are thousands and thousands who have accepted the privilege of serving Christ in a foreign field.  For most their stories will never be written.  Only a small percentage will face death as a result.  But for the majority of us - reality is still hard at times.

The reality is that this life is tremendously lonely - we left our friends and family and skype just isn't the same.  We have teammates, but our job is not to spend time with our teammates, it is to get to know the nationals.  The nationals all speak a different language.  Last Saturday as I stood at a field day event I was reminded that it is possible to be in a crowd of a couple hundred and feel completely and utterly alone.  Life is hard - even with modern day conveniences.  The processes for everything is different and there are so many unwritten rules to how to do things that we may never figure it all out.  Church, a place where I always found hope, refreshment, and fellowship, is now a place of work - work to just understand what is being said and why something is being done the way it is.

We live in a country where "progress" is slow.  Following Christ comes with a cost and that cost is calculated and considered for long periods before someone is ready to pay the price.

My life isn't glamorous and I am pretty sure it isn't novel worthy, but it is reality.  And most days, I am thankful for the privilege of this reality, but then there are others where I yearn for what has been written in the books I love to read, and if I can't have that - then I just yearn for simple and familiar.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Lo Pobre

I just love when I am reading about Spain and it all of a sudden comes to life!

I am reading the book Driving Over Lemons, by Chris Stewart, a book that tells the story of a British couple who move to Andalucia, the southern portion of Spain, in the post-war period of history.  The area they have moved is dreadfully poor and a very common dish is Potatoes "A Lo Pobre."  The author describes it as a pan of potatoes, garlic, oil, and a few veggies, with an occasional side of meat - if the budget allows.

And, knowing my love for cooking, I am following a blog entitled My Kitchen in Spain, written by Janet Mendel.  So far it has been fun to read, but I had not found any recipes I wanted to try - until this week.  Guess what her recipe is!  Yep, Potatoes "A Lo Pobre."  I fixed them and they were fabulous - both yesterday and today as left overs.  We will definitely be cooking these again.

3 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick 

1/3 cup olive oil    
2 teaspoons salt1 onion, sliced1 green pepper, cut in strips1 large tomato, quartered and sliced3 tablespoons chopped parsley3 cloves garlic, chopped¼ teaspoon crumbled dry thyme (optional)1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika)1/3 cup white wine1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place half the oil in a 3-quart cazuela or other heat-proof casserole. 

Arrange half the sliced potatoes in the casserole and sprinkle with half the salt. Top with half the sliced onion, green pepper, tomato, parsley and garlic. 

Add remaining potatoes, sprinkle with salt and remaining onion, pepper, tomato, parsley and garlic. Sprinkle with thyme and pimentón. Pour over remaining oil, wine and 1/3 cup water. 

If using a heat-proof casserole, place on a medium heat on top of the stove until the liquid begins to simmer. Then cover the casserole with a lid or foil and bake until potatoes are fork tender, about 60 minutes.

Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

(copied from

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you that I have no idea what is happening in the government or economy here or in the US.  I know the big things - Spain has an economic crisis, US is preparing for the election of a new president, NC just voted to amend the constitution,... You know, the big things.  Scot tries to talk to me about some of these issues, but I get that glazed look in my eyes and he usually just gives up.

But, in several recent conversations with friends/family from the states I have been asked how the economic crisis is going to affect us and our assignment.  The glazed look just doesn't go over too well, so decided to do a little research.  Before I know how it is going to affect us, I guess I should understand exactly what the crisis is.  I did a lot of reading this evening and came across this list of "22 Signs That The Collapsing Spanish Economy Is Heading Into A Great Depression." ( I even understood most of them) 

What does this mean for us?  We are waiting to see.  We are being wise with our money - both what we keep in our Spanish account and our American account.  We are being wise with our spending as there is no predictability as to what will happen with the exchange rate.  But more than that, we are praying that this crisis may open doors for relationships and conversations that would have never occurred before.

I figure I cannot be the only one out there who gets the "glazed look" so I thought I would share the list with you.

#1 The unemployment rate in Spain has reached 24.4 percent - a new all-time record high. Back in April 2007, the unemployment rate in Spain was only 7.9 percent.

#2 The unemployment rate in Spain is now higher than the U.S. unemployment rate was during any point during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#3 According to CNBC, some analysts are projecting that the unemployment rate in Spain is going to go above 30 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 in Spain is now a whopping 52 percent.

#5 There are more than 47 million people living in Spain today. Only about 17 million of them have jobs.

#6 Retail sales in Spain have declined for 21 months in a row.

#7 The Bank of Spain has officially confirmed that Spain has already entered another recession.

#8 Last week, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services slashed Spain's credit rating from A to BBB+.

#9 The yield on 10-year Spanish bonds is up around 6 percent again. That is considered to be very dangerous territory.

#10 Two of Spain's biggest banks have announced that they are going to stop increasing their holdings of Spanish government debt.

#11 Of all the loans held by Spanish banks, 8.15 percent are considered to be "bad loans".

#12 The total value of all bad loans in Spain is equivalent to approximately 13 percent of Spanish GDP.

#13 Of all real estate assets held by Spanish banks, more than 50 percent of them are considered to be "troubled" by the Spanish government.

#14 That total amount of money loaned out by Spanish banks is equivalent to approximately 170 percent of Spanish GDP.

#15 Home prices in Spain fell by 11.2 percent last year, and the number of property repossessions in Spain rose by a staggering 32 percent during 2011.

#16 Spanish housing prices are now down 25 percent from the peak of the housing market and Citibank's Willem Buiter expects the eventual decline to be somewhere around 60 percent.

#17 It is being projected the the economy of Spain will shrink by 1.7 percent this year, although there are some analysts that feel that projection is way too optimistic.

#18 The Spanish government has announced a ban on all cash transactions larger than 2,500 euros.

#19 One key Spanish stock index has already fallen by more than 19 percent so far this year.

#20 The Spanish government recently admitted that its 2011 budget deficit was much larger than originally projected and that it probably will not meet its budget targets for 2012 either.

#21 Spain's debt to GDP ratio is projected to rise by more than 11 percent during 2012.

#22 Worldwide exposure to Spanish debt is estimated to be well over a trillion euros.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Only in Spain

I know you must think I have fallen off the edge of the earth since I have been so slack about writing lately, but I promise I am still alive and well, just incredibly busy.  And at times life seems so ordinary that I figure you might not be interested in reading.  But today, well I was reminded I don't live in NC anymore.

I have a break between my grammar and conversation class that lasts for about 30 minutes (well, on paper it lasts for that long - but we never get out of grammar right on time and the teacher doesn't usually come to conversation right on time - she has to have coffee in a local "bar" between classes too - so that 30 minutes is pretty fluid).  I usually use that break to do an errand, grab 2nd breakfast, do my grammar homework, catch up on facebook, ...  Today I decided to grab 2nd breakfast "to go" and bring it back to the classroom to do my homework.  (I always was the studious one :) )

A specialty here is a bowl with french fries on the bottom, then a meat (chorizo, ham, or bacon), and then topped with a fried egg.   It is one of my favorite dishes.  So I ordered that to go (the lady at the restaurant knows me by now cause I usually go in once or twice a week and get a sandwich mixto (a grilled ham and cheese).  A little while later out comes my food and I glance in the bag to be sure I have a fork and there isn't one.  I ask for one and she says "we don't have forks to go, only ones for in the restaurant."  My brain starts swirling - how am I going to eat this in the classroom without a fork?  But then she says "but you can have one of these forks (holding up a real one) and just bring it back to me tomorrow."  Ha!  I am definitely not in NC anymore.

And yes, it tasted delicious!  And since I have to take the fork back tomorrow, perhaps I will need to have a 2nd one - but this time I will have a fork in my bag.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Two Successes and a Failure

So I guess you call the day a success if you have more successes than failures.

So first the successes...

1)  My regular fruit and fish store has closed (product of the economic crisis) so I have had to go to a new one lately.  A couple months ago I had bought cucumbers from this place that were the best we had so far, so I returned to them.  It's a little further away, but can be on the way home from school if I want.  Today I stopped for a long list (hint to self - next time list is this long go home and get rolling cart first - it is a long way to walk with lots of stuff).  About a month ago I bought Pink Lady Apples there but they have not had them since.  The kids keep trying other types, but so far nothing they really like as much.  Every time I go in I ask for Pink Ladies and he tells me no, they have such and such type.  Today, I asked again and he says "tomorrow, for you, because you keep coming back and are such a good woman I will have them, for sure!"  I keep going back because they are patient with teaching me language, reinforce me when I say things right, and speak slowly enough I can understand them.  Now I will keep going back because he is getting the kids the apples they want.  Success #1.

2)  After the fruit store I headed to m my favorite meat store.  I have used the same one since arriving and you have probably read many of the funny stories of my buying meat from them.  Today I used the right vocabulary for everything - even the pork chops that he didn't have and the new type of beans I was buying.  The butcher made me day when after each item I ordered he responds with "perfecto."  At the end (cause he says perfecto not because my words are right but because he is giving me what I want) he says "tu espanol es muy bien - very good."  Ahh - progress!

And then there was the failure....

Last night I put black beans in to soak for lunch today.  This morning I put them in the crock pot to cook while in class.  Unfortunately, I forgot a very important part of cooking in a crock pot - plugging it up.  So the beans are soaked - really well, but not cooked.  Thank goodness for a pressure cooker!