Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving!  I love this holiday.  I love remembering the pilgrims and the journey that they made to America so that they could worship how they saw fit.  I am amazed at the trials that they faced their first year, and I can only imagine the gratitude that they had as they celebrated after a bounteous harvest.  And so we enjoy our feast and we are grateful for our many blessings.

Monday night we spent the night again at the Packs.  I made Alfredo red pepper shrimp pasta and Jonathon and Caroline loved it.  

Tuesday, after Elder Larsen made another run to customs to pick up packages, we headed to Costco to buy pumpkin pies, rolls, and salad makings.  Then we picked up the six turkeys that we would be cooking for the Zone Conference the next day.  We spent a little while at the office, before we headed to the temple.  Fransisca Pizarro, one of our young adults from Tenerife, flew in from the islands. We were able to be at the temple with her on Tuesday evening.  It was a privilege to be her escort.  There were also three other missionaries in the session with us, and Elder Larsen was the escort for the elder.  Fransisca will be serving in the Malaga Mission, and the other missionaries will be serving in the Barcelona Mission.  

We got home from the temple late, and Elder Larsen started preparing our two turkeys.  We cooked one that night.  Elder Larsen stayed up for the late shift to take the turkey out of the oven, and I got up for the early shift to put the second turkey in the oven.  When it was ready, we headed over to the Packs where she was cooking her two turkeys.  We were fixing dinner for 120 people.  Hermana Vierbuchen was our angel because she offered to help us by cooking 2 turkeys at her house. Hermana Pack and I peeled 75 lbs. of potatoes and Hermana Vierbuchen and her daughter, Teresa, cooked and mashed all the potatoes for us.  She is the sweetest woman and a wonderful cook.  Her turkeys were beautiful and her potatoes were just delicious, with just a hint of nutmeg.  Yummy!  We also prepared green bean casseroles.  It was quite the procedure to keep the food warm.  Between the three of us, we had 6 crockpots, so we put the potatoes in them.  We carved the turkeys and rotated the meat from the oven to the insulated bags. I used the juice from the six turkeys for the gravy.  I had a large stock pot of gravy.  Then we had to load up all the food to take it over to Pavones.  Other than leaving a box of serving utensils and pitchers at the Packs, everything went pretty smoothly.  It was a simple Thanksgiving meal, but it was appreciated by everyone.  We even had cranberry sauce.  It was 3 euros a can at the American store, so we had to give out very small servings, but they still loved it.

We might have been crazy to do this, but to see the smiles on these missionaries faces, it was worth all of the effort, planning, worrying, and cooking.  Happy Thanksgiving from us to the missionaries of the Spain Madrid Mission! 

Thursday morning, we were back in the kitchen again, cooking our Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  We had the missionaries from our ward, Hanna Evans, who is working as a nanny, Hermana Koivisto and Hermana Stephenson, and the Vierbuchens.  We were a small group of only about 20 people.  We cooked two more turkeys, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, ranch potatoes, cheesy potatoes, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, the cutest vegetable tray ever, rolls, lemon pie, pecan pie, lemon bars, cupcakes, and cookies.  Let's just say there was plenty of food! 

It was so nice to have Elder Barlow and Elder Regehr playing the piano while we were finishing up the dinner.  It reminded me of being at home and having our kids at the piano.  They even started singing Christmas songs.

A wonderful Thanksgiving to remember!

We worked at the office all day on Friday.  We had our office meeting, and I was trying to catch up after two days of being out of the office.  That night we were invited to the Vierbuchens for dinner. They invited all the couples who had attended our Sunday School class.  We had a lovely evening.  

I'm just sad that I didn't think to take a picture of the delicious and beautiful dinner that Hermana Vierbechen prepared.  She is such a wonderful cook!  We also played Pictionary afterwards.  We had such a nice evening with these good people.  

Saturday morning, Elder Larsen and I were at the office.  I was able to get several projects completed before Elder Larsen took me to the Packs.  Then it was sewing time.  We worked until 8:30 p.m. and we were very productive.  We finished cutting all the squares, we marked them, and pinned them together.  We sewed X's on every square and Caroline got the squares laid out so she could stack them in the order that they need to be sewn.  Then I showed her how to sew a row of squares together.  We definitely made progress.   

Sunday morning, I practiced "Silent Night" with Caroline and Paula, we taught our Sunday School class, and then we had Aubrey and Jordan Greene over for dinner.  We know Aubrey from Katy, Texas.  Jordan has been doing an internship at the American Embassy.  We have been trying to get together for quite awhile, and we finally made it happen.  It was nice to visit with them and hear a few of the challenges that they have faced while living here.  We enjoyed chicken cacciatorre, salad, garlic bread, and pecan pie.  

I forgot to take a picture of this cute couple, but this is them on one of their sightseeing adventures.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elder Christensen and the Choir

I am so grateful this week for the wonderful missionaries who participated in our choir.  They had beautiful voices, they practiced hard, and our song came together.  We had prayed for angels to sing with us, and I believe they did.  I am also grateful for Elder Regher and his talent at the piano. This was a difficult arrangement, and we could not have done it without him.  If you would like to hear a recording of this hymn, (not sung by us) you can go here.  I think I like the words even better in Spanish.  I am very thankful for music and how it speaks to my soul.  I love testifying of Jesus Christ through music.

We had another choir practice on Monday.  It was absolutely amazing as we added dynamics into the song.  It just came alive with feeling.  At the point where we crescendoed to a fortissimo, it was absolutely amazing!  I was overcome with emotion, and some of the choir members were as well.  At that point, I knew our performance would be okay.  We had sandwiches afterwards, and yummy mint brownies.

Then I got to go play with these cute hermanas.  We went to the knew Primark store that is in downtown Madrid.  It has multiple floors and videos playing on huge screens.  They have lots of selection and great prices.

Afterwards we went to a frozen yogurt place that serves a large cup filled halfway with fresh fruit and nuts.  It was so delicious!

Then I rode the metro by myself back to Pavones, where Elder Larsen met me.  
My metro selfie!

We lead a simple lif as missionaries.  And we get very excited about simple things.  Elder Regher got a second stack of metal organizers and he was so happy!  When you work in the office, it is the simple things that matter.

On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to watch a leadership training meeting for the Europe Area with the Packs.  One of the speakers shared a story that really touched me:

A young man told his father that he thought it was pointless to read the scriptures everyday because he couldn't remember what he read.  So, he had him carry water in a dirty bucket that had holes in the bottom of it.  He would go as fast as he could carrying water from the river to a barrel, but each time, only a few drops would make it to the barrel.  After many trips back and forth, he told his father that it this had been a total waste of time.  Then the father told him, "You were not doing this to carry water.  Look at the bucket."  As the boy looked down into the bucket, he could see that the bucket had been washed clean by the water that he had carried.  The father then said, "Reading scriptures is like carrying water in the bucket with a hole in it.  The water is not meant to stay in the bucket, it is meant to wash out the bucket and keep it clean.  Our daily scripture study does the same thing for us."

I love that thought!

After the meeting, I ran into Saray Caballero and Fran Marcos.  It's always fun to visit with them.

We had our special meeting on Thursday with Elder and Sister Dyches from our Area Presidency, and Elder and Sister Christensen.  Elder Christensen is a Seventy and it was a privilege to hear his message.  Before the meeting, the Dyches and the Christensens wanted to shake hands with all of us.  

He and his wife served a mission in Mexico.  He translated Hymn #114, "Come Unto Him," for a visit that President Packer made to their mission, because it was President Packer's favorite hymn. Elder Christensen was very touched by our song, and we really enjoyed singing together.  They are hoping we can have another opportunity to sing as a choir.  And I even learned a lot about directing a choir! 

I love music!

We spent the weekend at the mission home.  Caroline and I worked on her quilt some more.  We are making progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Crawfish and Okra

This week I am so thankful for the opportunity that we have to serve.  It is a wonderful to work with these missionaries and the Packs.  We are truly blessed.

Monday morning, Hermana Pack and I started out early with our shopping.  While we were getting the basics, Hermana Pack found something surprising, live crawfish!  First she demonstrated the way that she could stroke the crawfish to put it to sleep.  You could tell that she had done that before.

She was already planning to make gumbo for the going home meal, so she decided that a pot of crawfish would be the perfect finishing touch.

Anyone who has cooked gumbo knows that to be authentic, you need okra.  We had not seen any okra here in Spain, but Hermana Pack asked a lady in our ward who cooks a lot, if she knew of a place that would have okra.  She told us about small produce shop in the small town just north of us that carried it.  Hermana Pack was so excited and we bought all they had.  At 8 euros a kilo, it is a good thing that okra doesn't weigh very much.

After a day of cooking, we were ready to dish up 
the rice and gumbo and feed the going home missionaries.  

And here is the pot of delicious crawfish! Yummy!

Hermana Pack demonstrated the proper way to eat the crawfish.

Before the testimony meeting, we had a beautiful song by these elders.  
I will miss Elder Schwenke and his ukulele.

It's always sad to say goodbye to these good missionaries.  

And, Tuesday morning, we welcomed this wonderful group of missionaries to the mission.  

It was a busy day of cooking, but I was grateful to have Hermana Irigoyen in the kitchen with me, Her plane to Argentina did not leave until after 11:00 p.m., so she was my helper all day. How fun it was to reminisce about the past and talk about her future!  She is an amazing young woman!

Elder Scott and Elder Baron spent the night with us on Tuesday, and then Elder Larsen took them to the airport Wednesday morning.  They flew to the Canary Islands.  They will be serving in Telde and Vecindario.  I know they are going to love it there!

We had office meeting on Wednesday, and Hermana Pack brought the leftover gumbo.  Elder Koeven was brave and tried a shrimp and some okra!  He must be growing up because he actually liked them!

Thursday we had our choir practice.  I snapped a quick photo of these wonderful missionaries.  This was the first time that we practiced with the piano accompaniment, and it was beautiful.  I am starting to see that maybe this can actually work. Afterwards, they had a quick sandwich and a scotcheroos.

We spent the night at the Packs on Friday and Saturday night.  One night we had vegetable beef soup and I made marshmallow brownies.  Here we have Caroline enjoying one.  We also worked on the quilt most of the weekend.  We made some good progress, but there is still a lot to be done.  Kristen spent the weekend with her as well.  She is from the Olathe Kansas Stake where we used to live, and we know some of the same people.  She is an exchange student this year.  No pictures of her, but the three of us had lots of girl talk time until way too late at night!  They are both such sweet girls.

After church on Sunday, we had the Assistants and the Hermanas over for dinner.  I made chicken bundles, rice, gravy, salad, and fresh fruit.  

When we walked out of church, it was still cold. Our first real front of the season had come through. So, it inspired me to make homemade hot cocoa to go with our pumpkin cookies.  Yummy!