Monday, October 31, 2005

Though the changing of the leaves means they're dying, the brilliant yellow vineyards seem to exude life. I am joyful at the breathtaking sight of them.

Yesterday was a special harvest festival at church. It's a time to give thanks to God for His abundant provision. The church looked so pretty and I really enjoyed the "Good News Band" that pepped up the praise time with some jazz.

For the holiday everyone brings food to the church at places it at the front in a gesture of thanks to God and throughout the service it was a symbol of all that we are blessed with.

People brought everything from homemade honey and tasty quiches and grapejuice from their own vineyards, to Pepsi and loaves of bread and racks of pizza. We had an incredible feast after the service. So delicious!

As part of the special service I did a mime and dance put together by an English lady in the church. It was a powerful presentation of the story of the woman with the issue of blood, found in Mark 5.

This woman was "unclean," untouchable, unapprochable in the society of the day. She was sick for 12 years and no doctor could cure her.

But when Jesus came she pressed through the crowd and when she reached out and touched his robe she was instantly healed. Jesus asked, "Who touched me?!" This unclean woman had touched Jesus! But he told her "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."

So we all danced with the woman with much joy. It was very fun!

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." You can buy them on the street here. I am happy to be able to sing the song knowing what I'm singing about now! I would describe them as a "potatoey nut."

This is where I ate my roasted chestnuts. We've been enjoying some great weather, but it's not exactly the right atmosphere for the nuts. An old man came along and told me that they're much better when it's cold and you feel their warmth in your hands as you peel off the hot shells.

Friday, October 21, 2005

I'm counting down the days until I come home!

Here's a cool thing about Switzerland--everywhere you go you can find these fountains. Great for getting a drink, washing your hands, cooling off your dog, whatever.

Just a picture of my cutie Chinese friend in a vineyard.

I'm in love!

Uh...with Jesus, that is. Sheesh, people, is zest of life so uncommon these days that when you encounter someone with enthousiasm you think, "Ah, they must be in love." I've started getting such accusations, so I'll just clarify: Nope, not in love. I pretty much say everything like it is, so you can just read my blog without reading INTO it. And you've never known me to be secretive, so you can count on me for a big headline when I do fall in love :o)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jessica's Lasagna Recipe (careful, it's half-baked!)

OK, so here's the absolute proof that anyone can publish anything on the Internet. I'm laughing as I write out this recipe, as though I actually know something about cooking! But I just ate it and it was good and if I can do it then I figure maybe there's others out there who would want to. I made a lasagna last week using a tomato sauce, so this week I decided to tweak the recipe to make a spinach pesto version. Ready for yumminess? Here you go...

Fresh lasagna sheets
1 bunch of fresh basil
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese (grated)
Asiago cheese (grated)
Ricotta (250g)
Frozen creamed spinach (600g)
3 eggs
1 onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves
Berchamel: butter, flour, milk
1 large or 2 small aluminum pans

Those ingredients are totally flexible. Replace fresh pasta with the boilable variety, use some other kind of smelly cheese, add or take away a clove of garlic, whatever. Remember: I MADE THIS UP. So, don't take it too seriously, it's not like baking a cake where you mess one thing up and the whole thing gets trashed. Also, the following directions are simply in the order I did them, but there's nothing magic about it.

Start by thawing the creamed spinach by putting it in a pan over medium heat and covering. When it's thawed, add the onion and garlic (with a garlic press) and let the flavors simmer together until the other ingredients are ready. Just before adding this mix to the lasagna add 2 eggs.

Today one of my dreams came true: I made pesto using a mortar and pestle. so romantic. I cut up the basil (about 15 leaves maybe) into pieces and then ground it up with the mortar and pestle. Then I added a bunch of olive oil and parmesan cheese. It was about half a cereal-bowl-full. Ideally, you should add some pinenuts, but I'm not rich and famous. Set aside.

Empty the ricotta into a small bowl and stir in one egg. Set aside.

Make the berchamel and set aside (mix butter, flour and milk together in about equal parts to fill about 2/3 a cereal-bowl). I don't really know what this does, I just thought it would be more professional if I used the word "berchamel."

Here's the great part of making lasagna--the layering process. Cooking is fun! Put some olive oil on the bottom of the pans. Add a layer of pasta. Add 2/3 of the spinach mix (1/3 in each pan if you have 2 small ones like I did). Add another layer of pasta. Add the ricotta mixture and top with the pesto. Add another layer of pasta. Spread on top the rest of the spinach, pour the berchamel over it, and top with lots of yummy cheese (I used something like asiago).

Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes at maybe 400 degrees. Or you can save it in the fridge for a couple of days to bake later. Voila!

One of the great parts of this recipe is that you can make each component and set it aside until everything is ready to be layered. No stress!

My favorite part is the layering! The one on the left is how it looked when it was ready to go in the oven.

Another great thing about lasagna is the cooking time--I had time to clean everything up and make the side dish while it was in the oven. Again, really low stress.

I was super happy when it came out of the oven to discover that it had puffed up really nicely. The eggs and spinach make it sort of quiche-esque.

I suggest accompanying the lasagna with a grilled tomato. The colors and flavors went great together!

Don't forget to enjoy yourself. I love listening to music while I cook. Tonight I enjoyed 3 of my favorite groups: Late Tuesday, Pedro the Lion, and Five O'Clock People. And then I realized all 3 are from the NW! Yay for Porland and Seattle musicians.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Too many dance moves

Here's a little something I wrote a couple of weeks ago...

I sit with a blank page in front of me, not planning ahead of time what will fill up the white space, but knowing that my heart is full, my life is interesting, my brain is functional, so perhaps something will come to me.

Why do we go through life longing for an invisible carrot that dangles in front of our noses, when if we’d stop to smell the roses we’d see we have all we want right around us. No need to chase after something that may or may not exist. Am I going to meet more interesting people than those who are already around me? Am I going to find a more appropriate time to live life to the fullest than now? I’m much too interesting to have to wait for the ideal circumstances to create romance and adventure around me. Only people who don’t know that secret wait. The rest of us seize the moment.

There are far too many cute outfits to be worn, inspiring songs to be listened to, intriguing people to be talked to, artistic photos to be taken, languages to be mastered, cookies to be baked, icecream flavors to be tasted, countries to be visited, dance moves to be learned, quotes to be quoted, stickers to be collected, waves to be surfed, mountains to be climbed, sweaters to be knit, walls to be sponge painted, Christmas Trees to be decorated, magazines to be clipped, hair styles to be tried out, parties to be hosted, and Scriptures to be memorized to have any boring days or hours or minutes.

Wow, that list looks pretty good. Makes me want to try an unusual ice cream flavor and learn a groovy dance! Perhaps it’s the influence of Bj√∂rk’s “Violently Happy” blasting through my headphones. “Violently happy because I love you. Violently happy but you’re not here. Violently happy, come calm me down before I get into trouble. I tiptoe down to the shore. Stand by the ocean. Make it roar at me and I roar back."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cliff Hanger

"My life is definitely way cooler than I am." That's what I said as I made my way along the edge of the cliff, trusting that the cable I was connected to would keep me from plunging into the valley below should I lose my balance. Today was my first time at a "via ferrata," (which means something like "iron way" in Italian). It's a type of climbing where you make your way along the edge of a cliff that's been marked out for such a purpose. A cable runs all the way along, and at the difficult parts there are bars to hold on to or step on. Very, very fun...for me at least. You can check out the photos and see if you would have attempted the climb! I had the extra motivation of wanting to live out to the fullest my last weeks in Switzerland. Perhaps my family will look at these photos and just hope I live it out at all!

I made the climb with about 15 others from my church in Neuchatel. I felt oh-so-professional in our climbing gear. Professional geek that is. The hotair balloon was like a cherry on top of the delicious scenery.

I was totally elated from the get-go. It was so fun. And check out how pretty those trees are!

Nathan on the other hand kept chanting "I'm not here right now. I'm somewhere else." He used his incessant humor to distract from his fear, so he had me laughing all the way. Except when he said the get-up we were wearing made my butt look big and when he'd jiggle the cable I was holding onto. Nice. But look at him go! Victory over vertigo.

Here's the cable and the whatcha-ma-call-its I was attached with. And that's my shadow waving to you.

I tried not to spend too much time focused on moving along the cable because there was this breathtaking view to take in.

So cool. We're like little spiders climbing along the wall.

The cables can hold up to 3 tons, so Rob convinced Melodie to hang off the edge. Rob does some other kinds of climbing, so he was totally in his element.

This was the only really hard part of the climb. And it wasn't that bad, just took a little more muscle than I've used these past 6 months of studying.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I am writer, hear me roar!

I think, at this point, that I consider myself a writer. It’s funny because it was my envisioned career all the way back in the 5th grade when I started writing stories just for fun about a family of mice. In my early teen years I went to a 3 week writing camp for 3 summers in a row, developing my skills and producing some fairly good work. Then at about 16, as school and age were drying up my creative juices, I did a “career project” on freelance writing. I realized writing was work. I realized I didn’t really want to sit at a desk all day and force myself to produce something other people would want to read, something editors would want to publish. Besides, I had discovered missionary work and was impassioned with a call to go and help others find spiritual nourishment. But I also acknowledged that by going out to fulfill my call I would find something worth writing about. It’s strange how no matter how much I grow and change, in the end I’ll still be the same girl who wrote mouse stories in the 5th grade.

Another aspect of my writer-esque-ness is that I find I HAVE to write. It’s not really optional. I mean, I could choose not to, but then all the ideas and words running around my head would go to waste. I enjoy getting them out on paper. Plus, I’m not gifted in painting or acting or sculpting or dancing, so I’m happy to have this way to creatively express myself.

So I would consider myself a writer. Not in the professional sense of the word but in the vocational sense. It’s a part of who I am and what I do. I think that’s one reason why I so love my Blog. Even if I’m only writing a few paragraphs, “publishing” them myself, and boasting a readership of 10, I’m still writing and being read!

I’m finding fall to be a particularly inspiring season. My life is so rich right now anyway that there’s no lack of things to say. Below you will find a couple of poems that I wrote this afternoon. Something inside simply stirred me to bundle up in my coat and scarf, take my coffee carafe and a pad of paper, head to my favorite bench overlooking a vineyard and the lake, and let my pen say what it would. Hope you like it.

Fall Days

The days are rushing past me
even as God dances around in the tree tops
painting the leaves in golden tones.
Soon those leaves will be crunching under my footsteps.
A blustery wind will blow them about,
and they’ll rush past me with the days.

My Wish

I see a wishing weed
and I want to pluck it from the ground,
take a deep breath,
pucker up,
and let the force of my desire send its seeds sailing through the sky.
If my wish came true,
a seed would fly to you,
go into the ground,
take root,
and a wishing weed would grow up at your feet.
You’d pluck it from the ground,
take a deep breath,
and wish for me too.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I'm so domestique. I just made my first lasagna tonight. It was absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself. Jean-Pierre says I'm ready to get married now :o)

Living Up the Swiss Life

My life has been so rich lately that I don't know where to begin. I'll just let the photos and captions tell most of the stories. I'm realizing that I only have a short time left here in Switzerland so I'm determined to live it to the fullest.

I'm starting to get a little sentimental about this place. The other day I teared up over an infomercial! There was this farmer describing how he raises his cows. He was speaking in Swiss German and it was translated into French. He said at the end, "When I see how happy the animals are I'm not sad to have to butcher them because they've had a good life. I'm happy to be able to provide that kind of meat for people." It was just so Swiss. I'll never get to see a Swiss German farmer talking about happy cows on TV in the States.

Speaking of Swiss German farmers, I have a Swiss German housemate right now and she and I watched a TV program last night called "Farmer Seeks Wife." She translated some of the German for me, but it was funny even without the translation! I mean, it was just like a reality dating show we'd have in the States except that we're talking Swiss German farmers who speak such weird dialects that they had to put subtitles. I'm eagerly awaiting next Sunday night's episode to find out if any of the couples work out. It's like "The Bachelor Meets The Waltons." Wholesome, yet modern and entertaining. Quality television.

Yesterday the Alps came out and made me sing. It was really hazy all summer, so I was thrilled to see them again. As I walked along the lake and looked at the mountains and listened to the waves lap along the shore as the last light of day was perfectly sifting through the trees, God romanced me so delightfully that it took my breath away. Really.

Lately I've been getting to go on lots of excursions with my new found German friend, Andrea. I always knew I would love Germans. It's great getting to be myself, i.e.: talk loudly, laugh till it hurts, say things as frankly as possible :o) So here's just one of many pretty pictures I've snapped this past week. The downside is I'm always shrieking "Hallo!" and I say "Yah, yah" all the time.

I think photography is one of my hobbies now. It took me a few tries to capture the sun coming through the trees. This was my Friday excursion with Andrea. It's great having an adventurous friend with a car!

We spent quite awhile looking for this "waterfall." It was pretty but as you can see, it's no Niagara Falls.

On Saturday Andrea and I went to Montreux and Gruyeres. This is the famous Chateau de Chillon, supposedly one of the most beautiful castles.

This is just about the coolest thing I've ever seen. Outside the castle were 3 little dog houses where people could leave their animals while they took the tour. What a great idea!

It was so beautiful I couldn't stop taking pictures. Our expression of the day was "It's so pretty!!"

We were blessed with simply exquisite weather, affording us the best views of the mountains and lakes.

Me and Andrea in Gruyeres. It was my second visit to the charming town. I feel I've really gotten a good view of the French part of Switzerland.

Everybody asks me if I've had the "Double Creme" of Gruyeres. Now I can say I have! It's in that little pot which we poured over the meringue and sorbet. Double creme is an appropriate name because it's seriously like twice as dense as any cream I've ever had!

Yes. Yes, this cow is wearing a bouquet on its head. Don't ask me why. It's a Swiss thing. Great, isn't it?!

It's finally fondue season! When the cool winds of fall begin to blow the Swiss don't waste anytime getting out their fondue pots and warming themselves with the rich cheese and a side of Kirsch.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

This photo is the whole reason I'm posting photos right now. I just had to get his on my blog. This deserves some kind of "photo of the week" award or something. Good thing I take my camera practically everywhere, 'cause you just never know what you're gonna see!

This is for anyone wanting to do a still life painting. As for me, I only have the skills to do still life photos. At least I arranged the fruit myself!

Here's me and Nathan celebrating the Vendange. It's a big festival for the grape harvest and lots of people get drunk. We just enjoyed the parade and seeing the city transformed into a carnival.

The ENTIRE town of Neuchatel and its inhabitants were covered in confetti!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Mom Remembers Paddy

An Addendum on Paddington Diggery Dinkum by Mom

Paddy, little Paddy. Over the years Jessica's older siblings grew up with dogs, but never was there a dog who gave heart and soul to them the way Paddy gave himself to Jessica. He selected her when we went to look at puppies, tiny puppies, yet too young to go home with us. When we returned a couple of weeks later, the litter owner could not remember which puppy Jessica wanted. Paddy knew. There was no doubt in his mind whatsoever! I can still see the 9-year-old Jessica sitting in the seat beside me on that ride home, Paddy settled happily on her lap squeaking his "dinky dog." An immediate bond. His world revolved around her from that moment on. When she was in school, he was under the couch, emerging only moments before his best friend would come through the door. When she went to college, he spent his time with us; but the moment she returned, he was a different dog. He smiled. He pranced. He was happy. Jessica was home.

He never weighed more than 10 lbs. but, when it came to protecting the one he loved, he was a pit bull. Part of the ritual of saying goodnight to Jessica was Dad pretending to hit her just to watch Paddington fly across the bed, growling and grabbing his hand. If the vacuum cleaner came too near her, he attacked it. And in rainy Oregon, he saved Jessica from the assault of the windshield wipers--those blades were a challenge for him, but he was determined to get them!

So here it is, 6 am the day after reading the blog about Paddington and I am still thinking about the dear little dog who is now buried just outside Jessica's window. Like Jessica, I write and weep as I remember this most unique of dog/kid relationships, a relationship that began when a tiny puppy said, "I want her!" And she was all he ever wanted, every day of his life.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

With joy and tears I remember the life of Paddington.

In Loving Memory

It's the one year anniversary of Paddington's parting. I can't hardly believe so much time has already passed. I was touched that my sister remembered the date (she was the unlucky one who had to call and tell me the news) and it was great to get a Catholic Greetings e-card from my mom (see below).

I don't think anything in my life will ever be as sentimental to me as that little dog. He really embodies my childhood. Some of my best times were training him at 4-H and competing at the Marion County Fair. Christmas just wasn't the same last year when I couldn't get out his stocking and watch for him to find it; he always knew which one was his! And going to the beach isn't nearly as exciting without Paddington getting so excited to get in the car that he can hardly breathe. Now there's no one who snuggles up to me when I'm sad and licks the salty tears off my face. OK, that might sound really gross but it made me cry to think of it!

Oh, Paddington! If dogs go to heaven I hope that you will still belong to me when I get there. It would be cool if in heaven he could be like my superhero sidekick. He'd wear a little spandex suit and a black mask. And he could talk to me and we'd fly around together. Oh, I miss my little dog!

Blessing for Deceased Pet
We remember the
Laughter and joy
Which this pet has given us.
Help us to share kindness
And care with all living things.