Saturday, December 30, 2006


Alas, poor HP, I knew him well...

Our computer, the main one that I use, has kicked the bucket. When I went upstairs to turn it off and get ready for bed the other evening, the blue screen of death was glowing from the monitor, mocking my agonized cries. I'd had no warning, so the photos stored on the computer aren't backed up, (take heed and back yours up now, those of you who feel so safe...) which just has me ill. Now we have decisions to make, and somehow will be procuring a new computer- hopefully soon!

I can still use Kate's laptop to access my email and, obviously, this blog.

More later, when Kate isn't breathing down my neck waiting to use the laptop!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Very Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas morning! I don't know why exactly, but the kids insist on lining up in age order to proceed to the tree...

Our first stop is the Nativity set, where Isaac reads the account of Christ's birth from the Gospel of Luke as Erin sets the baby in the manger. This is the Nativity set that I made in the ceramics shop on post in Germany way back when I had one child. And he is now away from us for the first Christmas ever, serving our country.

Nathaniel may be away, and not able to communicate much, but he was able to get online last month and order gifts to be sent to his family! Isaac received from his brother the first Lego Star Wars video game for his birthday, and now the second game for Christmas!

Rebekah is rather tickled with the "pillow fight!" t-shirt we found for her online.

Those who have seen Kate "dance" will fully appreciate the humor behind her, "allow me to explain through interpretive dance" shirt. You go, dancing queen!

Isaac, a recent convert to Eagles "fandom", loves his official Eagles chair.

Erin, always a fan of the comfy-cozy, loves her pouffy chair!

Erin picked out this cute jewelry hanger for Bekah.

Kate bought this beautiful pair of hand-carved onyx bookends from India during our trip to Ten Thousand Villages, much closer to us than India.

The girls love their gift sets from Bath and Bodyworks which Nathaniel ordered.

Bekah picked out this cool kite, made in Bangladesh, for Isaac. It is a hand-painted dragon. We can't wait to fly it on our windy hill!

This giant present was one of the first to be wrapped and placed next to the tree...

And it is a gorgeous mirror with hand-painted frame, made in Indonesia, now hanging in our front entry, so we can have a last check before running out the door. Simply beautiful!

Not to be forgotten, our pup just loves her rawhide candy-cane! She took it to the dining room to enjoy it under the table in peace.

The candy-cane was down to cigar shape by lunchtime, so we set it aside to give her tummy a break. She was carrying it everywhere she went. We called her to the basement to see the "big gift" that was awaiting the family down there...

An Air Hockey table! Oh, is this ever fun! The tournament we will play! This will be a terrific wintertime diversion when it's too icky to play outside. Like, for instance, on Christmas day, when it was drizzly and rainy all day. Snow would have drawn us out for at least a bit, but rain when it's this cold is just yucky!

For our evening feast we set the table with the holiday plates. With the Nativity set and the candles the room was lovely.

Our feast was inspired by the December issue of Bon Appetit. Rosemary seasoned standing rib roast with two mushroom pan sauce, potatoes au gratin, roasted tomatoes with feta cheese and steamed asparagus. We all agreed that this meal is a keeper. The sauce on the roast alone made the meal, oh, so scrumdiddlyumptious!

Other gifts of note, for which we have no pictures, are numerous books including "the bible of Italian cooking" for Bekah as well as Julia Child's "My Life in France" to inspire our future chef. Jim will enjoy reading Newt's book on Rediscovering God in America while I can't wait to start my Carlyle history of the French Revolution. Papaw sent the yummiest friut and nut candies which we will endeavour to enjoy sparingly, so to make them last, (right). Grandmommy sent lovely pieces of jewelry for all the girls and a warm Steelers blanket for Isaac as well as an apron for me which clearly states the obvious, "Skinny cooks can't be trusted!". Being movie buffs, I can't fail to mention here that we now have the new Superman movie as well as the newest movie from our favorite writer/producer/director; M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water! Whoo-hoo!

Another movie for our Christmas collection that we've recently discovered is a French film, Joyeux Noel. We rented this movie from Netflix and fell in love with it. It's the true story, drawn from eyewitness and written accounts, of the spontaneous Christmas Eve truce in the trenches of World War I. The film focuses on one area where the Germans are facing French and Scottish troops. The director points out in an interview that while the "fraternizations" happened all down the entire front, they have condensed several of the stories into the one. Something that did happen in many instances was a shared Christmas mass, which is portrayed in this movie with such tenderness and beauty. While the men speak three different languages and come from such different backgrounds, they share a common faith which in the mass is understood by all in Latin. On Christmas day they agree to bury the dead who've been left in the "no man's land" during the hostilities.

I couldn't help but marvel at the differences between that war and this in which we now find ourselves. The most basic, fundamental need of our race is expressed in our relationship with our Creator. In the first World War, though enemies, the men facing one another across the front lines shared an understanding of God that had stood firm and sure through the centuries. On the eve of the day which celebrated the birth of their common Savior, they laid down their arms and celebrated His birth together. We now face an enemy that would slaughter us for those very beliefs which led to the truces in WWI. With such beliefs held in common there was hope for, (and eventually it came to pass) a more lasting peace among those who fought. The enemy we now fight will abide no such peace, ever. Nor can we surrender our beliefs to accomodate their demands and attempt peace on their terms. So we must stand firm, as a nation, and as Christians, in the face of open war. We must never downplay the reality that what we believe about God makes a difference in how we understand our enemy. And we must trust that the true King of the universe alone will bring lasting peace.

With hope only in Christ, we wish you all peace and joy this holiday season.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bowing to Pressure

Here's the highly requested recipe for the much-loved Jalapeno Pepper Bites! (okay, only one request- I fold easily)

Jalapeno Pepper Bites

1 16 oz can sliced jalapenos, well drained

1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, grated

4 eggs, well beaten

Grease 8” square pan with oil. Line bottom of pan with peppers. Combine cheese and eggs, pour over peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes, cut into small squares and serve on toothpicks.

Enjoy! I'll probably post other recipes now and then since I love to cook again. My wonderful kitchen and the cold weather are luring me back to the old cookbooks and even the new recipes in various magazines. Christmas day I'll be making a standing rib roast from last month's issue of Bon Appetit. The picture looks simply marvelous. I'll have lots of help in the preparation, so we'll cook up a feast!

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Holly, Jolly Weekend!

Another busy weekend, but with more to show for it than just exhaustion on Monday! Where to begin,...

Friday was the Christmas party for our new Bible Study group, at the Sallade's home. Jim got home from Philadelphia just in time to change and leave with me. We were worried that he might need to meet me there, since I needed to drop Erin off at a sleep-over party on the way, and therefore needed to leave promptly at 6. We took jalapeno pepper bites along to share at the party, and they were a hit. I have taken those to almost every party we've been to in the last 10 years, and if these folks hadn't liked them we might have had to change to a different group- compatability you know. It was a very nice get-together, but it did highlight for us again just how very much we miss our dear friends in Florida.

Saturday morning we dropped Kate off to carpool to her Lacrosse game with the rest of the team so that we could take the others Christmas shopping. Erin had enjoyed her party and was ready to go when we picked her up at 9:30. From there we hit the stores, not in a mall but a large plaza with a good variety of stores at which we regularly shop. Each year the children have bought gifts for one another; some years it's been at the dollar store, others at school. This year since we are still "setting up house" we went to the real stores for things we'd probably be buying anyway- but it's much more fun to unwrap them on Christmas morning!

After a Chik-fil-a lunch we picked Kate up and went to Ten Thousand Villages for the not-so-practical gifts. This is the store with the coolest stuff from around the world. It was started as a Mennonite Mission to help people in poor countries worldwide to sell their handicrafts. The items in the store range from handmade musical instruments to clothing to toys. There's a whole section for beautiful rugs and tapestries from Pakistan. This time of year there are Christmas ornaments and hand-carved nativity sets from villages worldwide. Each item is labeled with its country of origin and some come with an explanation of how they were made. To learn more about this unique place and see some of their goods just visit the website,

Enough sales pitch, we've just fallen in love with the place...

After we unloaded the van of all the purchases- only Jim could see it all- we grabbed the saw and went to the tree farm! There must be a dozen tree farms in the area and we went to Sheerlund Forest, which is one of the closest. As we were driving in past one field of trees we saw a familiar looking family hunting for a tree. It was one of our new church's elders with his kids- small world! After learning how to go about getting a tree we headed out to find the very best one! After a bit of searching we found it, and Jim, Isaac and Rebekah took turns at the saw and felled our tree! Within an hour the tree was home and in the tree stand having a long drink.

By then it was time for Rebekah to go to her friend Katie's house to get dressed for the Christmas Dance at school. Kate took the van to pick up Laura, who was getting ready here. Then it was all girly giggles upstairs while they beautified themselves- not a difficult task. Instead of straightening their hair they opted for curls- my preference- and then donned their dresses which they'd bought the week before. Once they left those of us at home could breathe a sigh of relief.

Jim found the boxes of lights and ornaments and some wrapping began. I picked Rebekah and Katie up from the dance and Kate brought Laura here after everything finished for them and we settled in for a shorter winter's nap than we would have liked. But bright and early the next morning we got ready for church, except for Jim and Isaac, neither of whom felt well. So the girls went to church while the fellas slept in.

Fortunately they felt better in the afternoon because we had a concert to attend and a tree to decorate! Rebekah's concert choir at school was putting on the Christmas concert yesterday with the orchestra and two other singing groups. It was a lovely show, with songs celebrating the birth of Christ, the Hanukkah miracle and wintertime. In this choir Bekah is one of 220, and they sounded magnificent.

Once home again it was back to the tree. Getting the lights on is always the hardest part and Jim helped a lot. Once the lights were up and the stockings hung, (by the chimney with care!) we settled in for a Christmas movie. Kate and her friend Tyson went to youth group- every other week it's for 10th to 12th grade only (?). After they returned Tyson stayed to hang out while we finished decorating the tree. The ornaments all hold such dear memories and it's such fun for the kids. Since we had given them hot cocoa earlier they were a bit hyper, so it really went quickly!

I'm so glad that we've broken the "having friends over to hang out with the family" barrier. It began with girl friends, but now that Tyson has been here, and not run screaming into the night, I think there's hope. We've wanted to be the home where our children's friends come to play or "hang", and now that we have a home big enough it's a matter of getting into that groove. With Nathaniel we merely needed to provide the snacks and the TV, then sit back and enjoy as the fun unfolded. As far as boys go, they're easy; if you feed them, they will show up. What we're learning with Kate is that the potential for embarrasment can be fatal to any gathering. She's as skittish as a deer, but I think last night helped a lot. We proved ourselves to be just normal enough- nobody picked their nose or started a belching contest, so we're okay, socially acceptable even!

With all seven of our stockings hanging by the tree we are reminded again that Nathaniel is not here to help hang ornaments on the tree or to enjoy any of the activities that are keeping us so busy. We are still so proud of him, but we sure miss our boy. His presents for us arrived last week and ours are on the way to him, but it's not the same without him here. Watching his face as he opens the funny gift is one of my favorite things. We'll have to settle for the delayed reaction this year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


No, I'm not speaking metaphorically- we really had an earthquake yesterday! At 2:07 pm there was a 2.5 tremor centered about 5 miles from our house. Vali and I felt it, Erin and her whole classroom felt it, Kate thought it had something to do with the construction going on at her school. Here's part of the story from the local news station, WFMZ TV:

"At this point, we've received no reports of any injuries or serious damage. Berks County is no stranger to earthquakes. There have been at least five over the past 12 years. The most recent was last April when a 1.2 magnitude quake shook Sinking Spring. The strongest was back in January 1994 when a quake measuring 4.6 on the Richter Scale centered on Spring Township."

And we thought we were moving to a "Natural-disaster-free zone"! Well, we did, this is clearly not on scale with California. Kinda cool actually. When it happened I thought a big truck had crashed outside our house. There was an audible booming sound and the shaking, so I looked outside for signs of a crash. Later I was in a store where I overheard someone mention "earthquake", but didn't think anything of it until Kate piped up with, "oh yeah, did you hear..."

Something to talk about,... since there's no snow yet.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Operation Cookie

Amazing. Something else that has kept me busy this past couple of weeks has been an outpouring of love, and cookies, for Nathaniel and his buddies in Iraq. We recieved a letter from him a couple of Fridays ago in which he answered my question, "what can we send you?". His answer was simply, "can you bake 20 soldiers-worth of cookies?". Now exactly how many cookies are there in "1 soldier's-worth", and then multiplied by 20...? I've watched my soldier in action, and it seems that the answer is somewhat like, however many cookies are in reach. So I went out on a limb and emailed a few select friends who I know are likely to be baking cookies this time of year already and asked for some help. Low and behold, the forward function was applied to this email and the guys in Iraq aren't going to know what hit them!

People I've never met are baking, packing and shipping cookies. Several teachers have made it a class project to send cookies and notes of encouragement. One family is making it their family gift to Jesus this year. Daily I recieve emails from folks far and wide who are asking for tips on shipping the cookies or simply letting me know how they have responded and what it means to their family. So many people are grateful to have something tangible that they can do for the soldiers that they hear about in the news. Many have added Nathaniel and his unit to their prayers.

I had no idea it would go this far, and I am overwhelmed by the response. Every day the news briefly mentions another car bomb or similar attack on the American forces in Iraq. There will be a number wounded, another number killed. Behind every number is a name, and behind every name a family whose world has been torn apart by the news. Every day in America, families are visited by an official from the Armed Services delivering the news that their loved one has paid the ultimate price in defending our country. Yet all we hear or see on the nightly news are numbers.

I've learned through this week that being given a chance to show love and appreciation for the soldiers so far from home is more than a duty, it is a priviledge and a blessing. And this mother is blessed by the outpouring of love and cookies.

The guys better find a supply of milk! They are going to need it!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Busy Week

It's been such a busy week, with issues on the blog site that didn't allow me to upload photos, and one day without internet access at all, (horrors!) that I've not been able to take the time to blog at all. But I'm back in the saddle and ready to type!

First of all, for those of you who have been vicariously following Mifflin Football, they lost the big game on Saturday the 2nd in State College. While it's sad, and the players all shaved their mohawks, it's also a relief in a way. Now they can get on with normal life again, knowing they did their best and secure in the memory of totally creaming their main rivals, Wilson.

This was also the week that the Barties flew home to South Africa. Kate and her friends spent most evenings with various "lasts" and farewell parties for Joanne and Ron. Wednesday was a party at Jo's church, Thursday was Laser Tag, (see photo) Friday the girls finished a video of goodbyes from friends and teachers and Saturday morning there were phone calls from various airports as Joanne and Ron made their connections on the way to their transatlantic flight. What a sweet friend Jo has been for Kate. With the internet they'll stay in touch. Now Kate is wanting to go to South Africa after graduation. Oh yeah.

Tuesday night at Cub Scouts Isaac handed out invitations to his birthday party, inviting his whole den to come yesterday to celebrate. Not knowing more than two Moms meant that we were really counting on response calls to know how many we'd have here. The very next morning one of the moms that I already know called to say that her son could come, and would I like to go with her to a neat little store that she'd found? Wow, girl time! Since I was stranded without wheels that day, (Kate had the van) she picked me up and we explored a neat little shop owned by a lady who's into herbs and neat ways to use them. I found a few Christmas gifts, but the best part was just hanging out with a friend.

Heidi is from Tennessee and just as bubbly and energetic as anybody I've ever met. Our sons are in scouts and school together and they live a street away from us. She's been here for a number of years, with a three year stint living in Hong Kong in the middle, so she knows the area very well- from an "outsider's" point of view. People who have lived in one place their whole lives know it thouroughly, but not with the eyes of someone who's new. So when I'm finally ready to find a hairdresser or a plumber, she's who I'll be calling.

Wednesday Rebekah sang in a benefit concert at school. She is part of the Ladies Ensemble, a small group of 12 girls. The songs were lovely and our sweetie was so beautiful, (center, with darker hair,). Today she is auditioning for a role in the Spring Musical!

Erin came home from school on Thursday sick. I recognized the symptoms as something we'd dealt with a couple of years ago in Florida and called the doctor's office right away. Something else we've been doing these past two weeks is getting everybody in to see the new Doctor and begin establishing ourselves as patients with the practice. Erin is the only child not yet in thus far. They were able to squeeze her in Saturday morning. Thus our Saturday went from "rather full" to "insanely full".

Saturday, December 9:
8 am: Erin to Doctor.
8:45 am: Attempt to drop off prescription, learn that pharmacy not open till 9.
9 am: Back at house to get everyone out the door asap, which is never soon enough.
9:45 am: Drop off prescription and run.
10 am: Arrive at church for membership class with the Pastor, for which Kate, Bekah, Jim and I must be awake and attentive.
Noon: Leave church in separate vehicles; BA with girls and Isaac to buy cake and goodie bag stuff for party, Jim and Erin to hospital to drop off "sample" for lab test and pick up prescription.
12:45: BA and crew pick up Laura, (German Exchange Student) to spend the day with us, comisserating with Kate over Joanne's departure.
1 pm: BA and crew arrive with barely enough time but plenty of hands on deck to accomplish last minute party preparations.
1:30 pm: First guests arrive- we party till 4.
4 pm: Parents arrive promptly, (miracle of miracles!) to take their boys home, Isaac enjoys the gifts, parents enjoy the silence.
5 pm: BA begins preparations for Sunday's lunch, we're having the Pastor's family over after church.
5:30 pm: Former neighbors Sara and Ryan come over to play for a couple of hours.
6 pm: Kate leaves to get Laura and go to Brad's house to "hang out", (parents present) and watch a movie.
8:30 pm: BA remembers that we forgot Rebekah's Sunday School Christmas party which began at 1pm.
10 pm: Kate calls as her curfew arrives to say that she's gotten lost leaving Brad's house, (entirely believable here- I've done the same) and Tyson has come to the rescue and is leading them to a familiar road.
10:15 pm: Kate and Laura arrive with tales of adventure on the dark, winding roads.
Day over!

Fortunately, Sunday was calm and restful, as it should be. We very much enjoyed our visit with our Pastor, Wendell Stolzfus and his family. We made meatloaf and pasta, they brought homemade bread, yum. The conversation ran from family to church and back again. We look forward to a long relationship with them. Their little daughter even surprised everyone by overcoming her reluctance around dogs and ending the evening with a goodbye hug and kiss for Vali, who'll take all of that she can get!

Today everyone is in school and I'm back into the routine. Having sent out our annual Christmas letter I feel a bit less stress. On to the next thing!

Friday, December 01, 2006

My High School Movie Day

by guest columnist Kate Kelly

Today I felt more than ever like I was living in one of those cliche high school movies.
Our football team has a HUGE game tomorrow that's 4 hours away, and today was quite a bit of build up of school spirit. during our homeroom period (the first period of the day) The cheerleaders walked/marched through the hallways singing and cheering and doing their cheerleader thing. In my math class (my math teacher is the head football coach) things were hardly focused on math... I think we did about 5 or 6 math problems. Mr. Vechio is hardly the "Politically Correct" teacher that I am used to in FL. He goes around the room and grabs the shoulders of students not doing their work and yells and hollers but then he gives the world's biggest grin and laughs. He has a big booming voice that would make me wet myself on the football field... thank God for my estrogen.

I have a couple of the football stars in my third period government class and basically the whole football team shares an interesting characteristic -> a mohawk. Well, Mr Hole (our Govt teacher) promised that if we beat our rivals last week he would let them shave his head to match theirs... well needless to say, we won... Mr Hole is quite proud of his hair, (or lack thereof) though I can't say as much about his wife... It is quite strange for me to see a teacher dressed in a suit with a mohawk on his head... I'll certainly never forget it.

We have started Hamlet in my English class. Some of the same football players from my government class are also in this class (they are also some of my buddies). Joe (the football team captain) is so excited about acting the play out in front of the class every period that he got most of the guys in the class riled up as well. They all insist on being at the front of the classroom and make all the entrances and exits quite dramatic. My friend Jon sits at the back of the room and makes sound effects and everything. As the actors read from their books the awkward "Olde English" a word or two are often mispronounced, causing the room to errupt with laughter... most of the time I can barely contain myself. They all jump around and cry out when it is appropriate (and inapporopriate)and cause even our teacher to double over in laughter.

Today in my PE class we started Ping Pong. Now I know what you are thinking; ping pong is not physically straining... that is until you play with my friend Laura. She is a German exchange student and one of my best friends up here. She knew all of the rules and everything and pretty much beat me to a pulp. for half of the period I was running through the gym trying to catch up with our ball. It was obviously a defective ball because it continually lunged at me with incredible force and flew to the ceiling after ricocheting off of my paddle (which I have determined is for self defenseive purposes).

After school today there was going to be a pep rally/send off for the football team. (they are driving up tonight and staying in a hotel). Laura and I really wanted to go to say good luck and goodbye to our friends on the team but when we got to the gym we couldn't find anyone. we spent 10 or 15 minutes wandering around the school looking for someone who could tell us where the pep rally was. in our wanderings we passed some of the football players who had just finished the meal that the mothers prepare for them in the cafeteria. We got to give hugs and good luck wishes to them before they left. As we were walking out to my van we heard a lot of voices yelling and chanting and realized that the pep rally was outside! A large group of students and cheerleaders and parents and teachers were lined up on the street right buy the buses for the team. Streamers and posters and balloons were everywere as the guys loaded the bus. the cheerleaders had made a banner to stretch in front of the bus that read MUSTANGS STAMPEDE STATE COLLEGE. As the bus drove through the banner and the streamers everyone let go of their balloons and watched as the school colors flew into the sky.

After the buses left so did Laura and I. We drove to my house where we met my mom at the door. she was heading out for some reason or another, and mentioned the muffins she had made. Laura and I rushed into the empty house and into the kitchen. as we searched through the fridge and on the counters we realized how hungry we were. Laura finally spotted the muffins in the far corner of the kitchen; convieniently concealed in the shadows of freshly cleaned pots and pans. we rushed over and indulged our tastebuds on heavenly applebutter muffins. I ran up to my room and changed into an old t-shirt and grabbed the dog leash. Laura and I left to take Vali to the pet shop for a bath.

As we walked into the shop I realized just how many of my friends work there. Vali dragged me around and I finally got her to the dog washing station. A few of my guy friends came over to meet my dog and one ended up having to pick Vali up and set her into the tub becasue she was too scared to walk up the ramp. Because it is a self service sort of deal my friends had to leave meimmediately Vali shook as much water off of her and onto us as possible. The two of us being girls, startled screams and protests were inevitable. Every now and then my friend David would check up on us after hearing a splash followed by a "AH! NO VALI!". After we rinsed and dried her off, unhooked her and put back her onto the leash, Vali tried to take off, but became distracted with a box of crickets. I dragged her through the store and soon saw David. He walked over and at that moment I realized that Erin needed bird feed. I asked him where the bird feed might be and he smiled and pointed to both sides of us... we were standing in the bird aisle... wow, did I feel stupid. He checked us out and thanked us for the visit and revealed that it was usually the most boring place to work... unless of course two inexperienced dogwashers come in with a protesting pup.

I dropped Laura off at her host parents' home and began to head home with my freshly cleaned and exhausted puppy sitting next to me. I turned the radio on and playing was that classic, old time movie romance music. The violins and oboes and a soft flow to the moon. Outside the van large gusts of wind blew fallen leaves all around and across the road and through the moonbeams shining through the forest.
I had one of the most pleasant and calming drives of my life listening to that music and the distinct feeling that I had seen this somewhere on a screen.
It is days like this that make me pinch myself to make sure I am realy living it. I feel like I am in a movie or dreaming... Thank God I am Not <3