Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pancake Night Success

Well! Let me tell you a little bit about our activity last night~

We loaded up all of our ingredients and scanty supplies into the cars around 3:45. Corey headed to the church to start the set up, and I took our friend Gianinna to the temple where she was going to hang out for a while. When we pulled up the gate was closed - it's closed until June 9th for maintenance. Glad I found out now instead of on Saturday morning. So then we drove over to the church and Corey had everything all ready and the kids were watching the Lego Movie up on the big screen.
We were going to play it by ear, but Corey was ready to show The Testaments and/or 17 Miracles if needed. "Two movies? How long is this activity supposed to be?" I asked. He shrugged. Yes, we don't know what's the norm or what to expect, so best to be prepared. I went into the kitchen and set things up. By 5:00 we were ready to go, just need to make all the food and have people to feed it to. Will there be 5 or 50+? We shall soon know.

I made two batches of the pancake recipe, to see how many it made and how long it took, then I let the kids have their dinner early and get their hungry tummies out of the way. There was a good rainstorm going on outside, a real downpour. Corey thought that diminished the chances of a good turnout. At this point I was thinking that we were prepared and ready to serve up a good activity, but I didn't think people would come. At 6:00 I started making pancakes and putting them in an aluminum pan with another pan on top to keep them warm, thought I'd start stocking up - I figured if 10 people come, they'll all get plenty and I'll let my kids have at it too, then we'll clean up and go home. If more people show up, this should hold things down for a bit while I make more, but that's not going to happen....

Around 6:45 the Elders came. They stopped by the kitchen and asked if I needed any help. Nope, we're all set. Thought I guess we'll see how it goes in a bit and if we need more pancakes then. I had a big pan of big pancakes ready, and then had a big pan of small pancakes.

Around 7:00, people started to come, and most of the first 20 were people I recognized from church, so they are members... I thought this was an activity for new members and investigators? Atleast that's what the bishop had said, I think, but then again most things I think here are wrapped up in a dark cloud of miscommunication... I peek out from the kitchen again... more people coming. Corey keeps sending the kids to help me, and I just send them out to count people. Except I kept Mel to mix the batter. My stress levels took a sharp spike upward but making the food with urgency gave me a productive outlet. I break out one of the Krusteaz boxes and make a from scratch mix and combine them, let's get the frying pans going. And then I stood in the kitchen for the next hour making more pancakes. 
The Testaments was playing, Corey came in to check on me and I asked again how it looked out there, crowd-wise. He was laughing, and said "I guess they like pancakes!" meaning "There are a lot of people!" So I told him to get it started. It was 7:30 and they turned off the movie, Corey welcomed everyone, then there was a prayer, and then a short presentation. Corey gave a little bit of the cultural history of the pancake. "American like pancakes cause they're easy, fast, and you can feed a lot of people..." Then he shared a few tid bits on the annual pancake breakfast many US communities host on the 4th of July ~ he projected these pictures up on the stage screen.
(from 2013 above, 2012 below, and showed a few from 2014)
He then asked "Has anyone every had pancakes before?" and a few timid hands go up. Everyone was invited to dig in, and the food consuming began. We had two pans of pancakes, one full of big portions the other one small. We had toppings of maple syrup, whipped cream, bananas, nutella, and then strawberry, raspberry, and peach jellies. Melodie played the "Suite for Flute" up on the stage while everyone lined up for a real gourmet American treat.

When I started making pancakes after it started, I was only making small ones, trying to stretch the batter and ingredients I had, knowing each one would likely be used, so better to make small portions.
Before Mel was summoned to play the flute, she helped me. I had enough to make lots of pancakes, but knew that we only had 50 plates. When people came in for more plates, I gave them some our Ikea ones to use. Mostly I think people used napkins after that though. Kind people kept coming over to the kitchen and asking if I needed help, but I only had two pans and one spatula, so I usually didn't. After the batter was gone, I did say I could use help mixing up more batter while I finished cooking the last batch. We used one more single box of a different brand that I got at Sam's Club. "Gourmet Pancakes". After pouring out the mix I saw little bugs in it. I picked out a few, but a lady was there helping me and I don't know if she didn't see them or hear me say it had bugs or if it doesn't matter cause she mixed it all up and then I poured the pancakes, trying to spot them cause I know there were some still there. So the little black bugs got cooked up just the same and I was praying no one would see them and decide that the church sucks. The bugs were in the 3rd to last batch, so anyone reading this, if you didn't come back for 2nd and 3rd helpings, you were probably spared.
The quick boxes of mix were gone, so I made two more from scratch with the mental resolve that after this, we're done. Edna, my visiting teacher, came in and didn't ask to help, she said "I'm going to help you" and just started doing stuff. I liked that better, cause I don't know what to say when people ask what they can do. Even here at home, sweet Gianinna always comes up and asks what she can do to help, and I usually say nothing. I'm getting better at telling my kids what to do, but I bet if they asked "what" they could do, I'd just stare at them with a confused look, wondering "well you can see the mess around you, right?"
So anyway, yeah, it was a whirlwind of cooking up small pancakes for 90 minutes there. People ate and visited and ate, Hyrum would come in to say the pancakes are gone and there is a line again...
Little kids danced on the stage, Corey had "Spaceman" and the Super Crescent band playing on the Bose, it was a party. And all those people fed by me and my little magic spatula - Corey kept saying that. I did feel a bit like SpongeBob, putting on a one man show. I was glad to just be able to hide in the kitchen though.
People came in to get the cakes off the grill, cause they usually were all gone by the time the pan reached the table in the cultural hall. And people started to come into the kitchen to "para bens" me on such delicious food and give me hugs and take pictures of me (an actual US citizen here in Brazil!) cooking this delicacy, asking what are the ingredients ("Yeah, I got that syrup at the Dom Pedro mall at Walmart, close to the jelly and honey on the top shelf"), how to do it, saying they want to see what I do so they can make their own American Pancakes with a "I'm making these tomorrow!" Earlier that day a bit of inspiration hit after I looked up the recipe and I with help from google translate wrote it out in Portuguese and emailed it to Corey to print. Those 20 recipes were snatched up fast, but the RS President got one and promised sisters that she'd make some copies and bring them on Sunday.

The toddlers danced on the stage for a group of adoring fans.
So, that was our American Pancake Night activity. Earlier that morning, when I was told 57 people were coming, I was worried there would be a big turnout and that what I thought was a small get together was actually a huge event that we had to put on... so that part of my nightmare came true, but  it wasn't such a scary nightmare cause we were pretty prepared and had enough pancakes and I think everyone enjoyed themselves, so it was a success after all, and we did it! Corey and his computer, Mel and her flute, and me and my magic spatula. Near the end, the RS sisters came to clean up the kitchen, and I wandered about for a bit and put my feet up. There were lots of faces I didn't recognize, which might be cause I just don't recognize many people yet, but the missionaries said that they invited a lot of people and there were lots of people who came who are not members. So that was the main point of it anyway, so a success in that way too. Go trabalho missional, hope we were able to help build the Kingdom of God in some way through our little efforts last night. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

American Pancake Night Prep

Tonight we were asked to put on an American Pancake Night activity for the new members of the ward. 

I'm a little unnecessarily stressed out about it, but trying to calm my nerves. I did find maple syrup and pancake mix at Sam's Club on Monday. We didn't think they have it here, since once time when Corey was coming down here for a business trip, someone asked him to bring maple syrup. So we just assumed it wasn't here, but they do have it at Sam's, probably for all the American's that shop there. But the syrup and pancake mix both cost way more than they do in the US since they are imported things that aren't in high demand from the locals. 

So... our last activity was well advertised and planned, but we only had 6 people come (end of this post), since I'm not counting the people that put it on, which was us (4 people) and the missionaries (4 more). So this time Corey said their eyes lit up when he said what the activity was. We asked a girl to get a count for us, and the count is: 57. And this is pancakes we have to prepare this time, vs. the easy popcorn from last time. Pancakes, with their unfortunately costly ingredients and toppings, plus we'll need to get plates and forks and try to figure out how to cook for 57 people with our one frying pan... don't have a skillet or know anyone here who has one. We're probably a little late searching for help with that. Maybe I'll buy more frying pans. Anyway, I'm a little frazzled there we might have a huge and hungry crowd turn out, but also wondering if it won't be well attended. We'll see. As for now, I'm making another run to Sam's for maple syrup and pancake mix. 

I might be frazzled cause I'm not quite feeling myself. Getting tired, I guess I'm getting old. Maybe cause I'm in the long and dreary last trimester. I haven't been sleeping well. I keep waking up to turn over cause my arms go numb - too much blood in my body, it's cutting off my nerves. Plus last night I was dreaming about making pancakes. I'm glad the morning started off great, prettiest sunrise yet. (Cue picture overload)

I'll just keep looking at these pictures and know the world is big and beautiful and there are opportunities to help and there are are real problems out there, and making pancakes for friends isn't one of them. Ok, time to get to work, off to the store.

(Later) ~ Well, I was going to go to Sams and then Walmart, but I decided to go to Walmart first, and guess what I found! Maple syrup! So I was hoping it could save me a trip to Sams and those bottles of syrup only cost $20 reais for a small bottle vs. the $45 reais for a small bottle at Sams, which is better! Still ridulous, but better. Next item - is there pancake batter? No, they had some "panqueca" stuff but it looked like crepes. Maybe we can make them from scratch... if I can find baking soda or baking powder. That one was a gamble, cause I didn't know what "baking powder" in Portuguese was, but there was some stuff called "fermento en po" which was by the yeast, so I took a my chances and luckily it was right! So now I make pancakes from scratch, which will be cheaper than the boxed pancake mix, I experimented with the batter for lunch and the kids all think it's great. That was an "experiment" cause even though I had a recipe, I don't have measuring cups or spoons, so I had to translate "1 tsp" and "3 Tbsp" into "half a spoonful" and "3 heaping spoonfuls" and stuff like that. But it turned out good, so we might survive, I think we're ready to go. The thing I was most offended by during this trip to the store was the plastic plates. I already knew they were totally flimsy, but I didn't know they cost over $2 bucks ($6.95 reais) for a measly 10 lousy plates... I almost couldn't bear to buy those, it was such a horrible price for a horrible product. The plastic plates and cups here are the worst, they crumble in your hand as you go to pick them up. It's okay though, it's okay. Ok, I'm done venting about that, now I should be good for the evening.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Hate Fingernail Polish

So, I bought fingernail polish a few weeks ago in an effort to give the kids a resource here to be creative with. Well, the inevitable happened and now all the polish is put up high and away where even I can't reach it in the tip top of the closet, and I don't want to see them again while we're here.

I always have good intentions when I buy polish, paints, or markers. But it's just a matter of time before I'm cursing them. It usually beings with someone who is too young (currently Abi) asking if she can paint her nails over and over again, followed by me finally giving in to her nagging (teaching her a good lesson there) and giving her strict instructions to keep the polish hidden from her little sisters as if her life depended on it. And this is always followed by the inevitable event of an even smaller sibling finding the polish or markers or whatever and making a mess. A past experience I should have learned by: Permanent Marker drawings on the carpet by Lily after Mel left them out. This photo posted on a friend's facebook yesterday might also have been an omen for me...
Today, the kids were bored. We broke out our list we made a few weeks ago of things to do when they're bored. Wesley decided to do a store. They started making mail boxes and money, Abi wanted to have a paint rocks store. NO. I don't want the paints out all day. You can paint some and then sell them, but we're not having them out all the time. I give her permission to take the polish.

The kids do their thing and entertain themselves pretty well. I make lunch. After cleaning it up, I go into my bedroom where I find the one year old on my bed, which now wish I hadn't made this morning, cause that might have spared the new nice blanket if it was in a pile on Corey's side of the bed. But no, the blanket was nicely laid and spread out over the whole bed, making sure there was lots of surface area out in the open and vulnerable. If I hadn't made the bed, maybe it would have just gotten the sheets, which I totally wouldn't have minded. They are old sheets that I'm willing to leave behind if needed when we pack for home. Anyway, the bed was made, the polish was left on the bed, Natalie got on the bed and proceeded to paint her toes, painting her hands, legs, pants, a toy horse, and our blanket in the process.
"ABI!!! I'm mad at you!!!" I yelled. The kids could all hear the "Mom's ticked" tone in my voice and all rushed in to my room to see what had transpired. Uh oh. Abi said she had put it away. Natalie couldn't have reached it if she had, Lily said she hadn't gotten it down. So we'll never know who bears full responsibility, but I guess I should. I should have known better than to buy fingernail polish in the first place. I should have known better than to let little girls use it. Sigh.

So I pull off the blanket and drag it over to our bathroom sink and do my best to squeeze and rinse out any polish. I get my hands and wrists all red in the process. Most of it has washed off my hands now from their several washings during the day.
Natalie has red polish on her legs, which blends nicely with the blue sparkly polish she has on there and her face from the mess she made with Abi yesterday. Oh my lovely little toddler.
I bought this blanket recently at Sam's Club, cause it's starting to get chilly here and Corey needs to stay warm. I brought as many blankets as I could in our 18 pieces of checked baggage, knowing it would get cold near the end of our trip. But I had to bring pillows and sheets and kitchen utensils and plates and everything else for our family at that time cause this house is not furnished (our friends supplied us with mattresses though, very grateful) but no big blankets made it, just fleece ones. Corey has a bit of a "weak constitution" - he lacks the ability to fight off cold weather without falling ill. He often catches a cold if he goes out in the winter air without a hat on.

Anyway, so I saw nice and decently priced blankets at Sam's Club, cause they retailers are breaking out the winter season stuff, I bought one that I thought was pretty, with visions of taking it home with us as a physical reminder of this time in Brazil. And as I tried to clean out the red fingernail polish, the angel on my shoulder who was trying to help me calm down told me it can still be a reminder of our trip. And now it comes with a bonus reminder of when Abi and Natalie were little kids and made messes with fingernail polish. I had thought we'd use it in our bedroom, but it's a queen, probably won't fit anyway. It is still perfectly useful though and will keep kids warm as they watch movies on date night and can be draped over the couch or something. Just fold it with the red blotches folded inside the blanket or tucked under.

There's a crack in everything anyway (or fingernail polish on it...)

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Guest from Chile

On Saturday, Corey went to Sao Paulo to pick up his friend Gianinna who came to visit us from Curico Chile. They were chatting on facebook a few weeks back and she asked when we were coming to Chile to visit. Corey said we were headed to Brazil and she should come visit us! So he helped arrange it and now she's here. Last time they saw each other was in 1997 before Corey came home from his mission. His family went down to pick him up and they visited families he taught on his mission. Gianinna is the little girl who is kinda hidden behind her brother.
So that was about 20 years ago.
The kids love her and they are all trying their best to communicate. She helped Abi give her talk in Primary at church yesterday. They went on a walk over to the park and saw the capybara's sun bathing. They are such silly little hippos.
I like the park across the street, so grateful we're able to live here close to it.
We came home and watched "The Testaments" in Spanish, and it was so nice to listen to and understand a foreign language. Not that I don't like Portuguese, but it's just a lot of mental work. Spanish though, that was nice and relaxing. So we watched the Testaments in Spanish and then 17 Miracles in English with Spanish subtitles. They are great stories to learn from.
The kids took their movie watching up a notch by making themselves a nice recliner chair with the couch cushions. I thought it was cute. 
I love 17 Miracles. Makes me cry every time. So grateful for the examples of the LDS Pioneers. My favorite miracle was the apple pie (at the very end of this post). Here's another great news article about the film. 
“I will never get over being thankful to them; I hope you never get over being thankful to them. I hope that we will always remember them. … Let us read again and again, and read to our children or our children’s children, the accounts of those who suffered so much” 

- President Gordon B. Hinckley (Church News, 31 July 1999, 5).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Just Another Saturday

Another lovely Saturday in Brazil. I went to the temple this morning, 
Took too many pictures of flowers afterwards (I'm turning into my father). 
Came home to find the Elves had stopped by for a visit.
Wesley's been looking up Lord of the Ring elf crowns and making them. I think he does a great job! He's made lots to share with his sisters.
Using the metal and pointy bbq skewers from the back yard as swords. Sounds safe.
Later that afternoon, a kid took my camera and took some pictures. The selfie photo revealed the guilty party.
Her Zebra family, with their friend the chihuahua, which Lily named "AnyColorRainbow"
 Always fun to see how the world looks from a few feet down.

And today I used the bug rackets for the first time. I've killed 3 mosquitos! Sooo satisfying!!
I zapped this one then called the kids to triumphantly show off my kill. 
Then Abi took the racket and pushed the button to electrocute it a few more times. It's little corpse gave off like 10 more sparks as it burned up in smoke as she chanted "Die! Die! Die!"
I killed a fly in the kitchen too - way better than waiting for a fly to land somewhere so you can smash it on your call with a fly swatter, no no, that's the old way of killing bugs. Now, I just get out the racket, hit it in mid air, and it falls twitching on the ground. Then sweep it into the trash. I think these rackets are keepers.

Corey is on his way back from the Sao Paulo airport right now. He went there to pick up a girl from Chile who he knew on his mission. He invited her to come and stay with us for a week. Should be fun, but I'm sure speaking Spanish with her is gonna kill any and all progress I've made trying to speak Portuguese!
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