Things I Won’t Miss.

July 25, 2013

Winter 002Brrrr. I said, “It’s cold in here…”

I know. I complain about the Paraguayan heat all.the.time. It really is as intense as I talk it up to be and the sweating is indeed out of control.

But once in awhile, on rare occasion, a cold snap will sneak in overnight and wreak havoc on our normally sweaty souls. Because houses are built for torrid summers, there is very little insulation to keep the chill at bay. Floor tiles give the sensation of walking barefoot on a frozen pond and the gaping cracks around windows invite in gusts of bone-crushing temperatures. It is often colder inside than out, and as my friend puts it so eloquently, “Imagine spending October, in New Hampshire, in your unheated garage.”

Generally, hiding in bed while layered in my entire wardrobe and with my face dangerously close to a small, life-saving space heater is my survival stance. It mostly works but hibernation does complicate the necessity of bathing.

When I walked into my bathroom yesterday morning, it was 26 degrees inside. Fahrenheit. I rapidly jumped ship and abandoned all notions of showering or tooth brushing. Washing my face with liquid glacier was just not an option. I was going to have to suck it up at some point, but there was nothing a double layer of deodorant was not going to temporarily solve.

But after a full day of dread and goose flesh, prolonging the inevitable was no longer possible. And by the beard of Zeus, never has cleansing been such a harrowing process.

Standing in the bathroom fully clothed is enough to strike fear in the heart of an Eskimo, so doffing the duds is quite the otherworldly experience. With an open layout and no shower curtain, your body is further subjected to the fury of nature’s forces. Even worse is that the trickle that ekes out of the widow maker and covers only the crown of your head prevents a rapid rinse off and run. It takes Sandlot FOR-E-VER to complete a full shower.

On top of this agonizing operation is the constant oscillation between lukewarm water and ice cubes. Every thirty seconds or so, I have to hop out of harm’s way (although standing wet in the frigid cold isn’t exactly a safety zone either) as the water temperature lowers severely. The knob must be deftly handled with painstaking precision to guide the water back to human acceptability, and soap lathering resumes until the next episode of temperature cruelty strikes.

I will not miss this.

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Two weeks ago, the inside of the Mi Esperanza’s new building was still rubble and very much under construction. The collective effort of short-term teams from the States and many hours of labor invested by Paraguayan church members resulted in a smooth-looking product in record timing for our initiatory Sunday.

While the building was [is] still missing windows, doors, and various other structural essentials, we praised the Lord’s provision as a congregation. Not even the cold snap and freezing temperatures (seriously, I think all of my limbs went into hypothermic shock) could put a damper on the celebration of Mi Esperanza’s latest series of answered prayers.

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Writer’s block has been holding this blog entry hostage for the better part of the week. Should I slant about how all the kids have insane spring fever (even though it’s winter) right now and are crushing on anything that breathes? Or that I caused a student to break out in hives as a result of this week’s workshop dish? Or that new students appeared because I randomly met one kid at the park on Saturday, who then showed up at church on Sunday, saw a Lo’s Kitchen announcement in the church bulletin, and proceeded to bring his brother as well?

Or I guess I could mention all of them.

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Poached Pear-ables.

May 10, 2013

Poached Pears 012Juicy couture. Or something.

I took a cooking class in Valparaiso, Chile, where we poached pears in red wine and spices that hugged me all cozy-like just as mulled wine in the winter does. Although I had heard about poaching fruit, I had never actually tried it before myself. It was a true revelation; classy and delicious.

Since alcohol isn’t always an appropriate option here, I thought I’d give pear poaching a second go with something a bit more innocuous. Like apple juice. I mean, even babies drink apple juice. Glug glug.

Anyway. The finished product emerged like a dream, and as an added bonus, my house filled with wondrous smells of Christmastime and snowfall. Which is obviously totally appropriate in May (bring on the cold weather already, Paraguay!).

Apple cinnamon poached pears are a great option for a no-fuss but fancy-looking dessert. Stash this one away for your December dinner parties.

Or Friday morning mission meetings.

Apple Cinnamon Poached Pears
Inspired by marthastewart.com
Serves 8

8 ripe but firm pears, peeled
4 cups of apple juice (I used a Frugos brand that tends to be thicker in consistency)
1-2 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar
5 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Slightly slice the pears on the bottom so they will stand nicely on your serving platter afterwards.

Combine the apple juice, water, sugar, and spices in a large pot. Add the peeled pears and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pears are soft to the piercing but not disintegrating (tip: poke from the bottom so you don’t mar the surface of your fruit). Remove from heat.

Pour half of the liquid into a small saucepan without the whole spices, and simmer until the sauce reduces down into a deliciously thickened glaze. Leave the pears in the remainder of the liquid to continue absorbing the spicy flavors.

When ready to serve, remove the pears onto a plate, drizzle with glaze, and accompany with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Serve warm or cold.

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