Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas! ¡Feliz Navidad!

To find out what we'll be up to for Christmas, head on over to my wordpress site...hope you have a very ¡Feliz Navidad! and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New Post

Dear readers...don't forget that I've moved! 

Click here to check out my new Wordpress site. I've got a new post titled Waiting for the Blessed Hope with some thoughts regarding some recent current events in the news.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Moving Notice!

Just a quick note to let you know that this blog is moving to can find me at Please, please, please go find me over there! I will not be closing down this site, just posting new content over there...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Nosy Neighbor

For the past few weeks, we've been following the construction on the house next door with interest as it seems we will be getting new neighbors fairly soon. Workers have been finishing the construction of the walls around the patio, installing the windows and painting the inside of the house. The owners (well, we assume they are the owners) come by every few days and one day we saw them unloading plants and flowers for the patio.

What we're kind of puzzled about, however, is how these people plan to pull their vehicles into the lot! I had assumed that there was another garage door around the corner (to the left of the picture), but no, that black garage door in the center of the page is 'it'.

It's not easy to tell from the picture, but the house was constructed on the right end of the lot with the open patio on the left side. Not only is the garage door really quite small, it is also directly in front of the house. As in the house is blocking entrance to the patio! I am thinking that it will be quite a feat for vehicles to pull through there, since they have to angle in to the left to avoid hitting the house. It appears that only the smallest of vehicles would be able to manage that.

I know, I know...I am such a nosy neighbor, but I am kind of interested in seeing how this works out for would be inconvenient for them to have to open up a new garage door, although not impossible. But frankly, nobody with a medium to larger sized vehicle wouldn't be able to pull their car into the patio! It just makes me wonder what they were thinking...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Purple Cow

I never saw a purple cow.
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you anyhow
I'd rather see than be one.
Gelett Burgess

Except in this case, it's a purple pie! That
is certainly something I had never seen before...until now.

Miguel absolutely loves sweet potato pie 
and purple sweet potatoes make for a really colorful pie!

It's a pie that would make even the 
villain that he is! Resident artist Micah 
did me the honor of drawing a picture.

Miguel liked it so much that now there are more 
sweet potatoes waiting to be made into
peculiar purple pies. Sweet potato
season is almost over, so he wants to
enjoy them while he can.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

It seems like just a few short weeks ago that we celebrated Thanksgiving 2011 and here we are again just having celebrated Thanksgiving 2012! Reading over my post about Thanksgiving 2011 was a blessing because it reminded me that even without an oven or friends to celebrate with, it is possible to be deeply grateful for God's blessings.

This year, however, I do have an oven and I made good use of it! In fact, I have found myself baking several times a week since we moved here...I am quite happy with my new stove!

But I digress...I wasn't sure exactly how Thanksgiving 2012 would go and we'd been so busy in the weeks before that I hadn't been able to think much about it. So it was a pleasant turn of events to be invited over to our friends' and fellow missionaries' house to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together.  Bill and Debbie are the directors of a Mexican mission agency that partners with Pioneers and some other agencies to help Mexicans connect with missions worldwide.

Their coworker Misa also joined us, which was fun because he is a great favorite with the kids!

So we got together to plan the menu and then got to work...I put together some cornbread dressing, a relish tray, rolls, pumpkin and sweet potato pies and stuffed mushrooms. Gracia made some jello. Debbie baked the turkey, green bean casserole, gravy, and three kinds of bar cookies.

The kids were so excited about Thanksgiving, especially with a real turkey (we don't usually get a turkey when outside the U.S.-it's not that turkeys aren't available in Mexico, they are just kind of expensive!) that they were up early and quite anxious for it to be time to eat...I noticed that Jojo had even gotten dressed in 'church' clothes of his own accord for the special event! It was touching to see how much they were enjoying themselves this year.

I also made a Thanksgiving tree again, although I decided to do a bit of a different model than last year. We scouted out some good twigs to make the 'tree' and used scrapbook paper circles to record our thanks. I hung them on the tree with some fishing line. I grabbed a juice pitcher and wrapped it with some pretty paper and tied some matching ribbons around it. The tree made a nice centerpiece on the table, although we had to remove it once all the food was ready and besides, someone was in danger of getting their eye poked out or something...

There were quite a few 'entries' on the's good to see a physical reminder of everything for which we are thankful. My favorite, however, was this entry by Jojo...well, that one and the mushy one Miguel wrote about being thankful for me...

Jkaile really enjoyed the mashed potatoes and gravy, but was most excited by the dessert table! And what picture wouldn't be complete without the complimentary rabbit ears...

With all that wonderful food, of course we all felt just like Micah did here...ready to crash on the couch for a while to enjoy some American football!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Garfield Cake

Remember that Garfield cake I was planning to make? Well, I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out!

I am not a cake decorator, really, and I don't have much experience...I am also usually frustrated at not being able to match the picture I have in my head of the finished product. But I have to say that this one turned out pretty much how I had expected. I do wish I could have gotten the brown parts a little more even, but oh well.

The cake is a 7-Up pound cake with some lemon juice thrown in for flavor. It's a very heavy cake, but really yummy! The icing is just plain butter frosting, although I added some butter vanilla nut flavoring.  I don't have any piping equipment, so a strong ziploc bag with the corner snipped off did the trick. I put some colored shredded coconut on the top for some added texture. Garfield is sitting on a piece of orange card stock so he wouldn't get frosting on him. The coconut covered it up nicely!

I stamped the paper and then attached the sign to a yellow bendy straw. I stuck the bendy part into the cake so that I could lean it the way I wanted. I did have to stick a toothpick through the bottom seam of the Garfield because he kept leaning forward a bit.

My friend was really happy with her cake and I hope she liked the flavor as well!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What We Have Been Up To

Well, this has been a rather interesting couple of weeks...a week ago Sunday, Miguel was really sick. We knew that he had been exposed to dengue fever on his recent trip to Veracruz, so we feared the worst! He began having all the classic symptoms of dengue, beginning with fever, body aches and a headache located behind his eyes, so we got a bunch of people praying and I began mentally preparing myself to face this disease (some kinds of dengue require hospitalization).

And then on Monday morning he woke up with no fever, no pain and no headache! He was very weak, but nothing like he should have been if the dengue were to have run its course...we don't really know what to think, either he had something entirely different or God chose to heal him! Either way, we're really glad he didn't end up with dengue!

Another reason that was good was that Micah and I were scheduled to help translate for a team of eye-doctors who were in the area on that Monday and Tuesday, so I needed Miguel to take care of the other three kids while we did that...we had fun translating for the team, although we had two pretty long days and we got very tired! I was very proud of Micah, he did a great job at his station.

On Tuesday, Miguel even felt well enough to hang out with us for a few hours...we got the other kids' eyes checked and Miguel had fun playing with the kids outside while they were waiting for their appointments.

Tuesday was also Micah's 12th birthday, which we didn't really celebrate this year...we have always said we wouldn't have a big party for the kids every year and this year it just wasn't fitting into our schedule very well! We did get him a nice Lego set and a huge flan, as well as some other gifts. I love this picture of Micah, I think he was about 2 or 3 days old...he was so cute!

On Wednesday, Miguel felt sick again, this time sick to his stomach and spent most of the day in bed again (rare for him!). I'm beginning to wonder if maybe he isn't developing a lactose intolerance, because he was suspiciously ill after eating that flan the night before! It's possible, since he's been having a lot of stomach issues lately...anyway, he had been invited to share at a Totonacan youth event and was supposed to go on Thursday.  We had been debating whether or not to go as a family or whether Miguel should go at all! In the end, Miguel went alone and I stayed home with the kids.

Miguel had a good time at the youth event, which was sort of like a short camp, so we were glad he did not have to cancel. He shared about evangelism and small groups with the youth and they seemed to enjoy his session. Miguel always connects really well with the youth and simply enjoys hanging out with them, so these are good opportunities for him to use his gifts. He was also able to talk to a couple of the pastors there about areas where there are still no churches among the Totonacan people and that information is valuable for our survey.
Group picture

 Miguel interviewing the two pastors

While Miguel was gone, I was really struggling...I was very tired from not sleeping well and the kids were also cranky and chose to squabble a lot. It was quite discouraging and hard to know what to do to make it better, so I ended up praying a lot! I'm not sure what goes on when Miguel is not here to give me this fear and anxiety at night, but I do know that prayer helps.

Then we ran out of water in our rooftop tank and that was annoying...we had plenty of water in the cistern under the garage floor, but the pump wasn't working and I was having to haul it out in buckets (the plumbers came and fixed it last night, woohoo!). I really hate to complain about the water situation because I am very aware of the fact that many people around the world have to carry water or have very little water in the first place! And it isn't really that I mind hauling water, it's mostly that this house is not set up for carrying water, so it's a real pain to have to work around.

At any rate, all that was unfortunate because by the time Miguel got home on Saturday, I was not in very good shape to give him a warm welcome home! He wanted to rest anyway, though, so he went on up to bed and I worked on a scrapbook album we are making for Miguel's parents...that gave us some time and space to kind of recoup from our respective experiences of the last few days. I also had a lot of laundry to do and of course, the water ran out again in the middle of the busy laundry day and it also left me with a lot of dishes from baking banana bread and pumpkin bread to send with Miguel on his next trip.

Yes, Miguel left again on Sunday! Actually, both he and Micah left to meet up with a team from our home church in Arkansas who are doing a medical brigade in the city of Guadalajara, which is about six hours west of here. The brother of the pastor of our Puebla church is planting a church there, so a team goes from our home church every November to do medical work there in that neighborhood.

Miguel and Micah playing games
with the kids in Guadalajara

And while I am very glad that Miguel and Micah could hang out with them, coming on the heels of Miguel's other trip it's been a bit of a challenge for me. This is a part of our ministry, however, and my contribution often is to stay at home while Miguel travels...and while sometimes I struggle to see that as being a worthwhile contribution, I know that it really is.

After the struggle I had last week, I decided to make it easier for myself and lower my expectations of what I would try to get done or what I felt I 'should' get done this week...I also really prayed about the fear/anxiety issue I was dealing with at night and God has given me a tremendous sense of peace, which has allowed me to sleep much better than I was able to last week! I did have to go out on Monday to pay the phone bill, do some shopping and pay the rent, but it was a good outing with the kids and I even took them out to eat breakfast as a special treat. We've done some school, but not a whole lot and have spent some time just hanging out together having fun.

Miguel and Micah will be home tomorrow and I'm sure they'll need to rest for a couple of days...then I am supposed to make a cake for a friend's birthday on Saturday. She asked me to make her the cake and after I agreed, she stipulated that it have a Garfield on it! I'm not that good at decorating, so I decided to put a Garfield cake topper on it...I couldn't find one however, so a stuffed Garfield will have to do! That might be more fun anyway, since she can have it as a toy afterwards.

On Sunday, our Area Leader is arriving and that will start three days of intense yearly meetings and member care sessions for us. We're looking forward to it, though, and I think it will be beneficial to us and our ministry.

After that, I hope we have a few days to just be still...

Mystery Vegetable

We were at the market the other day when this rather odd vegetable caught my eye...

My sister and brother-in-law tell me it's probably what's known as a 'broccoflower', something I'd never heard of before! The vendors at the stand told us what they call it and we should have written it down because now we can't remember what they said. 

I did some research and it turns out that there are actually two different vegetables referred to as broccoflower...something that actually IS a cross between broccoli and cauliflower and then our mystery vegetable, which is actually Romanesco broccoli. Romanesco broccoli is known for its fractal patterns that look like miniature pine trees. Amazing.

Now that I know what the heck it is, I might be brave enough to buy one if I see it again! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Magdalena and Me

I was able to get the pictures of Magdalena and me. She is a special lady! I wish I could share all of her story here...maybe someday!  I am blessed to have a friend like her!

Practicing my story with Madgalena (I
am rather sunburned from our outing earlier in the day!)

Telling the story in the church service

She is an excellent translator!

In Magdalena's house

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Yikes, almost been a month since I've posted!  I hadn't realized so much time had passed...we've had a busy month with several different activities, including a women's retreat, a quick trip to Mexico City to renew Jkaile's U.S. passport and Jojo's birthday!  I think the highlight of the last few weeks, however, was the trip we made to the towns of Ixtepec and Cuetzalan with the Sexton family.  The Sextons are appointees with Pioneers and were on their vision trip to scout out the different PI teams in Mexico to see where God might be leading them to work in the future.

Town of Ixtepec

And of course, they couldn't really get to know what our ministry is about unless they made a visit to some Totonacan communities in the mountains, which we were happy to show them! We chose to take them to visit Miguel and Magdalena and family in Ixtepec, where we spent two nights before spending the day at the Coffee Festival in the town of Cuetzalan.

We had so many experiences in those three short days, it would be hard to describe it all here in one post, but I will try to highlight the important parts...or at least the parts that I thought were most interesting!

Miguel had visited Ixtepec before, but this was my first time there.  I really hit it off with Magdalena and we ended up talking until late that first night we were there, as we shared our hearts with each other.  The conversation continued the next day as she showed us around town (the guys had all gone to Mr. Miguel's garden). I was honored that she was so open with me about her life experiences and I shared back with her about some of mine.

Magdalena preparing corn tortillas

Miguel and Magdalena with a Proclaimer
(audio Scripture device) has the New Testament
in their Totonacan dialect

The next day, we were invited to eat at another family's house and they served us each a large piece of fried pork with black beans and freshly made corn tortillas...which was humbling because their house is very small, has a dirt floor, and the walls are made out of 'carrizo', which are cornstalks woven together.

The next day, this family also bought us a bunch of cookies for our trip home! We had a great time at their house, Miguel shared some thoughts on Bible storytelling with the family, the kids chased chickens and saw their bunnies and Micah found a meteorite!

After lunch, we visited another family who lived a ways out of town where Jojo had an interesting experience in their outhouse...he had to go while we were there, but the outhouse was even more primitive than usual and just had a hole with nothing to sit on.  Once he figured out how to use it, we realized we had forgotten to bring the toilet paper with us from the van.  After some thought, the kids decided to give him some banana leaves!  Then Jkaile thought it would be fun to wipe with banana leaves as well, but to his great disappointment, he couldn't produce anything that needed wiping! Boys...

I didn't get any pictures during that visit because I was busy practicing the Bible story that I was to present in the Miguel and Magdalena's church that night. The people consider us to be something like pastors, even though we've tried to avoid having that image, so when they heard we were coming, they asked if we would speak at their church (they are without a full-time pastor right now). We agreed, but decided to present the teaching in a Bible story format with Miguel presenting part of it and me the other.

My part was to share the story of the birth and life of John the Baptist and I was having trouble remembering all of it, particularly the parts that contained prophecy about Jesus. I also struggle a bit to remember the stories when I present them in Spanish, which obviously is my second language.  So I was practicing the story when Magdalena informed me that they would be translating it to Totonacan during the service...I didn't know that, so I asked her to help me practice it with a 'live' translation. She did that for me and then she told me that since she liked the story so much, she wanted to translate for me in church that night, even though she wasn't the 'designated' translator!  I was pleased because I had enjoyed working with her and I think we make a great team.

It seemed like the people enjoyed the story that we presented.  We're just beginning to learn more about oral communication principles and how to put them in practice. These concepts are definitely new for the Totonacans.  Traditionally, they are an oral culture, but oral communication principles have not been used much in church settings. We're in the process of exploring how oral communication principles could be used in evangelization and discipleship in the Totonacan context and we're excited about the possibilities because so far, they are responding positively. But that is a whole other topic for another day...

It was hard to say goodbye to Miguel and Magdalena the next day, but we hope to go back to visit soon!  The town of Cuetzalan is not too far from Ixtepec, but the roads were quite twisty and sure enough, some of us were getting a bit carsick! At one point, Jojo threw up quite violently and we had to pull over to get him cleaned up (I even had to wash his hair!). Fortunately, we quickly found a place where someone had built a small tank to hold the water being piped down the hill.  It was there, basically out in the boonies, that we met a man who spoke English because he had lived in New York for many years!  You just never know who you will run into!

We finally got to Cuetzalan, where we planned to enjoy the last day of the Coffee Festival (and yes, I bought some coffee, about 3 pounds of whole beans).  The sights were quite enjoyable as there were many traditional Totonacan dancers there from many different towns participating in the traditional ceremonies and rituals.

 Totonacan 'voladores' (flyers) performing
in front of the Catholic church

Colorful dancers

Religious procession taking saints 
and other images into the church

Lots of Totonacans in traditional dress

Cool shops

We liked Cuetzalan a lot and we felt like we didn't get enough time to really explore as we'd have liked...there are some caves, waterfalls and ruins in the area that we'd like to go see sometime.  Every time we go to the mountains, it seems like it's getting harder and harder to come home...I think we'd like to make one of these mountain communities our home!

The town of Nanacatlán

On the way home, we caught a glimpse of Orizaba at sunset, truly a breathtaking sight!  Orizaba is the highest peak in all of Mexico and is often covered in clouds, so we were thrilled to catch these pictures.

*Other links from this trip...Gracia writes about the animals we saw and Jkaile is impressed by the pig.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I've been thinking a lot about leadership lately as I've reflected on past experiences with leadership and my responses to those time has gone by and we're in a better position now, I think I'm better able to evaluate those experiences and see them more clearly, for good or for bad.

And now that I'm a little more aware of leadership issues, I think I'm seeing leadership crises everywhere!  On top of that, I'm now much more aware of my own leadership style and recognizing that I need to try to understand what it means for my own life so that I can lead in a way that honors God.

The other day I picked up a book that Miguel is reading called Journeys to Significance by Neil Cole.  I wasn't really looking for a book on leadership, but once I thumbed through a few pages, I was rather hooked!  This book isn't like any other book on leadership that I've ever read (not that I've read that many, but let's be honest, most books on the topic of 'leadership' just sound like they will be boring!).

The author writes from the perspective of "Charting a Leadership Course From the Life of Paul" and again, his book is intriguing because he has an angle on the different journeys that Paul made that I'd never considered before. In the author's words, "This book offers strategic missional lessons that can help you be more fruitful; but, even more, it focuses on the leadership formation that Paul went through." The author goes on to outline each of Paul's mission journeys and how each reflects his growing maturity in leadership.

This quote towards the beginning of the book really caught my attention and I've been camping out there for a few weeks now...

"In its basic essence, leadership is not hard to define. In fact, you can literally sum it up in one word: influence. It is not hard to find books about good leadership, but finding someone who leads well is not as easy.

Many have defined leadership as getting other people to do what you want them to. That is influence, so I guess it is a form of leadership, albeit one that is selfish and manipulative. Even when we convince ourselves that we are readily only doing what we know to be for the good of those we are manipulating, it is still an insult at best and deceptive at worst. It tends to treat everyone as a child incapable of making a good decision. It also leaves the people being influenced unprepared to eventually grow on their own and lead others.

The best leaders are not those who have the most followers but those who develop and deploy other leaders. The true test of a leader's influence is to look at what is left behind once the leader is gone. This lesson, however, is not something that one learns in an introductory course on leadership. It comes with the maturity that develops over the course of many struggles, setbacks and seeming failures.  

Perhaps this is why so few leaders today actually empower and release others but rather corral them in ministry contexts with the promise of services and entertaining productions. I wonder if our leaders have not fought through the lessons necessary to their becoming leaders who finish well and, as a result, have ended up simply casting their own vision and peddling their own influence. Instead of new leaders, the product of such influence peddlers is a growing congregation of consumers who beg to know "What have you done for me lately?" Or, as my friend Bob Logan says, "They're all tuned in to the same radio station--W-I-I FM, What's In It For Me?""

I think this quote has really struck deep with me because we're in a situation now where (praise God!) we have a leader who 'leads well' (we are so blessed!). Our experience with this type of leadership has been in stark contrast to our experiences with previous leaders. We really do feel empowered and like we're being encouraged to grow in our own leadership skills.  We don't have to be afraid of disagreeing with our leader for fear that he will be angry or upset or chalk it up to us being rebellious.  We aren't afraid to make decisions and we don't feel like we're being micro-managed. We are not afraid of being labeled as 'not team players' (I agree that there are those who are loners and stubbornly independent, but just because one member of the team has a different opinion than the rest does not mean that that person is wrong or not a team fact, it could mean the opposite, that they are more in tune to God's leading than the rest!).

In fact, every time we have a meeting with our leader, either over skype or in person, at the end he lets us know how much he loves working with us! He tells us how he appreciates us and the way our hearts want to serve God and how open and honest we are with him about our ministry. He prays over us and thanks God for the opportunity that he has been given to work with us, as if the privilege is his to work with us, not ours to work under him.

When I hear him say things like that, I can't help but feel uncomfortable and then cry because I'm not used to receiving that kind of affirmation from a leader (I have to admit that I'm so jaded that at times I even wonder if he's being sincere...does he really mean those things or is he just saying that?!).  Because to tell you the truth, we've been in ministry for quite a few years now and I can honestly tell you that no leader has ever said those kinds of words to us before and that is just really, really sad.  Maybe there was a compliment here and there, but nothing on this level. How sad that we can't naturally just take his words at face value...but I think we're becoming confident enough to accept them. 

I think it has something to do with the basic assumptions of leadership in a mission agency (and I speak about mission agencies, because that's my context).  Many agencies seem to have the philosophy of "How can you help us do what we do?", which tends to reduce members more to the level of 'playing pieces' to be moved about the 'game board' at the convenience of leadership. Thus, once the members are no longer considered as useful in a certain position, they might be vulnerable to pressure by leadership to move into a different ministry even though it might not be where they really want to be (being asked by leadership to consider filling this or that position might even be seen as 'the will of God' when leadership has such power over the members). In short, this style of leadership allows for a dangerous level of dysfunction to arise, IMHO and in my personal experience.

In contrast, there are those agencies who have this view, "Where is God leading you and how can we help you get there?" This implies a certain humility by leadership as they view themselves not so much as leaders, but as helpers who come alongside the members to guide them into the place where God is leading. This dynamic tends to create an environment that actually discourages dysfunction on the part of leadership (not that there might not be dysfunction, but it is much less likely to exist simply because of the leadership structure itself).

So, lots of stuff going on in my head regarding leadership as I reflect on past and current experiences and my own leadership style.  Am I trying to exert the wrong kind of influence (control) over those under my leadership (as in, my kids)? Or am I looking to come alongside them to empower, to raise up and release them to God's leading on their lives?

Good question...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Smallest Volcano in the World

Did you know that the smallest volcano in the world is located in Puebla?  I didn't either!  Now the smallest active volcano in the world is the Taal Volcano in the Phillippines, but it's huge compared to the Cuexcomate Volcano in Puebla.

The Cuexcomate Volcano in Puebla is only 13 meters high (about 43 feet)  and for the price of 10 pesos (80 cents USD) you can actually go down inside it!  We were surprised to find out that it's right in the city...even though it's inactive, apparently some people worry that if the Popocatepetl volcano were to really explode, then Cuexcomate might explode as well, since it's connected to the same system.

Popocatepetl erupting in April of this year.

Last week we had the chance to help take care of some other MKs (Missionary Kids) whose parents came to Puebla to attend a worldview course offered by Worldview Resource Group (I highly recommend it!).  Miguel had already taken the same course online, so when we heard that these families were coming and didn't have childcare, we offered to help out.

We took them to several different places, such as the ruins in Cholula, a fort where the Battle of the Cinco de Mayo was fought, a train museum and to the Cuexcomate Volcano, of course!

Here is the whole group (minus Miguel) in front of the volcano.

Going down!

There wasn't a whole lot to see at the bottom, except for this spring.  They say the water has a bit of sulfur, but it didn't smell bad and we even saw a fish in there! There was also the end of a tunnel, which apparently connects to an entire tunnel system that exists under the city of Puebla.

They say that ancient peoples used to throw live human sacrifices into this was kind of creepy and sad to think about that.  As you can see, it would be impossible to get back out of their without that staircase!

So now you know...the world's smallest volcano is in Puebla!  What a fascinating discovery!

Baked Plantains

Since we came home from Veracruz with quite a few plantains, as you can see from this picture, we needed to eat them rather quickly before they went bad.

Gabriela helped me peel yucca root one day
for some yummy beef stew (plantains pictured
in the background)

Miguel wanted baked plantains with cheese, so we made this recipe twice and everyone really loved it!

First, we peeled the plantains.  Then we split them open, set them in pans lined with tin foil, slathered them with butter and lined them with cheese.  We used manchego cheese because that's what we had, but any kind of cheese would probably work as well. I added some water in the pans to keep the plantains from drying out too much.  This is a recipe that works best with riper plantains.

Alternate recipes would be to cover the plantains with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar or use guayaba paste along with the cheese.

Trip to Veracruz

About three weeks ago, we had the chance to go visit some Totonacan communities in Veracruz.  This particular part of Veracruz is on the western edge of the state very close to the border with Puebla state and small Totonacan communities are located all throughout this area.

As you can see from this picture, this part of Veracruz is at a lower elevation with rolling hills rather than the steep mountains just a bit further to the west. It is a very fertile land and we were amazed at the variety of fruits and vegetables that the ranchos (gardens) here produce. And see all those clouds?  Those were the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto that was moving through that weekend!

Our purpose in this trip was to participate in a children's activity that was to be held in the town of Poza Larga that Saturday.  Miguel shared a story about friendship with the kids involving three butterflies and three flowers.

There were also games and a meal of tamales, horchata (rice/cinnamon drink) and cake.  Our kids were a little shy at first, but then they started making friends and participating in the games. It is always a joy to see our kids making connections with the Totonacan kids!

We stayed with a Totonacan family while we were there, Lorenzo and Juana and their four children.  They fell in love with Gugui and he really had a good time at their house! He loved all the chickens and turkeys wandering around and how they cooked over an open fire!

On our way home, we decided to take some time to visit El Tajín, a place where they have restored some ancient Totonacan ruins.  The neat thing was that Lorenzo and Juana decided to join us, along with their entire family! They live just about 40 minutes away from El Tajín, but they had never visited there before. That made it a really neat experience for us to tour the ruins along with a Totonacan family! We also had our friend Gabriela from Chihuahua along (pictured just to my right).  Here we are as a group getting ready to watch the voladores (literally 'flyers') do a Totonacan ritual where they tie themselves to the top of a tall pole and slowly circle down to the ground as the ropes unwind.

El Tajín was really an impressive place!  Even knowing that most of the ruins have been restored doesn't take away from its impressiveness and it made me wonder what it looked like during the time it was built.

Then it rained for a while and we all got soaked!

Micah with his friend Josué.  Josué is the son of one of the pastors where we visited and he and Micah really hit it off!  We actually brought him home with us after this and he spent a week visiting us in Apizaco.

And then, of course, we had to play around with the camera angles...but since it was our first time to try this, they didn't turn out as good as we wanted!  Still lots of fun, though!

Here is nice picture of Miguel and I (pre-rainfall)...Miguel bought that shirt in the market in front of El Tajín, it's Veracruz-style (which happens to be very similar to Venezuelan-style!)...I love the way he looks in his new shirt and cowboy hat!

We brought a couple of extra family members home with us, since Jojo decided to ask a friend there in Veracruz for some chickens!  We brought them home in a box and they only escaped once on the way home (unfortunately depositing some undesirables in the van) and now they have their own cage out in the garage.  They spent a couple of weeks in the dog's kennel, though, until we got them a cage.  The kids are already counting the chicks they think this pair will give them!

Here is a picture of all the things our friends gave us, including some things not pictured, such as plantains, vanilla, and pepper pods. Pictured below are oranges, yucca root, squash, bananas, squash seeds, avocados and sweet potatoes.

We can't wait to go back!