About The Country Wife Blog

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mission: Christmas Gathering

Christmas Gathering day arrived clear and beautiful.  Well, not really, but it was not raining.  We arrived at the office just after 7:30.  Elder and Sister B had just come to pick up the mission truck to go get the trailer and bring it back to load all the packages.  I still wanted to make lists of which missionaries were in each zone so we could make one final check at the meetinghouse where the Gathering was being held.  One set of young elders came to the office to help load the trailer.  The large rolling carts were rolled down to the elevator, then out to the sidewalk.  By the time the trailer arrived the carts were ready to unload.  Two missionaries were in the trailer and four were on the sidewalk  in a sort of bucket brigade.  In less than an hour the whole job was done, the tailgate was locked and the trailer headed south to the stake center where the Gathering was to be held.
Dear One opening the trailer of packages

Because the missionaries on the sidewalk were so smart, they loaded one of the rolling carts into the trailer as well as three hand-carts, all with the idea of making the unloading go as well as the loading-up had been.

Each zone had its own room.  Sister J had made zone signs for the rooms.  I had made the check-off list for senior missionaries to use to be sure each missionary received his or her package and taped them to the outside of the doors.  It worked like a charm!   With every package labeled as to zone, as well as by name, nearly every package got to the right place.  On a final walk-through the zone rooms, three packages were found in the wrong zone and removed to the correct zone (those lists I had made were useful...the seniors counted the packages, found three extra in one room, and moved them to the right room), and one box that Dear One had seen in the trailer and which seemed to be lost for about half an hour, was found, and put in the right room

Every missionary received one package, plus the gifts in the bags the senior missionaries had put together, plus a shiny stone for each of us to think of one non-Christ-like behavior we have that we will work on getting rid of from our lives, with the idea that when we are done with our "pretty" we will also dispose of the shiny stone.  Which of my many flaws will I work on?!  Hard to choose....

the hot chocolate bar table
Fun Cat and Christmas Lights
Nifty Christmas suit

Cookie decorating
We had a great day at the Gathering.  Lots of good food,  enjoyable missionary entertainment, including carols and bells, plus gifts for everyone.  It was incredible to see the love these missionaries have for each other.  Brought tears to my eyes as I watched them greet each other, hug, slap each other's back, talk a mile a minute.  So lovely.  I think if they just had a room with tables and chairs to sit at they would have had just a good a time without even any food or cocoa or gifts.  Truly.  A wonderful Christmas time together.

Then they left and went back to work.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mission: Christmas Mail!

Today was quite a day with the Christmas mail. After lunch everyone in the office was kind enough to help me with organizing the Christmas packages.  There is a huge unoccupied space next door to the Christmas room.  We just opened the door from the Christmas room and started working. (I had called the real estate management office to ask permission to use the space for a few hours but they were closed for an office function.  I made the determination that we would ask forgiveness afterwards if necessary...) 

The lovely thing about that open area is that they had some huge rolling containers-- three-shelf units that we were able to organize and store the packages on.  I’d already put stickers on each of the packages indicating the zone where the missionaries are laboring so we knew which zone the missionaries were in and where we needed to put the packages.   It really took maybe 30 minutes with everyone working like a dog to move the packages from the Christmas room where the packages were all in disarray into an organized storage.  In my own defense, I had been organizing the best I could as I went along over the past month, and actually yesterday when I knew which zones the missionaries had transferred to, I put zone stickers on all the packages, then began moving the boxes into piles along the walls sort of by size. This did make today’s project easier.  

The nice thing about it was that after we put all the packages on the rolling shelves we were able to verify who had received packages in each zone and who had not. (The idea is that at our mission-wide Christmas gathering each missionary will receive one package. 

Carts for three zones.  We have nine zones in the mission so there are six more carts.
As it happens many of the missionaries have more than mom and dad sending them packages so there are quite a few packages left over.) We then took the rest of the packages into our office and stacked them by zones in the office. Dear One and I then moved the rolling shelves into the Christmas room leaving tiny aisles between them so we can add the remaining gifts as they come in over the next week.

We are now trying to figure out how to get the other packages, the "extras",  which are Christmas packages mostly, to the missionaries so that they’ll get to open them on Christmas.  We have not quite figured that out yet but the assistants to the president are thinking about it overnight so by tomorrow we may have a plan. Hopefully over the next three or four days we will get these “extra” packages out to the missionaries.
Three of the "extras" piles in the office.  Yes, we can still move around in the office but you can see that we will be glad to move to boxes on to the missionaries!

After finishing the packages project, there was a box of mail that we’ve received over the last three or four days that have been put on the back burner.  They all needed to be prepared for mail forwarding. This entails creating mailing labels (which is a snap in the new correspondence system, but a little time consuming with 140 letters!), affixing the labels to the letters, using a black grease pencil to mark out all the extraneous markings on the envelopes so the post office can forward the mail, and then getting the mail into the mailbox.  Dear One was anxious to go home but I wanted to get this job finished today SO he helped me yet again with one of my projects!  He is so good to me.  It took us both working an hour and a half to get this done!  We then got ourselves together, took our satchels, shut off the light, locked the door, and got to the elevator before I realized we had forgotten the box of mail on the counter!!  Can you believe it?!  

I gave him my satchel to take to the car then went back to the office to pick up the box of mail. Well, that shows you how tired we both were.  Everyone else had left the office ages before.  Even Elder and Sister J who usually stay after we do, (well, they come in after we do, too...) had left the office almost an hour before we did.  Now it is done.  Such a good feeling.  And the letters are in the outgoing mailbox outside so they will be picked up at 11 tomorrow morning and be on their way.  Yay!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Munchie Monday: Quick and Easy Black Bean Chili (3 ingredients!)

This is the easiest chili ever!  Really.

In the Instant Pot I placed 3 cups of dried black beans and covered with lots of water then let them soak overnight. In the morning I drained and rinsed them then put them back in the Instant Pot on high heat for 30 minutes to cook.

Picante Sauce from Costco
When I was ready to make the chili I took 6 cups of the cooked black beans (about 3-4 cans of black beans if you buy them from the store) and put them back in the now-empty Instant Pot.

Next I put a whole bottle of Pace Picante Sauce in the Instant Pot and mixed well.

Finally I put in a whole package of Boca Burger Crumbles and stirred again.

Turning the Instant Pot onto the Saute function, I stirred often until it was as hot as I like then I served it and we ate it up.  It was really good.

There was enough that we could share, plus we have a container in the freezer. I would say it makes about three quarts of chili.

Even that which we shared was enjoyed.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mission: Three Days of Other People's Food!

This is been a busy week in the mission.  In fact it’s been  a perfect storm at least in terms of food (if "perfect storm" means three days not having to make meals at home!).  

On Tuesday we went to the mission home to help prepare the departing dinner: baked potatoes, a big green salad, condiments, soups, and desserts. Sister J and I  brought desserts.  She brought a fabulous pumpkin roll with a cream cheese filling like Debbie makes at home in Vermont.  So good!  We brought the Apple Cranberry Walnut Bundt Cake I mentioned earlier this week. So—on Tuesday I did not need to make supper for us at our apartment.

On Wednesday night was transfers. We always have sandwiches made by the Beaverton Sub Station which are really good sandwiches.  These sandwiches are for the arriving missionaries and all those helping them get oriented to the mission with things like interviews with the president, interviews with the nurse, picking up bedding, getting insurance cards, passports, and drivers' licenses copied, and the actual transfers of current missionaries.  We really enjoy these sandwiches.  They’re such good sandwiches that you can save half your sandwich for breakfast the next day, which I did.  I had a Reuben. I love Reuben sandwiches.  Sauerkraut is one of my favorite foods!

Finally on Thursday one of the businesses our office patronizes (actually it is a body shop which you wouldn’t think we would need to patronize but on the other hand with about 60 cars in the mission and a lot of different drivers, we do have little bumps in the road so this company helps us take care of the cars.) It was very kind of them to bring us lunch.  Not only lunch but they brought a fabulous basket of food treats! The container/basket is really kind of a little cool suitcase-like thing.  I didn’t take a picture of it today but I think I will tomorrow.  It is very cool.  Sister J knows that I LOVE containers of many kinds and said when it is empty I can take it home!  Isn’t that the best!!

So it has been a week when I have had to do very little food preparation at the apartment.  That was good since it gave me a little time to get some of the fix-up/clean-up issues addressed.  Dear One is always happier when there are empty surfaces. I am, too, for that matter, but don’t always have the energy to carry through to the end on cleaning up afterwards.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mission Departing Dinner: Apple Walnut Cranberry Bundt Cake

Last week we made this and brought it to the office.  The consensus was that it was a good cake, so we made it for the Departing Dinner (the meal the departing missionaries have at the mission home before flying out the next day).  I made it with a few changes.  No time to chat (today is Transfers) so here it is:

Apple Walnut Cranberry Bundt Cake

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded Granny Smith apples
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
confectioner’s sugar
You can cut at the indentations or you can cut there plus in the middle on the large sized pieces...depending on your own bundt pan
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil and vanilla. Add apples and sugar; beat for 1 minute. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and baking powder.  Mix the dried cranberries and walnuts into the flour mixture and stir well.  Add the flour/nut/cranberry mix to the apple/sugar/egg/oil mixture until blended. Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sift confectioner’s sugar on top of the warm cake.

BE SURE TO LET THE CAKE SIT IN PAN TEN MINUTES AFTER REMOVING FROM OVEN!!!  Otherwise you may have a terrible disappointment.