Monday, June 25, 2012

My Trip to Moldova & Romania Part 2

As I said before in my last post, My Trip to Moldova & Romania Part 1, I will highlight some some of the adventures we had in Romania.  *Warning again! This post is pretty long with lots and lots of pictures to follow!

Our second leg of the trip started out in Bucharest, Romania.  First we went to the market and museum.  Here, I bought some neat hand made souvenirs.  The man in the picture below carved the bowl from one chunk of wood.  Pretty neat, huh?!




While we were in Bucharest, we stayed at a mission house called Project Ruth that my father-in-law is doing some work with.  The mission house sits in the middle of a gypsy community where they provide education and life skills classes.  Before we left, they took us on a tour of their school and classes.  As a teacher, it was interesting to see how the classrooms looked.

Here is a picture of a class for women to learn how to sew.

Then we moved on to the classrooms at the school.  This is a kindergarten class.  Sooooo cute!!!

This is a 5th grade class where they were learning math when we walked in.  Then they sang "Jesus Loves Me" in English and Romanian for us.  Here is the English version... I'm not gonna lie, I teared up a little when they sang this. ;)
video

Then the ADVENTURES began. 

Next we traveled to a nearby town of Sinaia, Romania by train... Train! No big deal, right? Think again my friend...Think again.  When we arrived to the train station we bought our tickets at the front booth, thanks to a friend who helped with interpreting.  Once we had our tickets in hand, the lady told us that our train was leaving in 5 MINUTES! (We thought we were buying tickets for a slightly later train).  So we started husslin' with our luggage in hand!  Then, we get to the train but don't know which car to get on to find our assigned seat.  So, we stop and look at our tickets... aaaaannnnnnd that's when the train starts MOVING!!!!  Let me just be clear here, we are NOT on that MOVING train at this point! No whistle was blown. No conductor shouted out "all aboard!"  It just started moving.  So as you can imagine, we started moving our little booties along with it in a panic and chucking our luggage on and then jumping on ourselves.  It felt like I was in a old western movie. I remember saying afterwards, did that really just happen?  Definitely Facebook post worthy! LOL! :)

Anyways, thankfully we all made it with pounding hearts inside!  Do I look tired? Cause I am. :)

So now we are in Sinaia, Romania.  It has always been a dream of my father-in-law's to hike the mountains in Sinaia.  There is a huge cross at the summit of one particular mountain which they call, Caramon.  So naturally that is what we went to do... Next adventure begins... We woke up early, go outside and the weather is BEAUTIFUL! Not a cloud in the sky.  Now, before I move on, you have to know that this mountain is really steep so you can't just go hike up from the bottom (well, unless you want to go rock climbing and risk your life but I'm not into that).  Instead, you take a gondola up part of the way before hiking to it.  So that's what we set out to do.  However, the gondola is closed the particular day we want to ride it.  Whom whooommm!  Disappointed, we thought, "Oh well, we will just go later."  So, then we try again for the second time... We get to the gondola ride and as we are going up, we ask the gondola worker how long it will take us to hike over to the cross... His answer- 5 hours!!!  Remember how I said you have to take the gondola UP?  Well, you also have to eventually take it DOWN too.  Since it was already about 2:30 and the last one going down was at 3:45 that was out. of. the. picture!  Looking back, it really was a God thing that we asked because we could have been stuck overnight up there.  And let me tell you, it is C.O.L.D. up there!  Whew!  Anyways, once we got off the gondola ride towards the top, we decided to just look around and hang out at the restaurant they have up there (mainly for skiers during the winter).  The only thing, though, was it was in the clouds so you couldn't really see anything.  (Another reason why it was a good thing that we didn't start hiking).

On our way up the mountain on the gondola ride...

Here's our "view" when we got off the gondola looking out over the mountain side...

Here we are... sooo close to the cross but can't get to it.  So, again, we think to ourselves we will just go later.  Fast forward two days later when we could fit another try into our schedule. We wake up early, and the weather is glooomy like it was in the picture above.  At this point, who cares!  We are getting to that cross no matter what! LOL!  Well, this time the gondola ride is CLOSED due to wind!  *Insert frustrated and saddened face of my father-in-law* BUT THEN, a glimmer of hope... a tour guide comes up to us telling us he can take us off-roading to the top in his pathfinder.  After my father-in-law does some questioning we find ourselves in that pathfinder ready to go.  *Insert excited and giddy little boy face of my father-in-law* :)
And we're off...

We stopped on our way up to take pictures. Notice at this point, we are still on a paved road.

Sooo pretty!

The further we go up the colder it gets and the less paved road we have to travel on.  Here I am standing next to a wall of snow that they have shoveled out a road path for the truck to get through.

When I say we went "off roading," I mean we went off roading.  Our tour guide took that truck places I never thought a truck could go.  You name it... rocks, snow, dirt, mud.. and steep hills.  I felt like we went over it all.  It was even a little... ummm a lot... scary because there were multiple times it looked like we were about to plunge over the side of the mountain.  Plus, you couldn't see 2 feet in front of the car.  However, ironically at the same time we felt safe with our tour guide because he had done this everyday for 4 years and he knew every single thing about that path like the back of his hand.  The clouds were not a problem for him at all.

I think the look on Bobbie's face in this picture says it all... Scared silly, white knuckling it, but so excited all at the same time.  She was literally holding her mouth 2 seconds before this picture was taken screaming like crazy.  I laugh every time I see this pic.

Here's Dearing in the front seat taking it all in and loving it all.  Notice the cross hanging down from the top of the windshield... swinging away like crazy.

Here we are as close to the cross as the tour guide could get us.  (Bobbie wasn't about to get out of that truck since it was sooooo cold and wiiinnnnndyyyy. LOL!)
Since the weather was so bad we couldn't make the 10-20 minute hike over to the cross (per the instructions of the tour guide- and we didn't question him at all).  At this point, we had done everything we could do to make Dearing's dream come true but in the end we still had a blast!  Plus, we told him he'll just have to come back again. ;)

In addition to all of this adventure, we toured some nearby castles...

This is the courtyard of the castle to the Romanian king, Vlad III Dracula, from the 1400's.

And this is Peles Castle built in the 1800's... 
All I can say is this trip was fun and adventurous! By the end, we had traveled by planes, trains, and automobiles (and even a boat at one point too).  Have you ever been on a trip where you had a story you "just had to tell" when you got back?


Friday, June 22, 2012

My Trip to Moldova & Romania Part 1

At the end of May, I had a wonderful opportunity to go on a Sponsor Trip to Moldova (a country in eastern Europe next to the Ukraine and Romania) that was organized through CERI (Children's Emergency Relief International) which my father-in-law is the director.  They provide all types of services for children who are an orphan all over the world.  If you would like to learn more about them, you can click here.  The purpose of the trip was to allow those of us who sponsor orphans in Moldova to spend time with our sponsor child for a WHOLE WEEK!  They had different activities planned for us to do that many have never experienced before such as bowling, going to an amusement park (which is similar to our carnivals here in the US), and much more.  It was fantastic!!! *Warning! There are a lot of pictures to show!

So, meet my sponsor child, Alina... Well, really she's not a child anymore.  She just turned 16. ;)  Isn't she just precious?!
I actually met Alina last year so I was SUPER excited about getting to see her again.  I will never forget the look on her face when we met again.  As sooooooon as I saw her, I called her name out. She turned around and those eye's of her immediately got HUGE along with a big smile and she said, "Jen!" and ran to give me a big hug.  Ummmm can we say tissue please!?  Melt. my. heart. :)

Next, meet my interpreter, Anna.  She is such a sweeeet girl and I am very thankful for her assistance in communicating with Alina.


Here are some more pics of the fun stuff we did...
 We went to a carpet factory so the kids could learn how carpet is made from start to finish.

Then we went bowling.  It was Alina's first time ever!

I got to see where Alina lives in her orphanage. She shares a room with 4 other girls.

Another view down the hallway of her orphanage.

I love the look of pure excitement on her face! :)


Here we are on a boat ride.

 We got to go eat at an authentic Moldovan restaurant. Yummy!

Here is the last day right before we went shopping.  She wanted a new outfit for your graduation ceremony from 9th grade.  We got her the cutest dress but I wasn't able to get a pic!

After our week in Moldova, my in-law's and I took a few days to go to the next country over to Romania.  Here, we did some sightseeing and man.oh.man did we have an ADVENTURE!  That story is for my next post, My Trip to Moldova & Romania Part 2.  You won't want to miss out on some of those pics! :)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Making a House Feel Like Home

Okay, so this post is LOOOOOOONNNNNGGGG overdue! It's been months since I've posted something. Sad, I know! But here we go...

One of my dear friends, Tricia, flew down to stay with me one weekend back in March to help me decorate the house.  She was absolutely FANTASTIC!  And for all of my Houston area friends and family out there, Tricia has started her own home design and consulting business called Bless'd Nest Designs. Check out here website here. She also has a Facebook page that you can see here. I highly recommend her!  Some of the things I loved about her most was that she geniunly wanted our house to feel like a home- and not just a home but our home.  Plus, she's all about DIY projects (which she definitely took the time to teach me some tricks). 

As we decorated, we incorported some pieces of furniture that I recently inherited from my grandfather.  He was such a kind, caring, and generous man so his pieces are a great reminder that we get to see day in and day out. :)  Despite the bad weather we incountered (including tornado siren's going off a good portion of the night) we got A LOT of decorating done.  Thank you, Tricia, for all of your help!  I had so much fun!!!  Take a peak inside to see what we did:

As you walk in the entry (to the left of the front door).  The green mirror and small cabinet came from my grandfather :) ...

Entry (to the right of the front door and above the coat closet)...


Dining Room (It's kinda hard to see but there is a red buffet table that Tricia and I re-painted)...

We also spray painted the chandelier black (it was brass before!) ...


Formal Living Room (pretty much everything in this room came from my grandfather)...


I know it's a weird angle but here's the living room (it's kind of a narrow room so we had to take a picture looking down to fit everything in one shot)...




We also decorated the kitchen but I'm saving that pic for another post because I painted the walls since then.  The projects seem to be never ending in a foreclosure home so come back to check out more pics later! :)  Thanks again, Tricia, for all of your help! And thank you to my wonderful husband for helping us when we needed it that weekend! Great times! :)


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weight Loss Challenge

It's on! The family weight loss challenge between Nathan, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and myself is on! The simple rule is who ever loses the most percentage weight by May 15th is the winner. Each person has committed $100 so the winner will take all... that's $400!!! And believe me, the "friendly" trash talking has already started. LOL! We've all got our eye set on the prize.

My goal for the competition is, yes, to lose weight but more importantly I want to eat HEALTHY and get back to WORKING OUT! I figured, if I can focus on the healthy eating and excersizing then the weight will naturally fall off over time. When we lived in Kingwood, I was involved in Humble Area Adventure Bootcamp... and boy do I miss it!!! I can definitely tell that my body is not what it was just even 3.5 months ago before moving to Atlanta. Bootcamp was great accountability for me. There were three set times a week for me to go workout with other women and an instructor who would give us different workouts all the time. Now that I don't have bootcamp I'm going to have to work extra hard to keep myself motivated. I know it's going to take a lot of planning and a determined attitude.

To get things started off, I've gone on a nice jog around the neighborhood with the dog followed by a homemade strawberry bannana smoothie.
So here's to no excuses excersizing, eating healthy, and losing weight for a healthier me. CHEERS! :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Honoring A Great Man

Tomorrow, we will be honoring the life of a great man- my Grandaddy, Harry H. Harrell. He went home to be with the Lord this past Thanksgiving night peacefully with my mom by his side. One of the things that I will remember most about Grandaddy is that he was known to be a very generous man. Not only was he generous, but he gave in so many ways with love and expecting nothing in return. There are many stories about how he cared for people and how he even helped people get back on their feet by providing a place to stay when they couldn't afford it. Even late into his life, he would visit elderly friends who were older than he was to make sure they were cared for.

Sometimes Nathan and I laugh, because we went to church with Grandaddy once and the whole time he was introducing us as his grandson and grandaughter... we would then get this funny look because we were obviously married. So we would have to explain that Nathan was technically his grandson through marraige, not blood- no incest here! LOL! But he wanted to make Nathan feel so loved and part of the family that he would introduce him as such. :)

Even in his last days he was so selfless with my mom faithfully by his side... One night, we were told that things were not looking so good for him and Nathan suggested that we call him to tell him we loved him. At first, I was a little hesitent because I wasn't sure if he was aware or coherrant enough to understand based on reports we received about his health... needless to say, I am so GLAD we called him!! We asked my mom to put the phone up to his ear while he was laying in bed with his eyes closed (he had been doing a lot of sleeping at this point because he was so weak). We could hear him struggling to breathe because of his congestion. I spoke first saying, "Hey Grandaddy! We love you!" and Nathan chimed in, "We love you Grandaddy!" Next thing we know, with all his might he responded with groaning and a barely recognizable "I love you"... A memory I will hold close to my heart always! A few days later, we received the news that he had passed.

It is because of Grandaddy that I was able to attend college and get my degree in Education. I only hope that I can continue to make him proud as he always told me. He is an inspiration to Nathan and I to be kind, caring, and generous. Nathan and I chose the following verse to be read at his funeral tomorrow and I will share it with you as well...

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: 'He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.'"
2 Corinthians 9:6-9

We will miss you, Grandaddy, and we love you! You are now with the angels in Heaven. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Substitute

This past week I substituted for the first time. It was definitely full of ups and downs but here’s how it went…
Monday- My assignment was to sub for a 10th grade Geometry class at Pope High School. As the students started walking into the classroom I was pleasantly surprised at how nice they were…saying hello and asking how I was. They would also ask me the normal questions, “are you our substitute today?” or “what are we doing today?” At the start of each class period, I would tell them a little bit about myself, that I used to teach math and that I recently moved from Texas. Some of them got a good laugh when I told them that we don’t all ride horses to school and, no, we do not all wear cowboy hats. ;) I think they felt comfortable to ask me questions about their assignment- which I loved and I felt like I was in my zone! It was a great day and went very smoothly. Yay!
Tuesday- No School because of Election Day
Wednesday- I subbed for a co-teacher at McCleskey Middle School. When I got there, there were A TON of trailers in the parking lot. I later found out that the school was being used to house busses and trailers for the production crew and actors of a movie being filmed that Ben Stiller and Vince Vaugh are in. It was so funny to hear the kids tell me all about it, saying that their school was famous. LOL! Most of the day I helped out in an 8th grade Science class (and I learned a little about Acceleration and Velocity. LOL!) There was one class period that the teacher had their own class for students struggling in Math… once again, I was in my zone! Teaching and helping them with their assignment was so much fun! It was interesting to see the math they were expected to do here in Georgia versus what is expected in Texas. Some of the stuff they do in 8th grade in Georgia is not taught until 9th grade in Texas (but that is apparently going to change next year in Texas from what I heard last).
Thursday- I only subbed for a half day in the afternoon at an elementary school for a special ed preschool class. The particular class I was in had 6 students who all had autism- SO PRECIOUS! There are always 3 teachers in the classroom so I pretty much did whatever the other teachers asked me to do. I was able to work one-on-one with a little boy practice his handwriting and do puzzles. Let me tell you, these teachers are saints! The pour things looked so worn out and burnt out. They’ve got a lot on their hands but they were so patient the whole time. It was such a great experience to see how they communicate with the children and what kind of ways they teach them things… very interesting stuff!
Friday- I hate to say it but it was one of the worst days I’ve had in a long time… my assignment was for a middle school 6th grade math class and here is just a little note about the day… I was called a “fool” by one of the students, had a student who refused to give me his drum sticks that he was beating on his desk during a quiz- then he refused to go to the office- then there was NO PHONE in the classroom to call for an administrator to come down. Seriously!? Who doesn’t put a phone in the classroom? What if there was an emergency and a nurse was needed? That probably made me madder than anything because I’ve been in a situation where a nurse was needed for a teacher who collapsed on the campus I used to teach at and they had to use CPR and a defibrillator on her and then rush her to the hospital. The nurse was easily contacted because we had a phone in the classroom! Anyways, I ended up getting assistance from a teacher who was walking by in the hallway... but all of this is just a portion of what I had to deal with. I was pretty EXHAUSTED by the end of the day to say the least.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

North Georgia Corn Maze

A few weeks ago I heard on the radio about a corn maze in north Georgia and thought that it would be fun (and different) for Nathan and I to check out. We were going to go last week after church but found out that it was going to take an hour and half to get there so we decided to wait (we have been living with our GPS on our iPhones ever since we got here). Yesterday, we figured we should go since it's a seasonal thing and we didn't have anything else planned. It turned out to be a really fun day! We slept in, ate an early lunch and then headed out. On our way up there we joked about how people would probably think we are crazy for driving that far to go get lost in a field of corn... but hey! Why not? :)
On our drive up there, we got to see all of the BEAUTIFUL colors from the leaves changing... we just don't have a pretty Fall season like this in Texas... I mean you talk about bright yellow, red, and orange! It was gorgeous hill country for sure! This picture does not even begin to give justice to the bright colors.
Anyways, after a slight detour (because we missed a turn) we finally got to the corn maze. Not many people were there and the corn stalks were all dried up and brown but it was still just as fun... They also had a petting zoo, a hay ride, horse shoe toss, etc... When we bought our tickets, they gave Nathan and I a map of the maze. It's hard to see it in the picture below but, on the map, there were six numbered stations that helped to keep you on track. Once you got to each station in the maze you punched a whole out on the left side of your card that corresponded to each station once you got there. I wonder how many people have actually gotten so lost that they couldn't find there way out... I've heard on the news how people have gotten lost and had to call 911! Crazy!
Well, we were successful and made our way out! We took turns leading the way between each station... and in the back of my head I was thinking this was probably an argument waiting to happen- kinda like when you're driving around with your spouse and they think you need to turn left but you think you need to turn right- all you couples out there know what I'm talking about! LOL! Thankfully, there was no arguing what so ever! We didn't care if we got lost. :)
Afterwards, on our way back, we stopped at a couple of local shops on the side of the road...one of which sold home made jarred pickles, jams, salsa, cider, and more... we definitely bought some of that! Pickles and peach salsa to be exact... Yep! Peach salsa- if you've never had it you need to try it because it's good stuff. The pickles were awesome and the peach salsa was okay (not like what I've had before). I was really hoping that it was going to be better since Georgia is known for their peaches but it was still pretty good. They had so many jams to choose from- even "Georgia Moonshine Jam"!!! Haha! Between that and the huge twang the seller had, we knew we were in the c-o-u-n-t-r-y!
They only took cash, though, so we couldn't get any jam since we didn't have enough with us. If we ever go back, we will definitely buy some (berry, not moonshine though)! Talk about pure, real ingredients- none of that fake sugar and flavoring stuff! It's bound to be delicious!