Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Fun & Crafts!

As you have probably figured out by now one of the things I enjoy doing here in Indonesia (in the U.S. too!) is crafty projects, especially for holidays and seasons.  Christmas is prime crafting time and I have actually been working on little projects for it all year long.  I finished this ribbon embroidery Christmas tree a few months ago… 

I would like to make it into a little pillow, but I am not entirely sure how to do that, especially without a sewing machine (or even with one for that matter), so this project isn’t quite ready to display yet. 

I’ve been working on a counted cross-stitch Christmas towel, which I finished and gave to a dear friend for her birthday this week, so I don’t have a picture of it.  Let me say, and pardon me if I offend, but counted cross-stitch just isn’t my favorite.  Part of it I think is that I enjoy dim lighting, especially in the evening when I am usually working on projects/stitching, so I pretty much feel like I’m going blind when I try to do counted cross stitch.  Plus it takes forever…or I should qualify that by saying it takes ME forever! 


These projects were small potatoes compared to the big daddy of all projects that I completed in the late summer...

The Advent calendar base with pockets for each daily surprise counting down until Christmas

The little surprises for each day, each individually sewn...yes, every sequin!!!
Behold, the felt advent calendar with individual plump little goodies for each pocket!  I think I bought the kit for it maybe hmmm, at least 12 years ago, but probably more.  I purchased it in a burst of crafting glory, thinking I would be able to whip it right up in several months.  That’s before I realized that I didn’t actually know how to sew, which created a bit of a snag in my plans.  On a whim I brought it to Indonesia with me on the off chance I might have time to finish it.  At that time I had completed about a quarter of the big picture on the base and 4 of the individual guys (and I think my mom, a master seamstress, actually made 3 out of the 4).  Once we were settled in our house here I brought out the calendar and started working on it in the evenings and weekends while we watched movies, and after months of working, it’s done!  It has been fun to actually get to use it this Christmas, and believe it or not, I really enjoyed making it once I (finally) got started.

My other crafting has centered on garlands, which I’m very into right now.  I’m having this thing for crafts using newspaper/old sheet music right now and I had a vision for a Noel banner that turned out like this…

It was easy and fun to make, and I think it adds the perfect extra touch of Christmas to the kitchen.

A couple nights ago two of my good friends here who also enjoy being creative had a combined crafting and birthday party.  I came away from that party with a tummy full of delicious hot chocolate and other yummy treats, as well as a simple star garland for one my kitchen shelves…

And a garland for the bathroom mirror with sparkly birds and stars…

Close-up of one of the sheet music birds

Both garlands featured this great old sheet music I found a free link for on Pinterest (love that site, as my friend Beth said last night, “It’s the new Google!”).  That’s the extent of my holiday craftiness; I’ve been having fun with it!    

A couple weeks ago Chris and I took a long weekend trip to the city where he spent his first year in Indonesia going to language school.  The city is called Bandung and it’s on the island of Java, where Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesian is also located.  We actually had to fly into Jakarta and then take a shuttle bus to Bandung, which is about 150 kilometers away (side note: the traffic between Jakarta and Bandung is so bad that it took us nearly 5 hours to go that 150 KM-crazy, huh?!).  In Bandung we stayed with some of Chris’s friends who he attended language school with.  They were so gracious to host us, drive us all around, and wait patiently for me to do lots of shopping!  Several American clothing factories including Old Navy, The Gap, Banana Republic, and Abercrombie & Fitch are located in Bandung, so there are outlet-type stores that have nice clothes for really reasonable prices.  I was in heaven as I love to shop for clothes and haven’t been able to pretty much since we arrived in Indonesia.  We also ate at some yummy restaurants and I actually got to enjoy salmon, one of my favorite meals.

Speaking of restaurants, we spent a couple nights in Jakarta before returning to Tarakan, and there is a Chili’s and an Outback Steakhouse there, both of which we enjoyed immensely!  I have to laugh a little bit at myself because in the States I can be a bit of a restaurant snob, and I tend to turn up my nose at chain eating establishments, but here I am ecstatic to get bottomless chips and salsa at Chili’s and a juicy steak from Outback (I forgot that meat could be so tender).    Here are some pictures from our trip…

Bandung is up in the mountains, so it's actually cooler there (I got chilly in the evening, it was wonderful) .    This picture was taken from the roof of one of the malls where there was a petting zoo and an ice rink (indoor of course).  The weather cleared a little bit so we got a view of the mountains.
Enjoying a blizzard at Dairy Queen-a rare treat! 

Christmas window displays in Bandung

Another Christmas window

One of the business districts in Jakarta - it's a big city

Christmas decorations at one of the huge Jakarta malls

What could be in Sumo Santa's "Surprise Sock"?  A man-size Christmas sumo diaper perhaps?!

A delicious belated birthday dinner at Outback - mmm, I can still taste the yummy goodness!

Another Christmas display at one of the malls in Jakarta, complete with an Asian Santa Claus!

Last night we had a Christmas open house for our Indonesian friends and co-workers.  I have been cooking and baking like crazy all week to get ready for it, and worrying that we wouldn’t have enough, or people wouldn’t like the food, or no one would show up.  I needn’t have worried!  We had a good turn out, I think people liked the food, and there was plenty and then some, especially of cookies!  It was an open house so people could come anytime, but I think most people showed up around 8:00pm…so many that I didn’t have enough spaghetti noodles made.  I was trying to greet people (everyone shakes hands ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ here, so greetings are quite the ordeal), speak Indonesian (badly), and boil more noodles (not to mention dripping sweat), as people poured in the door.  It was busy and fun!  Chris had video games for the kids (and later the guys) in our T.V. room, people were sitting and eating in the living room/dining room, and those who smoked were sitting on the front porch talking and eating.  As much as I was apprehensive about having the party, I’m so glad we did because it was fun to share Christmas traditions with our Indonesian friends.   Chris and I took a few minutes in the midst of the busyness to take some pictures during the evening…

The food - spaghetti, chicken tikka masala, naan, and rice

Drinks & dessert - pumpkin bread, cookies, and watermelon

Our yard keeper, his wife, and their daughter came by to eat and chat

Their little girl was loving the watermelon, but she wasn't so sure about the cookies...

Chris's friends playing car racing video games in our T.V. room

Chris hanging out with some of his friends on the porch
Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, already!  Chris and I are planning to have dinner with some friends on Christmas Eve, and then we hope to speak with our families on Skype and then visit some Indonesian friends on Christmas day.  We are praying the Internet is good enough to have a clear connection with family on Christmas, as the Internet has been pretty poor lately. 

I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas full of fun with friends and family!!!

Our little glowing Christmas Tree...Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moldy Joy

***Warning, real stuff ahead, I’m getting all serious and things-if you are looking for a chuckle and warm fuzzy feelings you best move on, or check in later when I do a heart-warming post (do I do those type of posts?  Not sure)…

Thanksgiving weekend (yeah, we are going back in time a bit since I haven’t gotten up the oomph to blog until now), the Saturday after Thanksgiving to be exact, I took the lid off the plastic storage bin that holds our Christmas decorations and started to unpack the boxes.  One by one I peered inside each box, surveying the damage to the ornaments, stockings, and knick-knacks from a year of being stored in the heat and humidity.  I pulled out a brightly colored wooden outline of the word “Joy” adorned not only with the sparkles that were originally affixed to it, but with a thriving layer of fuzzy mold. 

Unbidden the thought came to me, “That’s about right, my joy is feeling quite moldy right now.”

Back up to the Monday before Thanksgiving when I started to prep for the big dinner we had with our MAF team.  Each day leading up to the feast I worked hard and had fun cooking and baking, trying to get everything just right.  Thursday evening finally came and, after having a minor meltdown because I had to carve the turkey myself and really had no earthly idea how to do that well, all 27 adults were seated at a LONG table, and 27 kids were seated at many little tables, and we bowed our heads together to give thanks to God for the food and all His blessings.  At the word “Amen”, people jumped up to begin to fill plates with food for their children, kids and adults were walking everywhere, taking in the yummy goodness.

Suddenly, it went pitch black, the power, which is going through an unreliable streak lately, went out. 

Total chaos ensued as people scrambled for their cell phones, emergency lights, and candles to provide enough light to see the food and each other.  The food was delicious, really amazing, especially considering it’s not so easy to put together a traditional Thanksgiving meal over here.  Still, as we watched the school kids put on a Thanksgiving program lit by flashlights in the hot, sticky room, and then cleaned up I kept thinking, “Seriously, after all the work everyone has done we have to eat in the dark and not really enjoy ourselves because of all the craziness, this stinks.”

I know that is totally not what I was supposed to be reflecting on at that moment.  I’m sure I was supposed to be thinking about how to be thankful for all the wonderful things God has given me (and He has given me so much, don’t get me wrong), and using the discomfort and disappointment as a lesson on how to grow and embrace the frustrations in life.  That’s what a good missionary would do, right?

Sorry, you didn’t get the light-filled, rise-above-it gal you might have been hoping for, you get me, ol’ moldy joy me.  Bummer, huh.

So that was what set my frame of mind as I grudgingly unpacked Christmas decorations.  I probably should have waited until I felt more like doing it, but I just didn’t think it would be getting much better, because, let’s face it, 90 degrees just isn’t Christmas, at least not for me, and neither is being away from family.  I tried to turn on Christmas music, but every other song seemed to talk about coming home for the holidays, nope, that was just making the whole thing worse.  As I wiped the mold off that ‘Joy’ shelf ornament and sprayed Indonesian-style Febreeze on my musty Christmas quilt and stockings, and threw everything that wouldn’t get ruined into the washing machine I prayed “Lord, just help me to see You in all this, give me Your joy.  Or, just help me to get through it again this year…just make it to January”

I, who always loved Christmas, who (sometimes dragged) my family after me in my pursuit of Christmas traditions and fun times, now praying just to get through it-I never thought I would see that day come.

How to thrive here in this season?  Because I am here after all, so continuing to pursue living here as opposed to living in a longing for home is definitely my best option.  “One day at a time” keeps ringing in my mind, and the truth that the hard things won’t last forever, and the even bigger truth that there are things for me to learn on this road, good things in the struggle if I choose to let them sink in. 

So, I’m looking to learn, and to let what I’ve been given where I am be enough, because really, it is enough if I think about it. 

And Christmas lights still shine so pretty through the needles of the (fake) Christmas trees, even in Indonesia, and the truth and meaning of Christmas isn’t any less real…so there’s joy to be found if I choose to look.

Okay, that's it, no more serious posts for a while…I like to keep it real, but this was hard core-whew!  Go drink eggnog, or, even better, get an eggnog latte from Starbucks, I would commit a serious crime for one of those right now, and embrace whatever joy you can find, moldy or otherwise!

The infamous 'moldy joy', now freshened up!