Farmers Market Juha

I’ve always had a hard time resting well. Until last year, I thought rest meant being a vegetable, relaxing on the couch and watching movies, hanging out with friends, or reading. And I really didn’t understand the concept of spiritual rest or resting in the Lord. At the beginning of last year, during my first year of full-time ministry, I spent the first few Saturdays doing movie marathons. But then, when it came to Sunday, I was still tired, stressed, and worried about the week to come. I didn’t feel mentally, physically, or spiritually rested; I just felt dread over my lack of preparedness for the next week. Thankfully, my good friend and ministry coach pointed that out to me right away. “I don’t think you’re resting well,” she said, concerned about my well-being. When I asked what that really meant, she replied with a question, “What brings you life?” She said that I can glorify God by doing activities that bring me joy and refreshment. So, I asked God to reveal the activities that give me rest and joy and bring glory to Him.

Flash forward to the present. Though I feel like I’ve adjusted to a new city and back into ministry pretty well, especially after a summer of ministry partner development, I’ve realized in the last few days that I haven’t exactly been resting well. And this made me think, What can I do that will give me rest and joy and bring glory to Him? I’ve decided that the things that currently bring rest are having “me” time, taking walks, exploring new places (at my own pace), shopping at outdoor markets (or just grocery shopping in general), budgeting (It’s like a game for me.), exercising, reading books that capture my affection for God, cooking and baking, writing, and spending time with friends in small group settings or one-on-one.

So today, I decided to do a good majority of these things. But rather than giving you a play-by-play of my day so far, I wanted to share a few snippets.

First, I explored a new part of the city, the Saturday Farmers Market. (It really made me miss the Athens farmers market, especially because I just love fall in Athens. And it’s such a happy place.) The Ljubljana Farmers Market is probably about 5x bigger, though. And although it’s a dreary, rainy October day here in Ljubljana, the market was alive with color, live traditional Slovene music (complete with accordions!), and the joyful chatter of fellow food-lovers. In fact, Melissa, one of my friends/teammates who met me there, said, “It’s just so happy here.”

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To get to the market, I had to walk through souvenir vendors with their Ljubljana snow globes, jewelry boxes, hand-painted pottery, clocks, and wooden toys. I was surprised by the number of tourists still in town at this time of year! I then emerged into another part of the market, the “Bio” section. Everything in this area is certified organic and fresh. There were rows of seasonal produce — apples, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, peppers, and zucchini — rows of cheeses, grains, dried meats and salamis. I even found a raw, organic, and vegan stall that sold pumpkin and sunflower seed crackers. (I splurged and bought some, of course!)

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On the other side of “Bio,” my nose led me through what I call the “Alley of Flowers.” The fresh scents, as well as the pinks, purples, and reds, brought a smile to my face. They illuminated the gray day. Not to mention, those who were selling the flowers constantly greeted me with a friendly “Dober dan” or “Dan,” which means “good day” or “hello” in Slovene.

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At the opposite end of the Alley of Flowers, I came upon the conventionally grown produce, the biggest part of the market. It takes up the entire square. There were stalls upon stalls upon stalls of apples, apple cider, pumpkins, peppers, lettuces, grapes, pears, broccoli, cabbage, beans, and much more. Best purchase of the day: a kilo of green beans for €1 from a sweet, elderly female farmer with a warm smile.

I finished my time by swinging through the grains and baked goods, and then through the fish and meat markets. (For you Pittsburghers, the fish market is a lot like Wholey’s in the Strip, especially the smell! Mmm mmm.)

After two hours of meandering through the markets, I lugged my multiple kilos of goodies back to my flat, in the rain. I was cold and my feet were soaked. I decided the best remedy was to make potato soup. But potato soup quickly turned into, “let’s throw all my veggies in and see what it tastes like” soup. (The recipe is below.) And let me tell you, that soup was good for my soul. So delicious!

I’m so thankful for a day to rest and be refreshed. (It’s not even over yet!) And I’m thankful that I serve a God who wants me to rest from my work and also provides rest in Him.

So let me ask you, what brings you rest, joy and refreshment? Have you taken time to do that lately?

Recipe: Farmers Market Juha (Vegan, Gluten-free, Low-sulfur, Sugar-free)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: About 1 hour and 30 minutes
Makes about 5 servings.

Ingredients:

7 small potatoes (peeled and cubed)
2 dozen cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 medium green peppers (diced)
1/2 small cabbage (chopped)
1 large carrot (peeled and shredded)
1 medium zucchini (shredded)
1 cup of fresh green beans (chopped)
1/2 cup millet (or rice)
Olive oil, salt, pepper, curry, garlic powder, coriander

1. In a large pot, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat on medium. Sauté the potatoes for a few minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the potatoes start browning, add 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and stir.

2. Add the cabbage, beans, carrot, zucchini, green peppers, and tomatoes. Stir. Turn heat down to medium-low. (You want the veggies to cook down but not get too soft.)

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3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. (Fresh cracked pepper tastes better, in my opinion.) Add 1/4 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and a pinch of coriander. Stir thoroughly. (For a very low-sulfur diet, omit the curry, garlic, and coriander. Rosemary is a great alternative.)

4. Allow mixture to cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Add salt and pepper to taste.)

5. Add 1/2 cup of millet or rice. (Brown rice will take longer to cook.) Adding millet or rice will thicken the soup because it absorbs a lot of moisture. If you like your soup thinner, you may need to add a little water.

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Serve hot. And enjoy!

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Bronzer ou Brûler? (5/23/2010)

Well, the trip is starting to wind down. Life here has been pretty uneventful, and I’m kind of enjoying that, although I must admit that I’m suffering from a lack of motivation to do my schoolwork.

Part of the lack of motivation stems from the beautiful weather. The weather now is what I imagined it to be like from the beginning, but sadly, that’s not what we got. (Though, if the weather would have been like it is now all along, I would probably have no motivation right now, as opposed to just very little.) But I’m absolutely loving the weather, though it could be a few degrees cooler. The sun is piercingly bright and hot, and the air is dry and cool. To me, that is the perfect mixture.

I’ve definitely taken advantage of the sun during the last few days. Friday, I took a stroll through town by myself, and I simply enjoyed the leisurely time I had browsing through shops and watching the French and the tourists pass quickly by on the narrow streets. And I managed to check a few things off my souvenir shopping list. Success.

Yesterday was an interesting day. I met Kim and Liz at a market about 10 minutes from my house and outside of the ramparts. The market was small, and it had about 20 vendors with similar goods. I don’t know if we scream “American” or what, but the vendors immediately started speaking English to us. But I think they were happy to meet Americans. It’s as if we’re celebrities because we’re from the U.S. Who would’ve thought?

Anyway, I bought a 500-gram orange and a baguette to eat later at the Ile de la Barthelasse. I’d say that’s a sufficient lunch, wouldn’t you? Oh, and we got McFlurries from McDo because we had been craving them for a few weeks. I thought McFlurries would be the same here, but they aren’t. The toppings were similar, but they don’t mix the toppings in, which defeats the purpose of a McFlurry. Nevertheless, the ice cream with Kit Kat Balls on top was refreshing on such a hot afternoon.

A few hours later, we made our way to the Ile, but to a different spot, a good distance from the crowds. We met Sammi, then laid out our towels and sunbathed by the Rhône. I felt very French. After 3.5 hours of baking in the Avignon sun, we decided to turn in for the day, which was probably a smart decision because when Sammi and I arrived at home, I discovered the sunburn covering my body. I’m pink all over, but it could be worse. I could be rouge.

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Since I have sunburn, what did I do today? I went sunbathing again with Sammi. I consider a suntan a good souvenir from France. And it’s free, too. At least I put sunscreen on today. Though I’m still a bit burnt, it’s quickly turning to a brown glow. I love it.

All day today I was thinking of how I’m living in a dream. And there are only 19 days left in this dream.

La Fête du Travail (May Day) (5/5/2010)

Saturday, I did something I’ve always wanted to do. I hopped a train and spent the day in Arles, a city famous for its Roman architecture and its southern-France style. I love the thrill of day-trips, and being in France makes having a day-trip all that much better.

The eight of us met at Gare Avignon Centre to board the train, which only takes 18 minutes, if you get the right train. Well, we got the right train.

We arrived in Arles a few minutes after 10:00 a.m., only to discover that everything was closed, everything except for cafés, tourist shops and L’office de Tourisme. It wasn’t until we saw a parade of men and women in traditional clothing riding horses that we figured out why everything was fermé. Saturday was May Day, a nationwide celebration similar to Labor Day in the United States.

 

 

May Day is also a day for political parties and social organizations to protest, according to my host mom. She also said that Le Premier Mai is an excuse for rallies and manifestations (protests) — for which French people are notorious — though she has no idea why they protest. We were able to witness one of these rallies in the large square by the Hotel de Ville. Although I understood bits and pieces of the speech of the man speaking, I had no idea why they were protesting. Mais, c’est la France.

We had originally planned to go the Van Gogh Museum, but that was closed as well. So we spent our day roaming the narrow streets, enjoying the Roman architecture, sipping café at the cafés and visiting the spots where Van Gogh painted some of his most famous pieces. Below is a series of pictures comparing the Van Gogh painting to the present-day site.

Le Café Le Soir

 

L’Entrée du Jardin Public

 

Le Jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles

 

L’escalier du Pont Trinquetaille

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Arenes d’Arles

 

 

La Nuit Étoilée

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Maison Jaune

I couldn’t have imagined a better day, especially after a week with five exams. Although the weather was chilly and cloudy, I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed pace and the low-key atmosphere of the city. I had no schedule and nowhere to be. I could savor every taste of my café au lait, and I could admire the city without stress looming over me.

Qu’est-ce que j’ai fait? (4/27/2010)

I promise I have not forgotten you. I didn’t realize it has been a week since I last wrote, but you didn’t miss much last week. It was slightly uneventful, which is good for me for a change. Before I get to this past weekend, I’ll recap a few highlights of the week.

First, I discovered Goût Pêche (literally translated is “peach taste”), or the French version of Peach-O’s. If you don’t know what Peach O’s are, they are gummy, peach-flavored rings, which are fantastic. I’m chewing on one right now. I highly recommend sampling them. And the best part about les Goût Pêches, they are cheap and they are better than Peach O’s. I never thought I’d find a better brand than Peach O’s, but I have, and I plan on bringing back a few packages in my suitcase when I return to the U.S.

Second, Nicole’s two grandchildren spent the week with us. Maxime is 10 years old and Romane is 7. For the first few days, they were shy and barely talked to us. One night at dinner, I tried to break the silence and failed miserably. I asked Maxime if he liked the movie he was watching earlier (Pocahontas); however, I apparently did not pronounce Pocahontas the same way the French do. He just stared at me. Then Nicole interpreted after a while, and finally he said, “Oui.” Let’s just say I didn’t have much confidence after that incident, but as the week continued the children weren’t as shy. In fact, they came into our rooms each night before they went to sleep so they could kiss and hug us goodnight. They really are quite adorable.

Now, moving on to my weekend.

Friday night, after a day full of reading and studying, I went with Sammi, Nicole, Serge, Maxime and Romane to Nicole’s daughter’s house for a barbecue. A French barbecue is quite similar to the American barbecue, except that the grill was tiny. It was about half of the size of a standard American grill. For dinner, we enjoyed grilled saucisses (sausages), steak and frites (fries). I normally don’t eat sausages, but these were very tasty. The steak was grilled to perfection, and the fries were crispy and soft (the best combination of textures for a fry).

On Saturday, we had another excursion with the group. We met the bus at 9 a.m. to travel to Gordes for the day. Gordes is an old village built into a mountain with valleys and meadows surrounding it. The landscape and village are picturesque and quaint.

We had free time for lunch, so I went exploring with Kim, who took (takes) fantastic photos. We discovered that sandwich prices were a bit too high for us, so we scoped out the markets for fresh fruit. After searching, and realizing we only had 15 minutes left, we bought a 500-gram basket of strawberries and a four-pack of peach yogurt, which we split.  I cannot express to you how beautiful the berries were. They were spotless, juicy, full of flavor and lovely pink-red in color.

 

 

 

 

After meeting the bus, we continued to another village close to Gordes. We sat at a café for about 45 minutes, while I drank my coffee and the others ate, and then explored the narrow, cobble-stone streets. The day ended with a wine-tasting and a tour of La Citadelle winery, which exports a large portion of its wine to the United States. Again, I’m not keen on the taste of wine, but I tried it anyway, just for the fun of it.

Sunday, with my bag of picnic goodies (two baguettes, cheese, cookies and Orangina), I revisited the Île de la Barthelasse with Kim, Alex and Liz. This time was a bit more of an adventure compared to the last time I visited the island. Liz and Alex insisted that we visit their favorite spot on the island. Little did Kim and I know that the spot was a 45-minute trek on a tiny, dirt path. When we finally arrived, I was cranky and tired because I was hungry and I didn’t expect to walk as far as we did. We were going to study for our exams, but eventually we gave up due to exhaustion, and we just sprawled out under the sun and relaxed. After about an hour, Helen and her sister Greta joined us, and we decided to wade in the Rhône. Surprisingly, the water was not very dirty or murky, which helped me get over my initial hesitation of getting in the water.

After the 45-minute walk back through a French jungle (kidding) and returning home, my fun ended. I had to study. Quel dommage! Oh well, the entire purpose of me being in France is to study. I just didn’t expect to have five exams in one week. Thankfully though, I finished my three most difficult exams already (grammaire, Résistance and histoire). I have two left this week, and I can’t really prepare for them, which kind of makes me nervous. But, there’s nothing I can do, so I shouldn’t stress. Anyway, my brain is exhausted from the last few days of testing. I promise I will write again within the week.

Bonne nuit!

Un week-end reposant (4/20/2010)

I realize that I told you this in my last post, but I’m finally relaxing. Let’s stop and ponder this. I am… Relaxing. And I’m not making this up. Though I have hours of homework and class each day, and I’ve been trying new activities, I’m not stressed or bogged down. I honestly cannot tell you that I’ve ever felt like this. I’m enjoying my time and taking everything in. It is truly wonderful.

Anyway, here is a recap of my weekend reposant (relaxing).

Friday, after I wrote my last post, I explored the city for a few hours with Kim and Sammi. After meeting Kim at the centrally-located bus stop in town, we chose to stop in the garden of a stone church. We decided to have girl-time there, and it is definitely my new favorite spot, especially to read.

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    As you can see in the video and the photos, the clouds began to roll in, and eventually it started to rain, which caused the air to become quite cool. Because of the weather, we decided to call it a day.

Saturday was a huge day for me, and honestly is was slightly exhausting. Mentally. Nicole had a giant fête (party/feast) to celebrate her sister’s birthday. There were 25 people here, including adorable French children, who were running around and playing in the garden the whole time.

I thought Nicole said lunch was going to start at noon, but either I heard incorrectly or everyone was fashionably late, because most of the guests didn’t arrive until 12:30. I’m still not sure. I’m glad Sammi was with me because I was overwhelmed by the number of people. Everyone was welcoming, and they all tried to make conversation with us; however, I was extremely nervous. For some reason, I had the misconception that they all expected me to speak perfect French, which caused me to feel embarrassed every time I spoke. But, thankfully, everyone was patient with us.

The buffet lunch consisted of turkey, lamb, fish, carrot salad and green bean salad. After the buffet, we dined on bread and cheese. Then, the final course — cake. The cake consisted of layers of fresh fruit, cream, and rum spongecake. C’était délicieux! If you include appetizers and the sit-down meal, the entire lunch lasted for about 4.5 hours. By the end of the meal, my head was spinning because I was trying to keep up with all of the conversations going on around me. Luckily, Nicole told us before the party started that we didn’t have to stay the entire time. So after dessert, Sammi and I ducked out. Sammi did homework in her room while I met with Kim for a few hours to explore the other side of Avignon.

Kim and I set out with two main goals in mind — find the lavender store and try lavender ice cream. And we succeeded. The lavender store is a small shop that carries only a small line of products, including honey, tea, lotion, shampoo, perfume and soap. You can smell the flowery scent even before you enter the glass doors. The best part is that we were allowed to sample each of the products. I love trying lotions and food for free.

Then, there was the lavender ice cream. One word. Fabulous. I was a little hesitant to try it at first because I was afraid it was going to taste like perfume. As it turns out, the amount of lavender in the taste is perfect. It was a lovely blend of lavender and vanilla, and it didn’t taste like perfume.

After the amazing, nearly-three-hour break, I returned home. I didn’t realize that the party would still be going strong, and I happened to arrive just in time for dinner, which was the remaining food from lunch. And the food tasted just as good. Oh, and I had my first political discussion (in French) with a French person. And we actually agree on a lot of things.

Sunday, I needed to relax and give my brain a break. Helen, Sammi and I voyaged (by ferry) to L’Île de la Barthelasse, which is on the Rhône, pour faire un pique-nique. The picnic was complete with fresh bread, cheese, apples, pears, oranges, cookies and chocolate. We found the perfect spot next to the river, near the shade of a giant tree and also under the sun. I was able to read and watch the river. C’était un joli apres-midi!