Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!!

Our first Thanksgiving in Australia was a smashing success. We weren't sure how it would all come together. We weren't big enough a family to eat a whole turkey, and turkey is mega-expensive around here. Plus, I don't know how to cook turkey. Aside from that problem, there was the problem of lack of canned goods like cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie filling. What were we to do?

The first problem of not having enough people to feel like a gathering was solved when we arranged on Sunday to have one of the families from church over sometime during the week. Why not have them over Thursday for a genuine American holiday? We didn't know this family too well but a holiday meal is a great way to get to know someone in a cheery environment. I mean, unless all the food burns it's bound to be a happy time.

Of first concern, then, was to make a pumpkin pie. It's a bit of a problem on a couple counts. Not only is there no pumpkin pie filling, but pumpkins are used totally differently in Australia. There are several kinds of pumpkin here, but the only ones to be found in Woolworth's or Coles (the two major grocery store chains here) are short and squat and have bluish-gray skin. It's weird. Plus, the meat is more thick and fibrous - and it's really hard to cut. The pumpkins are generally eaten as part of a baked meal with a roast, along with potatoes and green beans and such. Otherwise, Australians have it in pumpkin soup.

If you don't mind a bit of a bunny trail, I have a quirk about the pumpkins here. When I first visited Australia, I had pumpkin soup at someone's house and rather liked it. But shortly after moving here, I decided to try to make my own. Well, I loosely followed directions from a lady in the grocery store... not a recipe. And I think I used a bit too much onion. And I was pregnant. Perhaps it was a combination of these three factors, but I soon came to loathe the pumpkin soup in particular and baked pumpkin in general. To the point that on one sunny morning during my first trimester, Terry mentioned the pumpkin in our fridge that someone had given us and I promptly turned sick and threw up my breakfast neatly into the cereal bowl. Terry was impressed... but I digress. The point is that I wasn't sure I could handle baking pumpkin again.

Well, I was bound and determined that we WOULD have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, come what may, so we bought the smallest wedge of pumpkin we could find and cooked it up Wednesday night. So far so good. I think knowing it would turn into something yummy helped, as well as keeping the kitchen well aerated. While at the store, we also picked up a 1kg turkey loaf. It was $17, as opposed to the whole turkeys that were close to $50. And though there were no fresh cranberries available, thankfully there were frozen ones. At least I could make a cranberry relish! Aside from that and the fresh veggies, I succumbed to having instant stuffing and instant gravy - after all we couldn't exactly stuff the loaf or gather loaf drippings.

Because the pumpkin meat is a little more squash-ish than our normal orange pumpkins, we weren't sure how it would turn out. But it turned out beautiful - even better than the picture, though not quite as neat since the crust was not store-bought. The guests, who had never had such a thing and confessed that it sounded rather distasteful, really liked it and had seconds too! I was really happy to be introducing the more scrumptious side of pumpkin eating to our Aussie friends. I'll have to bring pumpkin pie to church picnics.

The ironic thing is that once the pie was baking in the oven on Thanksgiving Day, what do you think came in the mail but a can of pumpkin from my thoughtful mother-in-law in Michigan?! We had discussed the pumpkin dilemma here a few days earlier and she sent it out fast. Well, it wasn't used for that pumpkin pie, but we'll just have to make more! And there are lots of other yummy things you can do with pumpkins; I remember the year we Lipsy's made the pumpkin roll pictured below and how amazing it was. Besides, I'm eyeing a recipe for marbled pumpkin cheesecake too.... yum!

We hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. We are certainly thankful for all of you, our friends and family far and near. Thanks so much for your prayers for the three of us and for your love shown in lots of little ways. We are certainly blessed of God and He deserves all our praise and thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Well, well, about time I got on the blog! I've had several blog posts in my head that never got published due to the odds and ends that take up the time you thought you had. In the realm of exciting news, though, I must mention that I heard baby's heartbeat for the first time on Monday!! It was absolutely amazing and I couldn't stop grinning afterward.

In other good news, you may be interested in this tidbit coming from Iraq. It's something you most likely didn't read about in your local newspaper. The credits for this article go to Gary Bauer, an excellent and godly man who reports American news via email, focusing on items that would interest American citizens with traditional values. Enjoy!

Good News

There is good news coming out of Iraq that you may not have heard about.
Here is the opening line from a New York Times report last week: “American
forces have routed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network,
from every neighborhood in Baghdad, a top American general said today,
allowing American troops involved in the ‘surge’ to depart as planned.”

One would think such success stories would be front page news.
Unbelievably, the Times buried this report on page A19. What else was in
the story? Murders are down 80%, attacks from improvised devices are down
70% and 67,000 Iraqi citizens have volunteered to join the security forces.
According to Major General Joseph F. Fil, Jr., “The Iraqi people have just
decided that they’ve had it up to here with violence.”

As a result of this success, U.S. troops are coming home. Saturday,
American commanders announced that the Third Brigade is leaving Diyala
province, reducing the number of U.S. brigades in Iraq to 19. Four more
brigades are expected to leave Iraq by the summer. According to the
Associated Press, “The total number of U.S. troops will likely go from 167,
000 now to 140,000-145,000 by July…”