Preserving Food and Garden Update–Aug. 18, 2017

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I’ve been picking produce daily in the garden since I returned home from Mexico.  Besides the peaches, cucumbers, snow peas, yellow, purple and green beans and strawberries you see here, I have also harvested lettuce, tomatoes, raspberries and potatoes.

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All of the potatoes in the buckets pictured above were grown from some volunteer potato plants that grew in the compost heap.  I transplanted them into a small row and was amazed by the amount that we dug today–I’m guessing between 15-20 lbs.

I spent some time today pulling up lettuce that had gone to seed, and hoeing out purslane.  I have a ways to go.

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This will be nicely weeded basil, snow peas and lettuce by tomorrow night, hopefully.

I did preserve quite a bit of food this week, as well.

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I asked for some bean SWISHERS.  That would be people who would swish the beans around in the cold water after I blanched them for 3 minutes so they could cool down before I froze them.  I loved that job when I was little, so wanted to share the joy with Jake.  Soon there were 3 pieces of equipment in the sink, and I asked Jake what in the world he was doing to the beans.  “SQUISHING THEM, AUNTIE” he replied.  I had a good laugh and then explained what I needed and he moved on with the process.  Soon, I found this:

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And a little later…this…’

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But we finally finished and everyone had fun!

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I made a batch of fruit cocktail using the pears my sister gave me, peaches from our tree, pineapple, maraschino cherries and grapes Rob bought (the grapes were only 99c/lb and the others were in bulk from Cash and Carry).

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It comes out so pretty that way!  Of course, before I could can in these jars I always use for fruit cocktail, we had to FIND the jars upstairs in the shop attic.  That took a while, but we prevailed.  These jars hold about 3 cups and it is the right amount for us.  Because fruit cocktail is a lot of work to make, we only have it occasionally and I don’t want to waste a bite.  I have enough ingredients for another batch, and hopefully the pears will ripen up enough for me to do that tomorrow.  I got 13 today and want more.

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I got 5 jars of tomatoes, as well, and none too soon, since I used the last quart of tomato pieces I can find, yesterday.  I still have pints, but why waste lids by opening 2, if I need a quart?  So, I do both quarts and pints.

I have lots more produce to pick and process, as well as boxes of fruit ripening on my porch.  I love this time of year as the canned jars start filling the cupboard.  I’ll be at it again in the morning.

August, 2017, $100 Grocery Challenge and Menu Plan

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August is a month of plenty for me.  My garden is growing rapidly, fruit is available everywhere, and my freezers are getting fuller and fuller each week.  I’ve decided to see if I can be more purposeful in utilizing the food I have on hand, rather than buying more.  So, I’ve decided to do a $100/month grocery challenge.  It should be quite easy to do, with the abundance of food on hand, and because I was gone for 1/3 of the month.  We took quite a bit of food with us, not knowing if there would be things I could eat, and we used some of it, but there were foods I could have much of the time, so I brought a bunch of mine home with me.  For several days, I enjoyed authentic Mexican food, cooked by the ladies of the church where we were helping!  Yum!!!

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My brother-in-law asked them all about the ingredients, etc., as he is fluent in Spanish, and I ate the foods that I could.  Much of it was corn-based, which is not a problem for me.   I did not get sick at all from those daily lunch meals.   Amazing.  Eating fast food on the way home—a different story.  It never seems to agree with me, even when I try to be careful.

After returning from my trip to Mexico, I went to the store and spent $47 on things like milk, etc.  So, that leaves me with $53 for the rest of the month.  I may not even need to spend it all–I’ll see.  I know I’m good for the rest of this week, for sure.

I will use the remaining grocery budget to buy apples and pears to process.  I’m completely out of applesauce, and have been for quite a while, so I want to can quite a few jars.  I don’t need very many pears, but want to do a few, and would like to make some fruit cocktail from peaches, pears, grapes and maraschino cherries.  Sometimes, I put pineapple in it as well, and usually buy a large can and add it in.  I hope to get some Elberta peaches from my sister to can, when they ripen.

Here’s what I’m planning to serve this week:

Sunday: Sandwiches:  We used up sandwich meat from our trip for our noon meal.  We wanted to finish the meat and cheese up rapidly so it wouldn’t spoil.  It was well-iced the entire time, but still….

Monday:  Spaghetti.  I pulled ground pork from the freezer and browned it with onions and celery.  I used 1/2 of it for spaghetti sauce.  There is a lot of sauce left over.  I served it with sautéed purple beans I picked from the garden.  They turn green when I cook them.  I added garlic to them at the last minute–yum!  I also put out cut up cucumbers from the garden.  There is enough sauce to freeze some for next week, plus eat leftovers for lunch.

Tuesday:  Chili.  Patsy is starving for chili, and asked me to make some.  I put pinto beans on to soak yesterday, and will use the rest of the pork I browned to make chili in the crock pot.  I see that there is lettuce in the garden, and I hope to cut some and have salad as well.  I could not get to everything yesterday and there is much to do in the garden!  However, we are gaining on the laundry:)  I will make a big batch and freeze some for next week.  I soaked a LOT of beans, so will cook up some plain as well to use later in the week, or next week.

Wednesday:  Chicken.  I plan to roast a whole chicken.  The weather is much cooler this week.  If Rob gets a bee in his bonnet, he may barbecue it, though, but I’m in the mood for roasted chicken, and then I can boil the carcass and get some broth.  I’ll do green beans again, as they are prolific in the garden, salad, and potatoes.  I think there are new potatoes ready out there, too, and I may start digging some up.  If not, I can buy a bag.  Potatoes are not a budget-buster:)

Thursday:  Chicken-rice soup.  I bought celery and carrots and have onions from the garden.  I can use the broth from Wednesday, and add rice from the pantry.  We like it simple.  I may make zucchini muffins if I get time, as there are SO many of those in the garden.

Friday:  Taco Salad.  I will pick lettuce and tomatoes from the garden, and use some hamburger from the freezer.

Saturday:  Leftovers.

Sunday:  Family Sunday Dinner–BBQ at our house this week.  I have both chicken drumsticks and steaks in the freezer, plus green beans, salad, potatoes–all from the garden.  If I think of anything else we could want, people usually bring things, and I can ask them to grab something.

Breakfasts:  I got some English muffins at the store, have a few yogurts, plus the usual cereal, oatmeal, toast, etc. people like to eat around here.  I have quite a few eggs in the fridge, and eat them frequently.  Sometimes I make breakfast burritos for the kids, and do have a few tortillas left that really need to be used.

Lunches:  Leftovers or sandwiches.  I bought a package of lunchmeat as part of the shopping I did and also have tuna in the pantry.  Peanut butter is Patsy’s favorite, so she can have that with our home-made jam.  Sometimes, I add a salad to the mix.

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Snacks and drinks:  There is a lot of fruit right now.  I’ve been picking a few peaches from the tree in the back yard, plus I can get some more from my sister.  My strawberries gave me about a cup yesterday, and the raspberries look like they are going to produce soon.  Once I make applesauce I will save some out to eat fresh, and  that will go over well.  We had popcorn last night, and can have it again.  There are quite a few snacks left over from our trip, as well, which will be especially handy if we go on picnics.

I bought some milk on Sunday when I shopped, can make lemonade from the bottle of lemon juice, and have several drinks left over from the trip.  I’ve been drinking a lot of water lately, and there’s always plenty of that!  I have a few sodas, too, plus 3 2-litre bottles.

 

Mexico Mission Trip, 2017–Safely Home

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What a wild week!  I feel like I’ve gone from one end of the world to the other in the last few days.  We came in, all safe and sound, a little before 10 p.m. last night.  During the night, it rained!  The climate change from lush, green Oregon to dry, dusty Mexico created quite a contrast.

As I’ve already mentioned in the first post, the first day, I ended up staying at the base with a sick boy.  He ended up quite sick, and even needed antibiotics, but then recovered quickly once he got them.  Thank goodness for Gail, my sister, who knew what he needed (she’s a n.p.) and Ron, my brother-in-law, who is proficient in Spanish.  So, that day, I had extra time and some wifi.  All I had to do that afternoon was make brownies for snack time, and clean the kitchen, along with giving him ice, cool cloths, etc.  Also, we chatted a lot.  He ended up being a delightful kid, who had the best attitude possible for one who so longed to be with the other kids.  By the next morning, he joined the group and did what he could, sleeping in the van with Rob, who ran the air conditioner, for a lot of Monday and Tuesday whenever he needed to.

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The team went out and had their first contact with the people we were there to minister with.  They had a church service with them, and ran an abbreviated VBS.

The next morning, we all went out to the worksite bright and early.  I felt happy to be no longer sitting around.  Instead, I was given the job of digging up the rocks and dirt with some others.  Yikes!  We were supposed to fill in all the holes ( there were many, and they were deep), in what was going to become a parking lot.  We were never able to finish that, but got a long ways.  Talk about a contrast of activities!  It felt great to do something physical after riding in the car for 3 days.

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We also moved cinder blocks.  There was a group of men who were building the church walls with them, held together with concrete.  The progress was slow and steady and led by a stone mason.  Each block was painstakingly placed in its exact place, all lined up in perfect order.  During the week, it was exciting to see the building getting taller!  They have a ways to go, though, and will keep working hard, as they did before we came to help.

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A lot of sandy gravel was screened so it could be used for concrete.  There were 2 wheelbarrows and 4 shovels for all of us to share for both projects, and all the concrete was mixed by hand, using water brought from somewhere.

 

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Then, beams were delivered and laid out and needed painting.  They had to be prepped with some kind of lacquer, then painted, both on the front and the back.  There were a lot of them!  I never ended up painting because I was given different jobs on those days, but my sister did for one day!

The church that we were assigned to help has a building in a nearby town that they rent. They have been working hard to build this church so they can have their own facility.  It was very gratifying to work side-by-side with them, and help them make a big leap of progress during the week we were there.

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Every morning, we divided into 2 groups.  Some of us worked on the new church building, side by side with the church members.  In the afternoons, we did VBS.  In the evenings, we usually went to the beach, except Wednesday, when we did a special youth outreach.  During that service, our kids had prepared a skit, which they performed, music, and testimonies.  It was concluded with some games, including a contest between one of their youth and one of ours to see who could drink a Coke the fastest, and then which could eat a orange in one bite.  You’d never believe how well those simple games went over, but everyone loves them.  There was a question and answer time where the youth could all ask questions of each other, using a translator.  After that time, the next day, the regular church attenders and our kids were really bonded and started having a great time together on the work site.  Some of their youth even came down to play on the beach with our kids that evening.

Rob ended up being the errand boy, as he has on other trips in the past.  He delights in that role, and it doesn’t phase him at all that he does not speak one work of Spanish.  So, every day, he shopped for things that were needed–such as more water, extra t.p., and so on.  It got a little more interesting when he was asked to find S’more ingredients (he found chocolate, pink and white marshmallows, and some kind of cookie that would do), marbles (he did charades at several stores, and finally found them a couple of days later), and more!  So, when asked for glue–he knew right where to go–the office supply store. On that day, I was the errand-girl with him, so got to try to explain to the lady in the store that I needed strong glue……anyway, we got the glue, but it was pretty funny–all those charades!

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Things are different there.  There are many little shops for different things, along with many, many little markets sprinkled throughout the town.  There are also grocery stores that are similar to ours here in the U.S.  There are taco stands on many corners.

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Each morning, part of the group joined up with church members to go out through the neighborhoods.  During those walks, people were invited to the church service on Wednesday, prayed with if they wanted prayer, given tracts if they wanted them, etc.  The children were invited to the daily VBS, which was held each afternoon.  I enjoyed those walks and seeing the people and the sights.  Some people even invited us in to their houses to pray for them–it was very special.  I did that for 2 mornings.  Each group had to have one of our adults, one or two from the local church, and at least one guy.  So, I was the “adult from our group” twice.  I was paired with non-English speaking people both times, and I do not speak Spanish.  But, we found a way to communicate.   I did not take pictures during that time.  I mean, would you want a group of people you did not know, from Mexico or anywhere else,  coming up to, or inside of,  your house and snapping photos?  Me either.  So, I didn’t.  But, I sure enjoyed myself.  The people we got to know during the week were delighted to have us take pictures with them.

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Each day at noon, we went back to the rented church facility, where the ladies of the church had prepared us extremely yummy, authentic Mexican food.

They were instructed how to make food that would not make us sick, and no one got sick from the food, including myself.  My brother-in-law would find out if any food had gluten in it, tell us, and Gail and I would happily munch away!  Each day, we had some kind of freshly squeezed juice as well!  YUM!!

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This is Ja’Ana’s best friend, Angel, holding one of the happy participants of the VBS with her craft.

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Ron did a lot of translating.  Since he grew up in Bolivia, he is very good at it!  Alissa and Ja’Ana both did music, as well as all the other projects.

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Patsy helped out wherever she could.

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Of course, Ja’Ana found a baby to hold.   That is not the baby’s mama in the background, that woman is one of 2 who set up tables so they could sell blankets and other souvenirs to our kids.  The baby’s mama actually attended VBS with her 4 children, and seemed as interested as they were in all of it!

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Alissa is holding up the puppet curtain, and I believe Ja’Ana is back there, holding up one of the puppets.

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VBS each day included games, crafts, a snack, Bible verse memory, Bible story (in a movie, in Spanish), a puppet show (pre-recorded in Spanish), and songs.  It went very well.  Gail had rounded up lots of prizes and all the kids got a prize each day. At the end of the week, they got rewards for memorizing their Bible verses. Some kids memorized all 5 of the Bible verses, and they got even more prizes on the last day for their hard work.  they were very happy with them:)

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We drove down to the beach several times.  It’s only about a mile from the compound.  The missionaries had some surfboards, and the kids had a ball playing with them.  Angel even got up on one a couple of times, after lots of trying!  One of the girls from our group had planned her baptism to be done in the ocean in Mexico.  I thought that was a great idea.  She will never forget that!

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The base is beautiful.  As I mentioned, there is space for 4 groups to be there working at the same time.  Each has its separate area, including kitchen and bathrooms and sleeping areas, but they come together for the training at the beginning of the week and at the end.  Each team is sent to a different church, but all groups have a work project, VBS, and services, etc.–all the things we did in different towns.

Thursday night, there was a meeting for all the groups who were there, for debriefing.  Of course, each night, our teens and youth pastor and leaders led our own team time as well, so Thursday was a late night.

On Friday, it was time to say good-bye and head towards home.

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We stopped in LaBufadora, a tourist spot on the coast near Ensenada, so the kids could shop.  We ate in a restaurant–tacos again–amazingly wonderful!  And, $1.50 each.  For any kind you wanted.

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Again, thanks to Ron for finding us safe food we could enjoy!

That night, we slept in Los Angeles.  The next morning (I can hardly believe it was yesterday) we were on the road at 5:30 a.m.  We drove straight home.  It worked well.  Nothing broke, the kids were motivated to make short stops, the van that could travel faster than the rigs pulling little trailers went ahead and ordered pizzas from Costco and the kids got to eat them in the parking lot……and so on.  We arrived a little before 10 p.m. last night.  Boy were we tired today.  Rob and I both slept all afternoon after church and are ready to hit the sack again pretty soon.  We are so pleased with how the trip went.  Not only are we pleased with what we were able to accomplish, it makes us happy to expose the teens to another culture, another way of life, and to mission work!  I feel like we really encouraged the local church there as well.  Their pastors were so thankful and said our presence really motivated their youth to come and work together with ours.  That warms my heart, because it is going to be so much more significant to them since they put in so much sweat equity, too. It was an amazing trip, and we are so glad we went.  I loved to see how the teens grew so much as individuals during the week.  They did many things they didn’t know they could do, and thrived while doing it!  As always, the people made it worth it to us–both the ones we were with, and the ones that were already living down there.

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Mexico Missions Trip-2017-Sunday

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We have arrived.  Safely and in one piece.  Praise God.  The journey down was filled with both challenges and blessings.  On day one, we all got off to a good start.  We did not quite make the 6 am start we had hoped for, but were off and running before 7.   The vans were loaded, the luggage tied down in the trailer, and the kids all loaded up.  The weather was very warm, but we all had air conditioning, so were not suffering at all.  Our van was filled with charming young ladies, and we started to get to know the ones that were new to us.  It was fun!

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When we got to our lunch stop, we had a picnic and then crossed this bridge.  It is in Redding, California, and it was around 109 degrees.  We walked across it anyway and had a singing and prayer time on the other side.  It was very meaningful, but we were all glad to get back into the vans.  I had to laugh to hear all the teens exclaiming how excited they were to get BACK into the vans:)

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We spent the night in Sacramento, California.  The capitol building is beautiful at twilight.

Day 2 was the rough one.  We got a great start, but as soon as we hit Los Angeles, there were a series of wrecks and road construction delays that caused us to slow way, way down, even though it was early afternoon.  We crept along, starting and stopping, and continued to San Diego.  It was backed up the entire way.  So, 2 vans (ours included) stopped and started along for around 5-6 hours, down the freeways (we tried 2 different routes and both got delayed the same amount).  But, we finally made it.  One of the other vehicles had a mechanical problem (brake issues) and had to pull off.  The other 2 vehicles went back to rescue them, as they had empty seats.  The blessing was that they found a mechanic shop that had workers with time to work on it, stayed overtime, and skipped their dinner to fix it. And, by then, the traffic had cleared out somewhat, so they made good time.  The day was long for everyone.  We were so thankful that every one was safe, and that this was the night we had a hotel to stay in.  After nice showers, and comfortable beds, we were off again, bright and not quite so early to cross the border.

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The drive was lovely.  We drove along the coast down to Ensenada and saw beaches like this along the way.  There were also many lovely coastline views, from the top of cliffs, and along the winding roads.  At Ensenada, many of the leaders took the kids down to the beach for a short time.  A few of us went to Costco to get the rest of the supplies that we needed.  My brother-in-law stayed with the vehicles that were hitched to the trailers with our luggage, because he is fluent in Spanish and could ask anyone who was interested in our things to move right along.  When we came back from Costco, he was laying in the shade on top of the luggage trailer, and looked quite comfortable.

Last night and today, we have had orientation meetings, with lots of instruction from the missionary who lives here on the base.  There are 4 groups here.  One is from Canada, 2 from Oregon, and one from California.  Each group has their own separate housing/cooking/ etc., but we were trained together.  Once we knew all the “do’s” and “don’ts” we were ready to serve.

Right now,  most of our group is out on their first ministry adventure–inviting people to a special church service, a meal with the church, a service, and a mini VBS for kids.  Rob has been driving around this afternoon gathering and delivering supplies that we need, such as t.p. and paper towels.  We thought they were provided here, but we were supposed to bring them…  Gatorade for the poor boy who had a rough night being sick, more ice for coolers…..things like that.  He’s been shuttling kids to the work site, and now has delivered all those things back to the base and headed back to the church we are partnering with.   Shopping in Mexico without knowing Spanish is not daunting to him.  He loves it!   I am spending time with the young man.  I think he’s feeling a little better, but is not all the way better in my mind, yet.  I am baking brownies for snack tonight, and was able to catch a little wifi from the base.  I trust he will be better soon, but we didn’t want him off the base today, or left here alone.  As if!  So, I’ve had a nice time getting to know him a bit, and hopefully he’s as comfortable as he can be.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and so is he.  We both have high hopes that we will both get to join in the action tomorrow!

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Off on a Trip and Garden Update-Aug. 2, 2017

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It’s a little hard to see, but the green onions have successfully dropped seeds and new, little baby green onions are popping up all over the place.  They are in a good spot, and will be my fall crop.  I also have several baby watermelons forming.  I’m very excited since I cannot remember getting any the last few times I tried.  I guess they like this heat wave:)  We’ll see if they ripen.  The cucumbers are going crazy so I’ve made quite a few dill pickles.  The tomatoes are just starting to ripen.  I’ll have lots when I get back.

Because we are leaving tomorrow, and will be gone for several days, we worked hard in the garden yesterday morning.  The lawn was mowed, the place where the old beans were tilled up was re-planted with lettuce, spinach, basil, cilantro and snow peas.  I also planted some old kale seeds.  Lovana likes kale, and it may come up and give her some.  Because it is so hot right now–over 100 and 90’s predicted for the “cool down”– those seeds will have to be watered twice a day and may not germinate.  But, I’m sure some will, and Lovana and the automatic sprinkler system will take care of the watering while we are away.  She is staying home and keeping house.

We’ve been packing like crazy.  I need to take quite a bit of food, for my special eating needs, so have quite a few items in bins.  I will eat what I can from the group meals, but out of my cooler and bins for the rest.  We have purchased what we needed, got extensive work done on the van, got the air conditioner fixed for the second time after Rob drove down 5 hours of washboard roads on his recent sponsorship of the youth rafting trip and some connections jolted loose, packed our clothes, and otherwise done what we could do to make the trip safe and productive.  Now, the rest is up to the Lord to keep us safe and lead us into the work He wants us to do.

We will be going to a place about 4 hours south of the border, on the Baja, and will be partnering with a mission organization there.  We will do whatever they need done, including VBS for kids, helping with services, a youth outreach, possible putting on a roof somewhere, and ???  Rob and I will help with the cooking for the 28 teens and 10 adults (my numbers may be a little bit off–we’ll know at 5:30 am tomorrow–we are not in charge so don’t have exact info).  We will also participate in whatever spots we are needed.  The teens have been preparing and will do much of the things like leading singing, puppet shows, crafts with kids, etc. and we will help and support them in their endeavors.

I may be able to post updates, and I may not.  It depends on my internet access or lack thereof.  In any case, I should have a lot of nice pictures when I get back!