Archive for November, 2011

November 30, 2011

Lesson on Simplicity – Honduras

MoroceliThere is nothing like fresh air. That thought was fixed in my mind while my body was bouncing in the pickup truck of the priest who picked us up at the airport. The drive to Moroceli is about 1 hour from Tegulcigalpa. It’s located in a district with a name that certainly does it justice: El Paraiso. I totally ignored the bumpy dirt roads as my eyes feasted on the raw beauty of the countryside in Honduras. This trip was a missionary one. I volunteered to translate for my fellow parishioners. We are part of a team working to help our sister church. Like any experience of this nature, there are lessons learned on the journey. Here are mine:

Part of the goal of the trip was to document the progress of current church projects. One of them is a scholarship program. Children in Honduras must wear uniforms and bring their own school supplies in order to go to school. Most parents are not able to provide this for their children and so our church provides a scholarship program for them. It was amazing to know they would all like to continue to go to school and graduate from high school. Half of them dream of going to higher education. As a parent, it’s impossible not to daydream about what they and the town of Moroceli will become in the future. Investing in others reaps the highest returns.

Mission trips are not vacations and there is much work to be done while overseas. I was lucky to have time to immerse myself in their culture and daily lives. I had plenty of questions and they happily answered them all. I personally thought I was just going to translate but I surprised myself by being able to offer ideas for some of their projects. One of them is gardening, which is not a hobby in their community. It’s a matter of survival as they depend on their crops for their meals. Fr. Carlos gave me lessons on how to grow chayote squash, lemongrass and ginger. The last day of our visit he wanted to give me several root cuttings and some of his baby chicks to take home. I sadly had to turn him down explaining to him I wouldn’t be allowed to take the items out of the country. Keep in mind his rectory is a small 1 room building with another room built on the outside with a couple of 2 x4’s and tarps. This is how he lives with his wife, mother in law and 3 children. Even while living in this extreme poverty he was willing to share some of his precious food supply with me. We all have something to share. Moroceli

When we returned from the trip we arrived right in the middle of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Every year we get an overload of commercials, flyers, ads, spam, you name it. You just can’t ignore it. I sadly saw in the news how people trampled each other because somehow, objects have become more valuable than human beings. I couldn’t help thinking about the people of El Paraiso and how they manage day by day with so little compared to what we have. They place a high value on their relationships and show it by helping each other. Objects have not clouded their appreciation of other human beings. Having lots of material things does not guarantee happiness, well being or progress.

I can’t stop thinking about my trip and especially the children. I’m counting the days to my next trip to see my new Honduran friends. If you’ve been thinking about going on a mission trip, don’t ask yourself if you should go…ask yourself when.

I took tons of pictures while in Honduras.  You can see them here

I heard on the news last night Polk County has 1,300 homeless children.  So sad.  What are your plans to reach out to others during the Holidays?

Linking to Transformation Thursday and Inspiration Friday.

November 16, 2011

Pigeon Pea Clan

Pigen Pea FlowerWhen DH moved in to the house in 2006, my Dad and his two siblings stopped by for a visit. While I poured steaming coffee into cups and placed them on the dinning room table, Tati walked into the kitchen and stared out the window looking at the back yard.  “You should grow pigeon peas”.  Tati is my oldest Aunt. The oldest of the 12 children my grandmother Delia had during the 1930’s and 40’s. Lots of uncles and aunts; all whom I only know by their nicknames. “Just throw them on the ground. They don’t need any attention and they love dry land.” For someone whom I never saw tend a garden or grow food, she seemed to know a lot.

Years later while browsing on, I found a couple of 1910 census documents that looked like my great grandparents but I wasn’t sure. So I asked my Dad during our weekly phone calls and it turns out it was them. Not only that; I found out they were the only ancestors in that generation to read, write and own land. “That’s nothing” answered Dad confiming the amount of land on the census document. “My grandmother was a ‘hacendada’ (farm owner), but her husband lost most of it gambling. “What did they grow?” I asked. “Pigeon peas” he replied. “Of the many Toro families in Lajas, our family is know as ‘el clan de los gandules'(the pigeon pea clan).”

Sometimes I sit in my back yard and think about Alejandrina and wonder about the details of her life back then. What was her daily routine? How did she mange once the farm was gone? What did she think of grandma Delia when her son Arquimides decided she was the one?
Pigeon Peas
Last Saturday I went out in the yard. The sun was shining but it didn’t burn. An ocasional breeze would go by swaying the pigeon pea branches like dancing arms.  I water and fertilize the bushes with loving care.  I patiently wait until November for the early Christmas gift they bring.  DH and I sit in the back yard and remember growing up in Puerto Rico while we shell the the harvest.  On Christmas Eve, the roasted pork steps aside and gives the place of honor on the table to the rice and pigeon peas.  Of all the things I grow, the pigeon peas have the most meaning to me.

Pigeon Peas behave like perennials and go dormant during the frost, but come back again in the spring.  Like me, they feel right at home here in Central Florida.  I might not have a hacienda, but I can proudly say I’m a landowner.  It is one of the dreams that we all collectively share in this country.  I’m sure Alejandrina would approve.

What do you grow that is part of your family tradition? trees? flowers? heirloom veggies?  What are you doing to pass them to the next generation?

Linking to Transformation Thursday

November 9, 2011

Treasure Hunting

The weather here in Central Florida was perfect last Saturday. I decided to head out to the 39 Mile Scenic Highway Yard Sale. I missed it last year. This year I made sure to make time to go. It runs along scenic highway state road 17 from Haines City to Frostproof.

I started the day early. First stop was St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Haines City. I saw a couple of baskets but decided not to buy them because they looked too big to hang on the walls of my little house. The ladies at the tables were very friendly. Too bad they didn’t have any maps to hand out to customers but they did let me know the “official” stops were all marked with big orange flags.Melonie's Cafe

Empty handed I left and drove all the way to downtown Dundee. I saw 2 unofficial yard sales and a café that looked interesting so I parked. Again I left the tables with my cash intact but decided it was time to get breakfast and lucky me I found a little gem.

Melonies, Main st, Dundee

Melonie’s Café is a quaint restaurant with a family friendly atmosphere. I was promptly seated, given a menu and served fresh hot coffee. The waitress recommended their house stir fry’s and I was not disappointed. I watched as the owner, Melonie cooked my meal at the grill, assured me my dish would be served soon and directed her staff all at the same time like a seasoned orchestra conductor. The meal was made with fresh ingredients and the toasted rye bread was hearty and full of flavor. I noticed the staff knew all the patrons names and by the time I left, Melonie and her staff also knew mine. I will return with DH for sure.

Lake of the Hills Community Center

With a full tummy I headed out to Lake of the Hills Community Clubhouse. I was greeted by a friendly elderly woman who invited me to come back for a dinner event later in the month. She had plenty of maps but when she handed me one, I realized I missed one of the stops. Some of the shoppers mentioned the Dundee Community Center stop was not open, so I didn’t miss out after all. I found a cute Americana chest and some whimsical up cycled birdhouses, but nothing I wanted to bring back home.Americana chest

Whimsical upcycled birdhouses

I continued driving down the highway past Lake Wales. I could see Bok Towers in the distance. At the Lake Wales Care Center Thrift Shop I found 2 books on how to build little houses for a dollar each and yes they ended up coming home with me. Driving thru Babson Park I stopped at the Ridge Audubon Center. Again I was greeted by very friendly staff and was immediately invited to walk their ¼ mile trail. I made a mental note to return to this stop to take pictures, possibly in the Spring. Further down in Babson Park I bought a Depression glass frog that I’ve wanted to have for a while. Across the street the antique store pulled out beautiful furniture on to the sidewalk. Inside they were full of china, kitchen gadgets, paintings, dishes and more furniture.

Last but not least was downtown Frostproof. Part of the center of the town was closed off and several tables were set up with books, leather belts, clothes and jewelry.

Downtown Frosproof

The entire drive took me 3-4 hours including my breakfast stop. In between stops the vistas were very pretty. It’s a shame there were no areas built on the side of the road to park and take photos. I will return another day when there is less traffic to take a couple of shots.

Lake of the Hills

So with the 2 books, the glass frog and the café I called it a winning day!

Yard sale treasures

What new places have you wanted to go to? Do you drive around just for the ride and the views? What places have you discovered by just driving around?

Linking to Transformation Thursday and Inspiration Friday.

November 2, 2011


Cosmos Flowers

Florida’s weather is at it again.  Saturday’s forecast was for showers all day but for some crazy reason, the sun decided to make a surprise visit in the afternoon.  I was thrilled.  Our kitten Niza is full of energy like a 12-year-old and was literally bouncing off the walls.  Rainy days are an unfair punishment to her and she definitely makes us aware of her boredom by running around the house and playing with “no,no” objects.

So we were both thrilled to go outside even for a couple of hours until the next shower looming over Tampa would arrive at our yard.  Yes, I had to rearrange my chores for the day but I got a chance to harvest some flowers.  This time I got enough for 3 vases!  I also shot some amazing photos.  I’m so happy with this annual bed and its instant gratification.  I’m convinced I need to make another one.

Just in case you missed it, the post on how to make your own annual flower bed is here.

Linking to Transformation Thursday and Inspiration Friday.