Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry Christmas from Hungary!
We hope that you had a very Merry Christmas filled with Family, Friends, and Happiness! We enjoyed spending our last Christmas here with our missionaries and our friends. We kept old traditions, the baking of Cardamon Bread, and shared it with our new friends, who called it Kalacs. These will be some of our best memories. It is a great season to be a missionary.

Early in the month we took our YSA youth out for ice skating. (They skated, we watched).
On the 19th a group of very talented young missionaries brought us a very special Christmas Concert. Actually, the young man on the far right is not yet a missionary, although he has his call. He is a fabulous organ player. Even our plain little electric organ sounded rather spectacular. Sister Bodily, on his left is a concert pianist. Sister Roderick has a wonderful voice and is from Cache Valley. She sang with the "Sundance Singers". Elder Ottley played guitar and Elders Rummler and Kubricky sang.
We bought this beautiful Poinsetta to decorate the chapel. Here they are called Mikolás Virág.
In the afternoon we took them over to the central square for caroling while we all handed out fliers for the concert.

Finally, after a very long day, I had a chance to feed them. Homemade chicken noodle soup and hungarian bread. It was just perfect.

We had a special Christmas Zone conference and the YSA kids in Budapest made hats for all of the missionaries

Santa even found his way here to Hungary and left
?stockings? for the Elders and Sisters.
We enjoyed the traditional Haslem Christmas morning breakfast.
And we spent the remainder of the day playing games and watching Disney videos and putting together this puzzle.
It was a great day. It has been a great season. Hope yours was just as wonderful.
The Haslems

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Events" or "Why do I never learn to count the cost before I start a project?"

President Baughman has asked the missionaries to try using "events" as a finding tool for new investigators. We already had our closing social planned for English Class (we will take a two week break for the Christmas Season). We made plans for a shorter class and then showing "Joy to the World" and then a special "süti" (sweet treat) from me.
We all wanted it to be a special occasion and so plans were made. But the best laid plans. . . .as we all know! English class the week before the ending social was a fun week as they were refinishing the floors in the chapel and priesthood room so the Profi class (mine) and the Hallado (Elder Feuz) met together in the hall. They were about 18 of us and with both the Elders and myself teaching it made for a fun class. Our vocab for the week was Christmas and cold weather words, like "slippery". And then we sang some Christmas songs. It was fun. And we talked-up our closing social, hoping they would all stay for the film. It is in English with Hungarian subtitles so we told them it would be good practice.
But what to make for this very special "süti" that had been promised? Finally I decided on a dessert that I make at home. A crepe that is filled with that Cool Whip cheese cake (cool whip, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice), and drizzled with chocolate and fruit sauce. I could even see it in my mind.
Do you remember the parable in the Bible about the man who began to build the house but did not count the cost before he began? When we get to heaven I am going to get the award for the person who personally made this same mistake the most times in a lifetime!
I made my crepe batter on Monday. Here a crepe is known as a palacsinta and is a very common treat. They even have very special and very nice palacsinta pans. Tuesday morning I went into production. Problem 1: the Hungarian palacsinta pan is about 12" diameter, much too big. So I rumble around in the little pantry in our apartment. Agi's parents lived here and it is still stocked with a lot! of their things. I found a small cast iron pan, the perfect size, but I am sure it was used for many years to cook kolbasz. So the first task is to scrub it, rub it with a fresh potato while it was really hot (heard that helped with taking out tastes) and then re-seasoned the pan. After 45 minutes or so problem 1 is mostly resolved. Just have to keep putting butter on if for quite a while because one spot keeps sticking.
Problem 2: Now I just have to turn my pot of batter into palacsinta. Alton Brown I am not! I still have to swirl the pan and you can see ripples running all around it, but who cares. People are just going to eat the thing.
So after a couple of hours I have my stack of palacsintas.
Problem 3: I now have to create the filling. This is the biggest problem of all. Cool Whip: no such thing here. I consider real whipped cream but I am afraid that it will not hold up and just turn back into cream. Cream Cheese: they have it here. I buy the local brand instead of Philadelphia brand because it is so expensive. I forget that it tastes a lot like processed American cheese. Sweetened condensed milk: this is definitely not available here. But I read on line that you can make it. You just need powdered milk, oh dear, that too is not available here. But powdered Coffee creamer is. I know I have seen it on the shelf. Well, I couldn't find it anywhere and so I ended up getting two bottles of a sweetened coffee creamer liquid and 2 tubes of something that you squirted into your coffee. It had milk and sugar in it. I combined the two with some butter and more sugar and cooked it up to the right consistency. It actually tasted just like sweetened condensed milk, just brown like caramel. And for the cool whip I actually find powdered topping mix. Which I have to buy in a package of 5, which was fortunate because I can't get it to whip in my impatience and keep adding more powder. Now finally I have all the pieces. But as i put the cream cheese into the bowl, I remember it's got a different flavor. Too late now, its getting to be afternoon, I've run out of time and patience and I still have to make a fruit sauce for on top. Fortunately I have a lot of chocolate sauce i made for something last week. Anyway. . . I just start mixing everything together and hoping! I taste and make more whipped topping and add it. It just doesnn't taste right. Bruce helps at this point. He tells me it doesn't matter what it was supposed to taste like, that what I've whipped up tastes good. So I finally get all the crepes rolled, and on the balcony (it has become our second freezer), get the fruit sauce made, get everything I need for serving packed up and ready to go. And I have about 1 hour to spare. From 7 am to 4 pm.
But now the good part, everything went beautifully. I didn't have much time to prepare the English lesson but even that seemed to go okay. Then we gathered in the chapel area for the film.
I had a very strong sense of the spirit when I was in the film. I love that film because it has a little of everything in it and the choir sings and you always feel good when the choir sings. After the film 3 of the missionaries bore their testimonies and we had süti.

Problem 4: people began asking for the recipe. How am I ever going to be able to tell them how I made it. And Zoli (who helped eat up the remaining 6, cut the numbers a little too close) kept saying they were good but strange because they always put turo (a dairy thing they make and use with everything) inside their palacsinta.
And Elder Haslem and I did dishes while the missionaries spent nearly an hour visiting.
All in all, even though I once again forgot to count the costs before beginning a project, (I could have bought strudel and it would have been just as good) the evening turned into an event that will be remembered and was just what President Baughman would have hoped for.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Budapest Christmas Fair

We had a multi-zone conference in Budapest on the 4th of December. Bruce and I decided to stay overnight to see the Christmas market in downtown Pest. Thursday, after the zone conference, we and the Thompsons went by Metro over to Pest. It was freezing cold and a little snowy but beautiful. The market was so much fun to see.
This was another "summerfest" type market but everything had to be traditional Hungarian. And the food vendors had just loads of wonderful smelling food. (The Baughman's were going to take us out to dinner later, so we resisted the temptation to have a meal.)
They do a lot of decorating of Gingerbread. Should have taken a close up of these cookies but they are so much fun. They surely got an A+ in their Wilton Decorating Course.
Obviously an internet image, but I wanted to show you how ornate they make them.

Lots of interesting pottery
And the Hungarians have a lot of very traditional Christmas Cookies and sweets. We saw a lot of dried fruits that looked really nummy.
If there was anyway in the world I could have done it, I would have brought this home for Kyla
But my favorite thing about Christmas is that they make Kürtöskalács, a wonderful christmas Bread. They wrap strips of bread around a form. . .
And then they cook it over the coals, drip it with honey and nuts or cinnamon. It is just wonderful.
After strolling the fair for a while we went out to see the Christmas Lights of Budapest.

We found a Hungarian friend. . .

The Thompsons left us to take the train back to Sopron but Bruce and I had decided to stay overnight at the mission home and go shopping in the morning.
Well, morning dawned gray and very snowy. We braved our way to the Nagy Piac, or the big farmers market. It is all indoors, so, except for the cold walk from the Metro exit over, it wasn't too bad. The Piac is just a great experience: fruits and vegetables as well as pigs feet, pigs noses and pigs ears.

I was in the market for my Hungarian Nativity set. We finally found the vendor, and because I am not willing to bargain, (just can't bring myself to do it), and because I speak English I paid twice what I should have done. But then Bruce discovered he had left the Visa Card at the mission home. (They told us that the vendors would not take Visa. They did. And we didn't have enough cash). So my wonderful spouse walked all the way back to the Metro, went back to the mission home and retrieved our card and then returned to the Piac. It took him a good hour to do it. But I have my nativity.

Family Home Evenings

One of the really great experiences we have had has been our family home evening with the YSA. We hope that with our departure, if there is not a new couple to replace us, that they can keep this group going. Everyone takes their turn with everything. They are learning to prepare the lessons.
Some are excited for the challenge, other not so much so. It is just like with a real family as your little kids learn how to do the lesson. Everyone always share a talent. I wish I had pictures of some of these. Bruce sang, "Little girls have pretty curls, but I like Oreos. . ." for his talent one week. Zsofi showed us how to wash windows. Agi recited a wonderful poem. I understood none of it but it was long and sounded beautiful. Someone will share a scripture and explain why it is important. Of course, to the Haslems falls the charge of the treat. And then we play a game. All good family home evening must end with a game!

The Haslem family will all recognize "Neighbor". We made a set for the group, but here it is called "Szomszed". We also play zilch which we have renamed "Semmit".

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Winter has come earlier this year than last. We have had quite a lot of snow and are expecting a lot more. And with the humidity in the 65% range it feels bitter cold.

Just because you are a missionary does not mean that you don't have to push the stuff around. Elder Haslem tried to clear the walks but Liza thought he was out to play with her. You will notice our gate. In order to get into our house and into the warm, we have to get through a locked gate and two locked doors.

Luca is the cutest little dog in the world but has short fur, so she as to wear a doggy snow suit when she goes out to play. She reminded me of a little four year old out in his snow suit trying to plod around in the snow.
Dad says I will need a little dog like Luca when I get home. I must admit that he is pretty cute. But I think I will stick to Grandkids. They can be sent home to their mothers when you are through playing with them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

West Zone Thanksgiving Day Celebration

This was our second annual West Zone Conference. Last year we hosted it alone in Sopron. This year, Hooray, Hooray, the Tompsons were here and we worked together and had the dinner in Szombathely because we have the biggest kitchen. You just cannot have Thanksgiving at our house without sticky buns for breakfast. So we made 3 pans of them. Yes, I do look tired in the picture, and yes, I was tired!

Sister Thompson decorate our tables. Only problem is that the missionaries didn't figure out that the turkey was also their napkin. They kept asking for napkins. They are amazingly bright enough to learn the hardest language in the world and then can't spot the napkin.

Bruce carved the elegant Turkey. It was pure chaos trying to get everything done in our little oven. We had to resort to the microwave to finish the Turkey but I didn't hear one complaint.
Aah! Time to rest and to eat. We had such good food. The Thompson's make the best corn casserole that I have ever tasted.
This is cute Sister Walker. Unfortunately, with this picture you cannot see how cute. But take my word for it, very cute! Anyway she is also the fastest dishwasher and made short work of all our dishes. No such thing as a dishwasher here.