Thursday, December 20, 2007

Paperless Christmas Letter...

Merry Christmas from the Olsons!

We decided to go electronic this year to save paper...

Our year, once again, has been school, school, and more school. We’re still at Regent College, probably until spring of 2009. Keith is working towards a career teaching Latin, Greek, and the Bible at a private high school. Celia is expanding her knowledge of liturgy and worship, while studying Hebrew on the side; she will be starting her thesis this spring.

We had an exciting year—we went to Europe and Boston, and made trips to Seattle and the Midwest to spend time with our families. We became godparents to Elizabeth Ann, our niece, daughter of Keith’s sister, Sarah, and her husband, Nate. Please look further on our blog; there are many more pictures and stories from this year!

We had a wonderful time catching up with our friends in Europe. Traveling overseas helped us appreciate some things we take for granted in our own culture, for example free toilets (the sit-down kind), soap, and running water in public bathrooms. We wish, however, that wine and cheese were as delicious and cheap here as in France and Germany!

Recently, I (Celia) began work as a cello teacher and as a worship intern at our church. I teach three students who live in inner-city Vancouver. At church, I plan worship services and work with musicians in preparation for the services. Recently, I have been busy planning advent services, for which I wrote the litanies (responsive prayers) myself. This has been good training for my intended career, and a welcome chance to serve the community.

This last semester, I (Keith) have been translating the Christmas story from Luke in the original Greek. The thing about trying to read the Bible in a different language is that it makes you slow down, a lot. I could go on about several different things that stood out to me from this often heard story, but I'll just talk about one. Without diving too far into the Greek, we all know they put Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the inn. The Greek word for “inn” is the same word for the “dining hall” where Jesus had his last supper. I would not make too much of a deal that Luke uses the same word in both of these cases, but it is a subtle allusion that the foretold birth of the Messiah needs to be held with his foretold death and resurrection.

Blessings to you this Christmas and in the New Year!

Love, Keith and Celia

Some highlights from our year...

I threw in my lot with the Latin Americans at our school's "Taste of the World." Our table was by far the most popular!

We attended the baptism of our niece and goddaughter, Elizabeth Ann.

We spent four days hiking in Derbyshire, England!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Work


Guess what? I have a JOB!! Two of them, actually.

First, owing to the fact that one of our pastors is on maternity leave (and the other pastor is her husband), I am now the worship intern at our church! This means I get to plan our worship services, and schedule and work with musicians who play for the services. It is exciting, challenging, humbling work, and I really enjoy it. Last Sunday we celebrated All Saint's Day with Genevan Psalms, sung by choir and congregation, and played by Keith, Dad, and I on organ, baroque guitar, and viola da gamba. Mom joined the choir for the occasion. It was a lot of hard work, and I learned a lot from the process.

Second, I'm teaching cello in an inner-city music school. It's a class of three students, co-taught with Catriona, a friend from school. This is also a learning experience, as I have hardly taught before, and never more than one student at a time. Click here to see an article about the program... and a picture of Nepewisk and Mercy, two of my adorable students!

Monday, October 15, 2007

We won, finally!

A few weeks ago, Keith and I visited my parents in Seattle in order to make chili and attend the 19th annual Easter Acres Chili Cookoff! (I can’t believe it—it rained for the first time ever, but the cool weather made eating chili even more desirable!) We entered two chilis, one hot and one mild. The hot chili was based on a marinated, slow-cooked brisket, and the mild “chili” was actually a Brazilian bean dish called Feijoada, which Carla taught us to make. That brought the family total to 5: Dad contributed two (one of which had blueberry-marinated meat!) and Colin contributed one. Luckily there were leftovers.

And guess what? Our Feijoada won in the mild category! It was very popular! (But there were still leftovers—hooray!) I’ve entered chili in about 12 of the 19 chili cookoffs, even once by proxy, but I’ve never won until now. We finally got to sign the winner’s apron!

Anyway, there have been requests for the “recipe.” This recipe is what I wrote down after I helped Carla make it, and I edited after subsequent batches. There are no exact proportions, so use your head and have a good time!


Soak 1 kg of black beans in water overnight (they expand, so leave lots of extra room!) Boil beans and garlic in water for 45 minutes in a pressure cooker, or 2 hours (or longer) in a regular pot, until they are soft, but not mushy (they should still look like beans). Meanwhile, cut up smoked sausage (6 small sausages would be good) and bacon into small pieces, and fry in olive oil with garlic, 1 onion, cilantro, green onions, and some of “Carla’s Special Mixture” (see below). You can also add pork short ribs if desired. Add meat mixture and some cut up beef jerky to the bean mixture and cook for an additional half hour or so to allow the flavors to blend. Season to taste with crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Serve with Brazilian rice, vinaigrette salad, and farofa or cassava flour.

Marinade: Carla's Special Mixture

Blend the following in blender or food processor until smooth:
Olive oil, Cilantro, Parsley, Green onions, Garlic (lots), Onion.
Store extra in the freezer.

Vinaigrette "Salad"

Finely chop green bell peppers (1 ½), tomatoes (2), red onions (1), green onions (2), parsley, and cilantro. Mix together with water (1 c) and balsamic vinegar (1/2 c)

Brazilian Rice

Heat olive oil in a pot, add some of Carla’s special mixture. Rinse long grain rice in a sieve. Add rice, fry for a little while and mix to combine with oil. Add water (1 ¼ cups water for every cup rice) and cook (usually between 15-25 minutes).

Farofa (I didn’t have this at the chili cookoff, but it’s really good!)

Saute sausage, eggs, red onion, and cassava flour (or crushed saltine crackers) in a little of "Carla’s Special Mixture."

For Dessert: "Brigadeiro"

Mix 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, 2 T butter, and 6 T cocoa powder. Bring to a boil, and cook until it becomes sticky and thick. Allow to cool partially. Roll into small balls and dip in chocolate sprinkles or shredded coconut. Serve with coffee.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Something I should have posted a while ago

Greetings. I wrote this a few days ago while I was on the plane, then forgot to post it. Oh well, here it is anyway. We started school today...
Hi. I’m typing on a plane (flying the rest of the way home, having stopped for a few days in Iowa with Keith’s parents), and I have realized that this is a difficult task in coach, when the person in the seat in front of you puts their seat back. The screen is tilted towards me, so I can hardly see it. Otherwise it would be too close to type.

Anyhoo, I realized that I never bothered to put up any pictures of our new god-daughter, Elizabeth! Well, I did, but that was from before we went to meet her. She’s very cute (I would have said “sweet,” but that joke’s getting old), and I managed to hold her without her screaming! Yay! We went to her baptism and had a very nice time with the family.

I also gave her this sweater that I made. Hopefully it will be the right size later this winter, or maybe around Easter. That would be appropriate, since it’s yellow.

We’re looking forward to being back in our own apartment, sleeping in our own bed, using our own kitchen… I really missed my kitchen and our nice closet, where I can put my clothes so as not to be constantly packing and unpacking.. I also missed cold coffee (frappucinos and the like) and Mexican food, but I had Mexican food for lunch and went out for coffee with Ilene on Wednesday, so I feel better now. I will, however, miss German bread and breakfast, the ready availability of cheap, excellent wines (other than the 11 bottles we brought home with us), bratwurst, French farmer’s markets, and the beauty of the towns in the countryside in all three of the countries we visited. Of course we will also miss our wonderful friends in Europe!

That’s about all for now, I’ll post this when we land…

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Home again (sort of)

We're back in Iowa with Keith's parents again. It's a nice, relaxed place to recover from jet lag and general weariness of traveling... although I will be very glad to not be living out of my hiking pack any more. Same old clothes all the time! I figured I'd better get my last Europe-themed post off before school starts next week. I look forward to it (school, that is) and dread it at the same time. We've had a really good summer with lots of traveling, so being back in our own apartment and with friends will be great, but I'm still not sure if I'm ready for studying again just yet. Luckily, I have learned to knit without looking, so that means I can knit while I read my textbooks, thus keeping me awake. Very nice! That reminds me... I need to do another knitting post soon!

So, first some pics from England, which I never managed to do before, due to slow connections and lack of time... Unfortunately, my camera was on the fritz for most of the trip. The exposure was all messed up, and I don't think it had to do with my skills as a photographer. Just about every outdoor picture was over-exposed. Need to get that fixed! Anyway, enjoy the pictures. :)

My first act upon starting our 4-day, 35-mile walk was to put Keith and Rebecca in the stocks... just kidding. We walked through the Peaks District National Park, through farmland and wilderness areas, and made stops in the towns of Tideswell, Eyam, Bakewell, and Monyash.

We saw lots of sheep. The sheep themselves were fine, but certain parties who had never had the pleasure of cleaning up after horses disliked all the poo. I, on the other hand, really didn't care.

We also saw lots of heather.

On day 2, we walked along a ridge (Froggatt Edge) with some spectacular views.

We visited Chatsworth House, where Elizabeth Bennett went on her summer vacation.

Day 3 of the walk was very wet. The next morning, our clothes still weren't dry!

We did, however, stop for crumpets and tea, which made everyone feel better.

Some cows decided to follow us on day 4. They were curious, we think. This did not please Rebecca.

Every morning, we had a lovely English breakfast! Keith and Rebecca, the non-eaters of breakfast, discovered that a hearty breakfast really does get you going in the morning. They are now reformed in the ways of breakfast eating.

Back to where we left off last time... In Trier, Germany we visited Roman baths, gate, basilica, and amphitheater! There were fun tunnels in the baths.

This is the Roman Amphitheater. The evening before, when we first tried to visit it, it was full of goths attending a concert. Keith expressed his interest in attending said concert wearing a green and white striped shirt with Tigger on it.

Keith with a beer. This picture is for Joseph. (Oh no, don't show Mom! Rebecca has one too!)

We visited the Mosel River valley, where vineyard after vineyard of Riesling grapes are grown to make wine! We picked up a couple more boxes. They grow grapes in some of the craziest places!

We had dinner in Cochem. It was very pretty there.

In Köln (Cologne), we visited the cathedral (the tallest in the world) and the German-Roman museum, which contained Roman artifacts from the area. In the cathedral, we climbed up into the tower, stopping to visit the belfry, where the world's largest swinging bell is! (It's supposed to be in the background of the picture below.)

Also in Köln, we visited a bakery selling "Berliner," a type of jelly-doughnut. JFK made them famous (at least to German students) by calling himself one in his speech in Berlin: "Ich bin ein Berliner!" He should have said "Ich bin Berliner," thus calling himself a citizen of Berlin rather than a jelly-doughnut. The indefinite article makes all the difference. Incidentally, I taught Keith to conjugate the verb "to be" in German using this phrase. But I digress...

We visited Familie Kabelitz in Wernigerode and Kassel! We met Fabi (René and Helge's baby) and Dominic, Franziska's boyfriend. It was great to see the rest of the family too, as we had not seen them in several years! We also played a special German game a couple of times. Perhaps some of you have heard of it? It's called "Die Siedler von Catan." :)

So, the impetus for the whole trip: Rene and Helge got married! We had a lot of fun all weekend long, since many of the family and friends spent the whole weekend in a castle together celebrating. The ceremony was at the Rathaus (town hall) in a nearby town; in the picture below, they are arriving at the Rathaus. Fabi is in the carriage. Following the ceremony was a happy (noisy) caravan back to the castle, then lots of food and various "tasks" for the bride and groom to complete...

In this task, René tried to pop coin-filled balloons, while Helge caught the coins with a bucket. Other stuff happened too, but I don't have too many pictures, since I was busy eating and talking to people. There was a lovely buffet and a roast pig! Wow! So delicious! (So, if you are reading this, René and Helge, congratulations again! We were so happy to see you, and we had a great time!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hallo von Deutschland!

Hallo! Wir sind in Deutschland! Es ist sehr schön. Ich kann die Schilder lesen und mit anderen Leuten sprechen. Ich habe ein Buch heute gekauft: Märchen von die Brüder Grimm! Das ist fast alles, was ich auf Deutsch lesen kann. Ich muß auch für meine Familie viel übersetzen, so ich bin ein bißchen müde. Aber alles in Ordnung! Wir sind bei Freunden (Familie Kabelitz) geblieben, und es ist sehr nett.

Hello! We're in Germany! It's very nice. I can read the signs and talk to other people. I bought a book: fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm! That is pretty much all I can read in German. I've done a lot of translation for my family, so I'm a bit tired. But everything is okay! We're staying with friends (the Kabelitz family), and it's very nice!

Love, Celia (and Keith)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Picture update!

Hello, friends!

Finally some time to update with pictures! We're in Semur-en-Auxois, still in France. Later today, we will be in Germany, where I can talk to people, read signs, order food, etc.! I'm so excited! Over a week of grunting and pointing has been getting to me... otherwise, however, our time in France has been lovely! Oh well, learning French is on my to-do list. :) The rest of the England pics will need to wait... I ran out of time!

Love, Celia et al


Chocolate fest!

The car was slightly full.

Hiking near Dieulefit

Making Poffertjes, a Dutch specialty!

We tasted (and purchased) some lovely wine! This one was one of our favorites, ever!

We shared meal prep. Keith and I made "French Feijoada" with red beans and lentils instead of black beans!

Lots of cards were played, late into the night.

We went on a lovely hike, almost into the Alps!

We enjoyed seeing Fontenay abbey yesterday.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Vin, Fromage, and the scent of Lavender...

Greetings from Dieulefit, France! We're here staying in a lovely house with some friends from the Netherlands: Jan, Willy, Lucia, and "kleine" Jan Scholten. Jan (the father) was my dad's exchange student in high school, and our families have kept in touch ever since.

We're enjoying the markets, which happen just about every day in some nearby town or another. We can pick up ingredients for a homemade dinner each morning. Keith and I have contributed a couple of meals, including oven-roasted vegetables with chicken and French-style Feijoada--there weren't any black beans in the supermarket, so we used red beans and lentils instead! Other local activities have been wine tasting, hiking, horse riding, and card playing. It's very relaxing here.

Today we went to Avignon, and saw the Palace of the Popes, from the time when the Papacy was in Avignon. The structure was beautiful, and we really enjoyed the elegant decorations in the few rooms that had been restored. Unfortunately, the building was heavily damaged during the French Revolution. We also saw a beautiful Virgin and Child painting by Botticelli in a museum of medieval and renaissance art.

On our way south, we had a lovely day in Paris. We saw the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and we generally walked around the city. We were pleasantly surprised that no one was rude to us or refused to speak to us! Amazing!

More updates hopefully soon, when we next find internet service! More stuff is on my parents' blog. Love, Celia, Keith, and Rebecca (Sorry, no time for pictures... three or four people are waiting to use my computer!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Greetings from England!

I'm writing from a lovely bed and breakfast in Derbyshire! We're on a walking tour, and today's walk was very wet. The clothes are hanging to dry in the bathroom. We had good weather the last two days, though. Walking is fun!

We were in London first... a bit of a letdown, especially since our hotel was an overpriced dive. Oh well, we're not there anymore. We saw lots of cool stuff: the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre (from the outside), Greenwich, Kensington Palace, the British Museum, and the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Some pics are below...

Keith and Rebecca say hi too. :)

Sitting in the chairs that cost 2 pounds... we couldn't find the sign, but they wouldn't just let us get up and leave...

Tower of London

Rebecca admires Henry VIII's armor.

Massaging our aching feet at the British Museum.

Greenwich, near the Prime Meridian... picture complements of Sarah Pyle, and old friend of mine.

The Houses of Parliament at night

Eating Fish and Chips in Tideswell

More pictures (mostly of sheep) coming soon. :)