Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a giant snowman in New York

I love Thanksgiving. Really, it's one of my favorite times of year. Being with family, focusing on what everyone is thankful for, it's great!

This year for Thanksgiving Jason and I journeyed to Binghamton, NY. That's where my mom grew up and her parents still live there. We had Thanksgiving with them which was super fun! If you've never had Grandma VanVorce's cranberry relish you're missing out big time!

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was Grandma and Grandpa's 50th wedding anniversary so all of their kids, grandkids, and a whole bunch of other people gathered for a big celebration. My sister Rachel is a senior in culinary school and she is especially awesome at all things having to do with dessert. She made about 60 roses out of pale yellow fondant for the cake at the anniversary party and she let me paint the edges of them gold. They were sensational!

Me and Rachel hard at work:

The VanVorce clan at the party:

My grandparents had clip magnets made to give away at their party so naturally as we were cleaning up Jason decided to clip some of the extras to his beard and eyebrows. They made a lot of noise clicking around as he was talking... What a stud! hehe

One of the major highlights of the trip was the gigantic snowman that the VanVorce grandchildren built. We spent a few hours working on it. My grandparents live on a big hill so it was pretty easy to roll the snowballs down the hill and make them huge!

Rachel and I smoothing out the stomach before the boys hoisted it up:

Jason imitating the finished product:

I don't think that guy is going to be melting for a while!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

October Happenings

I haven't blogged in forever! Not because we haven't had much going on, really because I haven't been able to catch myself coming and going :-)

One of the most fun things that we did in October was the Simpson Park Camp youth retreat. It my first real test back from Guinea-Bissau to see if I can still make it in cold weather, and I am afraid to say that I cannot... I slept in the dorm with all of the other girls. As they were dreaming peacefully in their PJs I was fully cloth
ed, doubled socked, inside my sleeping bag, with a hat and a jacket... hehe but I did survive just fine. I was the youth speaker so I talked about my favorite Bible story - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We talked about having people to stand with and what things are worth standing for and standing against. I threw in a few embarrassing stories from Africa, and everyone had a good time.

Jason and I had so much fun on the trains in Europe that we thought we would give the American train system a try. Youth for Christ needed us for some training in Denver the Monday after the youth retreat, before the crack of dawn on Sunday we drove to Chicago and them hopped a train to Denver. There are a lot of things about train travel that are much nicer than plane travel. No security probes, no security lines, tons of baggage room so you don't have to check anything, footrests that make the seats into recliners, enough room between the seats to actually recline, and electrical outlets by the seats. Not bad...

After we steamed into Denver in style we stayed there for a week of meetings. Most of it was not exactly riveting stuff - how to file taxes overseas, who to call about different paperwork things, and stuff like that. We were interviewed by a panel about our calling into ministry and after a huge battery of personal, psychological, and marriage tests we spent a morning with two psychologists. The outcome of all of it was that YFC is crazy about us and we are totally accepted without reservations to be full-time missionaries! YAY!

We spent an afternoon in the mountains with our friends Jason and Erica and then they dropped us off at the train station to roll home. Unfortunately, the train that was supposed to arrive at 7 pm was 5 and a half hours behind schedule and was not expected until after midnight... When we asked how this happened we were informed that the signals on the track were out for 40 miles so the conductor had to get out and walk the train through each intersection... Yikes! Jason and Erica came back and picked us back up and we spent most of the evening in a little cafe. They left us around 11 pm and we were loaded on the train around 1, ready for some sleep :-) The building behind us in the picture is the Amtrak station and the neon on the station says "Union Station Travel by Train". So I was wondering where the train was and Jason was checking his watch.... Gotta love us.... hehe

I leave some other adventures for a later blog!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Odness and Autumn

I've always known that I like to eat fruit that is a little less ripe than other people. This has been especially evident living with Jason's family. They love fruit the most when it is past ripe. You can tell who went grocery shopping just by feeling the produce. Is the fruit rock-hard, it must've been Emily. Is it gushy and mushy, not Emily. Anyway I tell you all of this because I've discovered my new favorite fruit - unripe pears. mmmmmmmm

It all started because one of our neighbors has a few pear trees. He harvests the pears and cans them, but he has o
ne tree that ripens later than the others. He already canned all that he wanted, so he told Marilee that she could come over and pick the pears off of the last tree anytime. She promptly went over and picked quite a few. And then the family waited... and waited... They just didn't seem to get soft. After a few days I cracked one open. Admittedly, they are pretty hard. If I eat two my jaw hurts a little, but they are sooooooooo good!

While everyone els
e has their fingers crossed, hoping for a little softness, I've been in heaven. Seriously I've been eating at least three every day. I like them so much that on Saturday Marilee, Sam, and I went and picked several more bags of them (check out the picture on the left). Y-U-M!

Today I went for a walk to take some pictures of the trees around here. Jason and I haven't been in the States in the fall the past two years so I guess I started to forget how beautiful they are. I am excited to take the pictures back to Africa because
their trees don't change color. I'm trying to take pictures of the outdoors in all of the different seasons so they can see what it's like here. Here are a few cute ones from my walk:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Open House in Marlette

So I said I would fill you in about the open house we had in Marlette. First of all it was really fun! We were in the Marlette train depot and from 1 to 2 we had a family pot-luck and then from 2 to 5 we had an open house for anyone who wanted to come.Jason, Emily, Aunt Doris, Aunt Marilyn, and Aunt Chris chatting during the family time.

We had a great time hanging out with our family and there were quite a few visitors who dropped in. Most of the time we were just mingling, but we also did a few skits in Creole at different times for the audience. First we pretended that I was trying to buy some vegetables from Jason at the market. We had encore requests, so we did a similar market skit later too. We also demonstrated how the people in some of the tribes in Guinea-Bissau traditionally greet each other – not with “hi” or “good morning” but with a more obvious thing like “you are sitting” or “you are eating” to which the person being greeted replies “yes, and you are passing” (or standing or walking, etc.) We stopped every few lines to translate so people could hear the how the language sounds in conversation and still understand what was going on.

The last time we got up to talk Jason decided it would be cool if I pretended to be a Guinean woman telling a story of a time when I was pregnant and went to the hospital to have my baby, since that whole process is so different over there than it is in the States. So I told the story in Creole, stopping every sentence or so for Jason to translate. People were laughing, so we must've been doing something right!

We also had a group question and answer time and people were asking great questions. It gave us an opportunity to talk about the way that the people in Guinea-Bissau live, what they like, what their greatest challenges are, what we want to do when we go back there, why we want to go there at all, and lots of other things like that.

All-in-all it was a great day!

All of the Grandparents who were at our party: Grandma Huggins, Grandpa Huntoon, Grandma Huntoon, me, Jase, Great-Grandma Taylor, Grandma Atkins, Grandpa Atkins.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Flipped Out

Here is a shot of me with my hair flipped out.

That's how I've been wearing the new short locks most days. You might also notice that I am wearing a hoodie. Yes, I am cold and tomorrow is officially only the
first day of fall... I don't know if I'm going to survive in Michigan until January. You might start seeing me in layers of hoodies :-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jobs and Hair

I haven't blogged in so long and many things have been happening lately. Jason and I sent out our first newsletters and we had a fantastic open house in Marlette to talk to people about what we have been and are going to be doing in Guinea-Bissau (pictures and stories in a blog to follow). We both got part-time jobs to pay for gas and other little expenses over the next few months. Jason is working in the shipping department at Champion Bus Factory and I am working at Tim Hortons. For those of you who are not from Michigan or Canada Tim Hortons is a donut / coffee / sandwich chain. It's a little bit like Dunkin Donuts or Shipleys but it has a larger variety of food and the coffees are more like a Starbucks (expect that our cappuccinos do come out of a machine).

The biggest thing that has happened to me is that I donated 10 inches of my hair. I've been talking about doing it for so long that Jason didn't think I ever would, so of course I had to prove him wrong.


As you can see, the long hair was just too hot. I pulled it up almost everyday.


This is a picture of me right after the bulk of the hair was chopped off.


And here's a picture a few days after the cut. Recently I've been flipping it out at the bottom and I like that better, but I don't have a picture of that yet. I'll post one soon and you can tell me which one you like better :-)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cool News

This last time we were in Africa Jason and I decided that God's not done with us there yet. We thought and prayed and talked about it tons and we really felt like the needs of Guinea-Bissau and the specific ways that the Church and the Youth Center have of meeting those needs correspond really well with the talents and abilities that God has given us.

It wasn't an easy decision. Living in West Africa is one of the hardest things we have ever done. It has forced us to depend on God and it has changed us in a million ways. With that said, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's one of the best things I've ever done. The more that we thought there was a possibility that we could be leaving forever the more our hearts broke.

Since we decided to go back God has confirmed that decision in a million ways. We need to raise financial support and spend so
me time with our families, but if everything goes smoothly we are hoping to be heading over to Guinea-Bissau in January. We are planning to go for two years, come home for a few months, and then head out for another two years. After that, only God knows, and I'm ok with that.

Because we are heading back we decided that it would be really cool to have a place where all of our information could be organized so that people can keep up with what we're doing. So... I now have my own website!!!!!! (shared with Jason... hehe):!

The website has lots of different pages with pictures, videos, a
nd information about what we've done in the past, what we're up to now, and plans that we have for the future. It's still a work in progress and over the next few weeks we are going to be adding more stuff to virtually every page.

Along with the new site I have a new blog: Myspace has been good to me, but there's a lot of things it can't do and a lot of people have had problems getting on our blog. Anyone can see my new blog at anytime and anyone with a google account can leave comments (to see how to get a google account, read my first blog on the new site).
So, it's with a little sadness that I s
ay goodbye to my myspace blog. I am still going to keep my account for now, but I don't think I'll be on it super often. Feel free to check out the new site and let me know if you want to get an email when I post blogs at the new address.

I'll leave you with a fun
ny picture of Jason inside a tree that I took earlier this summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Stuff

Welcome to my new blog! I hope that this one will be easier to get to and more fun for everyone! Anyone can read my blogs but if you want to leave comments you need to have a gmail address or a google account. If you want to get a gmail address go to: to sign up. If you don't want a gmail address but you would still like to be able to leave comments you can go to: to sign up for a google account with a non-gmail email address.

Right now we are in Arkansas soaking up some sun, visiting my family, and working on our new website. It will probably be a few more weeks before we get it totally done, but if you want to check out the work in progress go to

Saturday, July 12, 2008


By the time we got to Berlin we were pretty exhausted. I'm not that great of a traveler, and even though we were seeing some pretty amazing places, I really wanted to go home. We got to our hostel and pretty much crashed and burned the first night. The city has two buses that just go around all day and visiting cool sites, so we rode around on one for a while and got off at a cool park. In all of the other cities we had stayed mostly in the metro areas, but in Berlin since we were so wiped out we decided to take a leisurely stroll.

The park was beautiful and I tried my hand at a few flower pictures.

We found a low wall by a pretty lake and Jason took a load off for an hour or so.

After that we did some more exploring and found a few more peaceful parks in the city. One of them had lots of fountains and statues.

We liked this one because the boy is riding on a goat. Don't ask why, but that struck us as pretty funny.

After that we bought some food and went to bed early. The next day we did some historical exploration. We went to the Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag - which is the German parliament building. Tons of German history has happened in this building and we even got to look through some glass windows at a curent parliment session. The building itself was pretty old and impressive, so we waited in line for a freezing hour and half to go up to the top and see the city from this huge glass dome thing on the building. The views of the city were nice, but the dome itself was far more impressive.

It had this huge mirrored funnel down the middle that brings natural light and heat down into the building to make it more energy efficient.

One thing I have to tell you about Berlin is that Berliners love Currywurst. You may be wondering what that is, so let me explain. Germans in general love sausages of all kinds.
After trying quite a few from street vendors here and there I can see why . In German a sausage is a "wurst". The currywurst is a particular kind of sausage which is deep fried and then smothered in a tomato sauce (like a sweet catchup) and then dusted with curry powder. It's pretty good. There are currywurst stands all over Berlin and near the famous Check Point Charlie I found this one.

Currywurst, I salute you.

The next day we took a walking Cold War tour of Berlin. It was pretty fun and I'm glad we did it. We learned all about the Stazi spies and the crazy files they had on people - at one point they were actually collecting people's smells! They would bring people into an interrogation room and make them sit on their hands, palms down. Then they would ask them all kinds of questions, and finally let them go. They would take the special cloth (that the person's hands had sweat all over) off of the chair, tag it and put it in a jar, presumably in case they ever needed to set the dogs after that person. Crazy. They also had all kinds of high tech spy gear and at the height of their power they had an estimated one spy for ever six citizens... Yikes!

At the end of the tour we got to go see the Berlin wall. It was different than I had ever pictured. I never understood how the wall had gone up overnight, but at first it was a wall of soldiers and barbed wire. Then gradually the first wall was built and then a second wall was built about 100 yards behind it. The area in between the two walls (called the death strip) had absolutely no cover and was patrolled constantly. The ground was raked sand or raked gravel so footprints stuck out like sore thumbs. Here's a picture of the main wall as it is now.

We also visited a section of the wall that has been restored and has the death strip and everything. It was chilling.

The history tour was definitely an eye opener, but not really very joyous. Then again, the history itself hasn't been very joyous either.

We went to some more monuments after the tour. We saw the holocaust memorial and the old Jewish cemetery. We also went to a super old Jewish synagogue. After that we saw a memorial dedicated to the victims of communism. The shattered man is gradually walking into the future and with each step he is becoming more and more whole.

After that we caught a train back to Frankfurt and then some assorted trams and buses back to the YFC guest house. We relaxed and worked and organized some photos the next day and then we hopped on a plane back to the States.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Ok, so a long time ago I promised I'd blog about Prague and Berlin. I've been back in the States for a few months and I've been running around like crazy, but that is really no excuse not to show you some cool photos from the end of our trip! Hehe

Before I start talking about those cities I wanted to show you some more pictures of the really cool castle that we ran like crazy to see (it was the castle that Walt Disney used as his inspiration for the sleeping beauty castle - look at the last blog for a description of that fun afternoon...

This is a picture of one of the sides of the castle. Believe it or not only a third of the original planned castle was built when the king died and it was never finished.

This is the front of the castle just a few steps after you go through the main gate.

Jason snapped this one just before the lady said that we were not allowed to take any pictures of the inside. Every single surface was painted, or carved, or decorated in some way.

We got to Prague in the late afternoon and went to our hostel to check in. We stayed in a really cool hostel with a nice kitchen. The first night we went to a grocery store and bought some food to make.

While we were cooking in the kitchen some girls came in and ate with us. One way from the US and had been backpacking around New Zealand before coming to Europe and the other was from Argentina. We decided to go up to Prague castle with them the next day. Prague castle in the biggest ancient castle in the world and it's history goes back to the 9th century, so we were looking forward to it.

We stopped on the way to take a picture of the girls.

When we got there we found out that they only allow 5000 people a day to actually enter the castle itself and since it had been open for an hour and a half all of those tickets had been sold. We did get to buy tickets for the the other buildings that are part of the castle compound and they were really cool. They have a cathedral that was built over about 600 years starting around the 10th century and that was definitely worth seeing.

This is the cathedral.

It was pretty dark inside the cathedral, so the pictures don't really do it justice.

We climbed up in a really tall tower (about a million steps in a tiny spiral staircase) and got to see sweeping views of Prague that were pretty cool.

In this picture you can see the building that makes up the castle wall and then the city beyond it. Most of the roofs in Prague were redish-orange.

Here you can see part of the cathedral and some more of the castle.

We went back down into the cathedral, poked around a little, and the looked at lots of the other buildings, a museum, and the castle gardens. It was pretty cool. One funny thing that we noticed was in the church the confession booths were roped off...

tisk tisk

I loved these trees! They were
in the gardens just outside of the castle

We did some exploring of the city and we saw lots of beautiful old row houses

Most of you know I love to make jewelry. The Czech Republic produces lots of amazing fire polished glass and bohemian crystal beads, so I really wanted to buy some while we were there. We found lots of little boutique bean shops, but the beads were ridiculous (more than a dollar each...) I was starting to get pretty bummed out so I asked a girl who worked at our hostel if she knew of a good place to buy them. She told Jason and I about a little out of the way market, so we set out. We walked all around and at first we only saw stalls with fruit and trinkets, but deep in the center we found the beads. They were way cheaper than the stores and I bought quite a few of them. It was definitely the highlight of my time in Prague.

So many treasures, so little time...

Ok, I have a million things to do, so I'll blog about Berlin later. This week, I promise

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Munich, Füssen, Salzburg, & Dresden

We have some train time from Prague to Berlin, so I though I would catch up with you guys a little.

Munich was cold (have you noticed a theme to my blogs about Europe?), but fun. We went to a sweet technology museum that has pretty much everything ever invented. Jason and I both thought that the coolest things were the first machines. Maybe we've been living in a land of limited electricity too long, but the stuff they could do using water pressure was amazing! I also really liked the glass blowing part. There was a guy sitting there making beautiful wine goblets with a big blowtorch.

While we were walking around we spotted this statue and I just couldn't resist... Those of you from AR know what I'm talking about!

Calling the Hogs!

I love bread, I always have. In Germany I have discovered a new love – the soft pretzel. In Munich I saw something that made my heart skip a beat – a GIANT soft pretzel . It was amazing :)

On our last day in Munich we went over to see a really cool castle around 11 in the morning. When we got there I realized that it was not the castle that I thought we were going to. (It was the Schloss Nymphenburg and the other one was the Schloss Neuschwanstein – an honest mistake...) The Schloss Nymphenburg was huge and beautiful, but it was just in the middle of the city. The one I had wanted to see was the one that Walt Disney patterned his castle after – on a big mountain with towering spires.

We were planning on traveling to Saltzberg that day and our tickets are only limited to 5 days of traveling, not five trips. We checked the guide book and the city with Schloss Neuschwanstein wasn't too far south of Munich, so we decided to go. We took a few quick pictures and went back to the train station. (I'll have Jason post some of the pictures because we didn't take them with my camera)

When we got to the station we found out that the next train to Füssen was leaving in about 11 minutes. We talked about it quickly and decided it would work, but then we remembered that our bags were still at the hostel. We tore out of the train station and ran to the hostel (a few blocks away) as fast as we could. We grabbed the bags and ran back to the train station only to arrive 3 minutes after the train left. The cold dry air was such a shock to my lungs that when we got to the platform I almost died from an asthma attack (or at least that's what it felt like... hehe).

We waited for the next train and got to Füssen a little after 4. We didn't get to the castle ticket office until 4:40 and she said that the only remaining castle tour in English was at 5:50. Perfect! The only problem was that the bus that would've taken us up to the castle wasn't working. Remember how I said the castle was on top of a huge hill... We busted it up the hill, running as much as we could, and it took us about 25 minutes to get to the top. Then we relaxed and took some pictures before the tour. When the tour started we found out that we couldn't take any pictures inside the castle at all, so Jason lugging his 15 pound backpack all the way up the hill might have been a mistake.

Jason took some really cool pictures of the outside, but I thought I would show you a few of mine just as a little preview.

This is the view from the castle. It was a pretty hazy day, so the picture's not awesome. I told you it was really high up!

This is part of the outside.

The marble on the castle was really beautiful.

The castle was definitely worth it. It was nice to walk around, take some pictures, and relax outside while we waited for the tour so that we could go in. The inside of the castle was amazing! I am still bummed that we didn't get to take any pictures! Every single surface of everything was painted or carved or somehow intricately designed. I can't even imagine how much work went into it.

Unfortunately the tour group ahead of us was a huge private group and they took a long time so our tour was slowed down a lot. Near the end Jason and I realized that we had less than half an hour before the bus that would take us to from the part of town the ticket office was in to the part of town our train was going to leave from. We tore out of the castle and ran back down that huge hill. We got to the bus station breathless and shaky-legged, but we beat the bus by about 3 minutes. We got to the train on time and we were on our way to Salzburg.

In the middle of the journey we had to change trains and while we were waiting I noticed some peanut M&M's in the vending machine. I marched over and deposited my 60 cents, but the candy got stuck. No problem I thought, I'll just buy another bag and the two will fall together. I counted up the rest of my change and it was only 58 cents . Jason banged on the machine to no avail. I was about to give up, but I decided to see if a gentle body slam might loosen my precious snack. Sure enough, it wiggled a little. I think I slammed into the machine about 15 times, but at last I was victorious!

Because of our detour we didn't get in to Salzburg until just before midnight. We had a hostel booked, so we went to the tram platform. Our hostel was on the other side town and at this point we discovered that all of the public transportation in Salzburg shuts down just before midnight... We lugged our bag around to about 7 hotels within walking distance of the train station and all of them were full, so at 2 am we just went back to the train station to wait until 5 when the trams started running again. That was literally the coldest three hours of my life!

We listened to some podcasts and we got to chat with some nice people at the station, but we didn't get any sleep. At 5 am we locked our bags in a locker and jumped on a bus to warm up and see some of the city. The warm bus made us very tired and we were both asleep when we got back to the train station. We tried another bus and we stayed awake for a little bit, but after a few minutes we dozed off again. When we got back to the train station the second time we found a bakery and got some food and coffee and then hit the town.

I am sure that our experience was slightly tainted by the freezing night at the train station, but Salzburg wasn't really that great. We didn't go on any tours or see any of the Mozart stuff, so I'm sure there were a lot of things that we missed out on. We really just ran around on the busses for the morning and took some pictures along the river that runs through town. By lunch time we were ready to get back to Germany. We took a train back to Munich and then on to Dresden. We slept a lot on that train, and it was lovely!

A few shots in Salzburg

The mountains were pretty amazing!

Dresden was awesome, probably my favorite city so far. Most of the time we were there it was cold and rainy, but it was still cool. There were lots of interesting old buildings, our hostel was nice, the transportation system was German (which is way better than anyone else's), but the highlight was the Hot Spoon. It was a soup restaurant close to our hostel and we shared several bowls there on different occasions.

Here is a picture of Jason in love :)

We used the all-you-can-ride day passes for the city public transportation systems in other cities, but we got the most use out of it in Dresden. Because it was raining we saw tons of the city from the trams. At 6 euro for the two of us for the day it was the cheapest tour ever. Sometimes I was not that great at reading the map, so we got lost several times which just meant that we saw even more of Dresden.

One place where we did hop off the tram and walk around was an old palace in the middle of town.

This is just one of the buidlings. There were several in this same style all in a big square.

I didn't take a lot of pictures of the places that we stayed, but this hostel room in Dresden was so cute I had to snap a few.

Here is our room. It was a six bed dorm. (I was sitting on the other pair of bunks)

And here is the view out the window. Pretty nice, huh?

All-in-all we are having a great time. I'll blog about Prague later, but right now I'm a little tired.