Monday, March 29, 2010

As long as we're here in San Francisco... apply for visas from the French consulate...

...we might as well check out Fisherman's Wharf...

...tour the Jelly Belly factory...

...take a Trolley...

...down to Hyde Park...

...and cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wouldn't you?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Thank you for tolerating my temporary temper tantrum. This station blog will now return to it's regularly scheduled program.

David and I are different. My favorite book of the Bible is Genesis. His is Revelation. David likes vanilla. I like chocolate. I like to write out long prose in leather bound journals. He likes to make lists on sticky notes. Which brings me to the newest feature on the sidebar of our blog: Tweets from David! A tweet is like an electronic sticky note memo, sort of like a Facebook status update. These brief updates will give you a play-by-play on all our adventures. This way, we can take you all with us wherever we go. Isn't that sweet? I mean tweet.

I will continue to be the Four For France blog-writer, but starting today David will be the Four For France Twitter Tweeter. He will be sending out updates at least once a day, so if you just can't get enough of the Williamsons (oh brother!) feel free to follow us on Twitter. Or you can just pull up the blog and check the sidebar for the latest tweet.

For those of you who are sick of us already, feel free to ignore David's Tweets altogether.

Does anyone else have the song, "Rockin' Robin" going through their head now?

"Tweedle-eedle-eet, Tweedle-eedle-eet. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet, Tweet."

Thursday, March 25, 2010



Please excuse me while I momentarily climb up on my soapbox.

To the Members of Congress:

In his speech on Tuesday the President commended you for passing the health care bill by saying, "Because each and every one of you made a decision that at a moment of such urgency, it was less important to measure what the polls said than to measure what was right." But aren't the polls a reflection of the will of the people? And weren't you elected to enact the will of the people? Why do you believe that you are better judges of what is right than the American people are? YOU work for us. It is not your job to determine what is best for us as a parent does for a child; it is your job to do what we ask you to do, like an employee does for a boss. I believe that in passing this bill, many of you have signed your own pink slips.

To the Media:

Oh, I have so many bones to pick with you! But for the time being I will stick with this one: Please get off of Tiger Woods' back. While I agree that his behavior as a husband has been deplorable, may I remind you that he isn't married to you? You have sensationalized, dramatized, and psycho-analyzed his behavior with such an undeniable air of condescension. I find this particularly hypocritical since most of what you broadcast over the public airwaves glamorizes infidelity in all its forms. So why, now, do you sit in a seat of judgement, feigning shock, all the while reveling in the stories that you can generate about this man, who, by self admission, is broken, contrite, and deeply sorry. You are so NOT my friend.

To the American Medical Association:

It has recently come to my attention that you are completely out of touch with the reality of life for the average American woman. While I appreciate the time and attention that you give to studying weight gain in middle-aged women (not!), your recent recommendation that we exercise an hour a day, seven days a week is completely unattainable. Newsflash! We have LIVES. I realize that there are those (Oprah comes to mind) who have both chef and personal trainer. They may be able to follow your prescribed standard. After all, if someone came to do my cooking I could, perhaps, find an hour a day for exercise. But I don't have a cook, nor a maid, nor a nanny, nor a gardener, nor a chauffer. And even if I did, I still WOULD NOT exercise for an hour a day, seven days a week. Even God only worked out six days in a row!

I am now stepping down off of my soapbox. Thank you for your attention.

Monday, March 22, 2010


In the words of Anne Shirley, the orphan from the beloved book Anne of Green Gables, "I love to soar on the wings of anticipation!" I am not talking about the "Someday Syndrome," where one believes that real joy and happiness are always just around the corner. I am talking about being in a place of complete contentment while feeling hopeful about what lies ahead. Just like what Proverbs 31:25 says about the woman of noble character:

She can laugh at the days to come

There have been times in my life when all I could do was worry about future events. I was held captive by fears and what ifs, and anticipation was infused with dread rather than hope. But over the past few years, the Lord has given me the ability to laugh at the days to come. I have a confidence that is rooted in the belief that God is for me, and that no matter what lies ahead, He will take me through it, give me joy in it, and make something beautiful out of it.

As we look forward to the week ahead, here are some things that I am trusting to the very capable hands of a loving God. We anticipate that He will do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine in each of these situations:
  • We are going to put our beloved home up for sale, hoping that another family will be as blessed by this little spot on the planet as we have been for the past 7 years.

  • Our boys and three of their friends will perform in the school talent show on Friday. Their band has shown tremendous growth over the past few weeks, and David and I plan to be in the front row with imaginary lighters held high.

  • On Saturday, we will travel to San Francisco--which is the location of the nearest French Embassy, where we all four have appointments to apply for long-term visas.

  • We will meet with individuals and churches to invite them to be a part of our financial support team--if just 6 more families pledge $100/month in support we will be able to purchase our one-way tickets to Paris! We trust that God is already prompting those He is calling to give to His kingdom work in France.

  • We will compose a letter to prayer and financial supporters with a projected departure date. Yikes!

Anticipation. I feel it just before I take the first bite of a ripe peach. I feel it when I am sitting in the water behind a boat, about to yell, "Hit it!" I feel it when I hop off the ski lift, when the plane taxies down the runway, and when I plant my garden. "I love to soar on the wings of anticipation!" How about you?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Julia Child's Tarte aux Pommes

We are a slightly apple-obsessed family. What can we say? We live in the great state of Washington, and apples here are not only plentiful, they are delicious! It seems that the French also enjoy their apples. This recipe is Julia Child's, and it is fast becoming a family fave.

Serves 8
10-inch partially cooked pastry shell*
4 pounds cooking apples (Golden Delicious)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam/preserves
1/3 cup Calvados, rum or cognac (or 1 tablespoon vanilla)
2/3 cup granualted sugar for topping
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

*I use my regular pie crust recipe, and bake it as an empty shell for about 10 minutes.
1) Preheat oven to 375F. Quarter, core, and peel the apples. Cut enough to make 3 cups into 1/8-inch lengthwise slices and toss them in a bowl with the lemon juice and sugar. Reserve them for the top of the tart.
2) Cut the rest of the apples into rough slices. You should have about 8 cups. Place in a pan and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

3) Beat in apricot jam, Calvados, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Raise heat and boil, stirring, until applesauce is thick enough to hold in a mass in the spoon.
4) Spread the applesauce in the pastry shell. Cover with a neat, closely overlapping layer of sliced apples arranged in concentric circles, as illustrated below:

5) Bake in upper third of preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the apples have browned lightly and are tender. Slide the tart onto a serving dish and paint over it with a light coating of apricot glaze.

Apricot Glaze
1/2 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Stir the strained apricot preserves and sugar over moderately high heat until thick enough to coat the spoon with a light film, and the last drops are sticky as they fall from the spoon (225-228 degrees on a candy thermometer). Do not boil past this point or the glaze will become brittle as it cools.
Serve warm or cold with whipping cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Made with Love

If you are a follower of my reading list, you may have noticed that my book completion rate has slowed over the past couple of weeks. That is because much of my free time has been devoted to the creation of this:

This blanket was made with GREAT joy and anticipation. Each stitch was an unspoken prayer, a silent petition, a desperate plea on behalf of a family in the making. You see the recipient of this blanket is a dear friend who will leave on Friday to pick up the two boys that she and her husband are adopting from Ethiopia. The blanket will be given to the older boy, who is three.

Becoming a matter the a process that God often uses to build our faith and to remind us of how very dependent we are on Him. Watching my friend walk this path towards motherhood has encouraged and blessed me. She has shown tremendous trust and undaunted courage.

Soon (and VERY soon) this family, which God had planned from the beginning of time, will convene in Africa, and then travel home together to Spokane. Parents and children, different in color but united in love. A family knit together by the hands of a mighty God.

*Free pattern may be downloaded here.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Ah, I love a good game! But even better are the FUN friends who will play games with me. Thanks for humoring me with your brilliant guesses...many of which were right on the money. So, now I shall give you the answers:

Where did we go? You can take the Dennises out of the Northwest, but apparently you can't take the Northwest out of the Dennises. Our first two stops on Friday morning were Starbucks and Costco...and it took us longer to find a Starbucks in San Antonio than anyplace I have ever been. With coffee in hand, we stolled the aisles at Costco in search of favorites such as Dubliner cheese and gourmet olives. I can understand the southern resistance to Starbucks, where Sweet Tea is King, but a Texas-sized store like Costco, with Texas-sized goods seems to be right at home in the Lone Star State.

What did we watch? Perhaps I threw you all off with the word "wildlife," as no one guessed this one correctly, not even my sister Keri (who has been to Port Aransas and once aspired to be a marine biologist). In South Padre Island, you can drive your car right out on to the beach. As we were driving home from lunch at a beach-side fish house, we glimpsed a herd of...porpoises! They playfully leapt in the shallow waters of the gulf, and we delighted in their frolicking. Beautiful, amazing creatures that swam with great speed and grace, jumping with ease, as if to say a cherful "hello!"

What did we argue about? My mother, the retired nurse, has an extreme love for and dedication to the use of toilet seat covers anytime she uses a toilet outside of her own home. She has even purchased her own travel-pack of seat covers that she can take with her anywhere she goes--though they were of little use on the squatty-potties we encountered in China years ago. I would not be surprised if my mother uses toilet seat covers when she visits MY house. But Me? I'm a wild thing. I laugh in the face of danger. I like to live on the edge. Therefore, I seldom use toilet seat covers. Ever. They slow me down at a time that I am usually in a hurry. I will wipe the seat off with a wad of toilet paper if, well, you know, it needs it. Otherwise, I just go. My mother is convinced that I will contract some communicable disease through my careless toileting customs. I think she is a paranoid potty-er. Where do you stand on the subject?

What treats did I buy? Jodie, my friend and co-worker got this one right--probably because she watched me savor my own treasured treat over lunch on Wednesday: Pralines! At many restaurants in Texas, homemade pralines are sold, individually wrapped, at the cash register. These pecan-loaded, brown-sugary candies are the BOMB! I have been inspired to attempt to make them myself, though I must say that the pecans in Texas are somehow better than the ones I buy at Costco. How is that possible?

What beauty product did I give to my sisters? Many of you guessed eye cream, which IS, indeed, a true love of mine. The clue I included to help rule out eye cream as the correct answer was the one about not being able to have these gifts in my carry-on luggage. Eye cream comes in tiny containers that could easily slip through the TSA's scrutiny. No, I did not give them eye cream, I gave them the Vegetarian Miracle Hair Conditioner, which I blogged about here. It makes me very happy!

So, I wish I had a few parting gifts for all my gregarious game-playing gal-pals. If I could, I would give you each your very own tub of the Vegetarian Miracle.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Guessing Game About My Texas Trip

On my first full day in Texas, I visited two places that are actually based in the great Northwest. Shockingly, one of these places took us miles of driving to find. Where, oh where, do you think that I went?

A highlight of my time in Port Aransas involved enjoying some of the local wildlife (and NO, I am not referring to Laughing Bird). At one point, Dad pulled the truck over and Mom got out her binoculars and we spent several moments admiring the antics of some amazing creatures. What do you think we were watching?

I get along wonderfully with my parents, and had a most delightful visit with them. My mom and I only disagreed about one little thing--and it came up every time we went to use a public bathroom. Can you guess what we squabbled about?

After my time in Port Aransas, I traveled to Amarillo, Texas to visit my sister Robin (and her husband and two beautiful daughters). Immediately following our last meal together, which we ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant, I purchased 4 delectable delicacies that are Texas specialties. These toothsome treats were brought home and shared with my family. Can you guess what they were?

My oldest sister, Barbara, was also visiting Robin while I was in Amarillo. In true sisterly love, I took a containter of my FAVORITE beauty product to share with each of them. Actually, I had David mail the containers directly to Robin's house because I would not have been allowed to have them in my carry-on luggage. What, exactly, did I give to my sisters?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Port Aransas

Sunny and grand

Toes in the sand

Birds in the surf

Jellyfish on land

Loving my time with Mom and Dad

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Peek at Retirement

Touring the great state of Texas with my retired parents has been, well, interesting to say the least. They met my plane in San Antonio, and then whisked me away to the coast, where their RV is parked for the winter. Of course, we had to stop for lunch on the way to the coast, and Mom and Dad had just the place in mind. They went on and on about the little dive called Van’s at exit 65 off of highway 37 that serves Texas BBQ. So I was a little confused when they pulled off at a rest stop just a couple of miles before exit 65. It turns out that the bathroom in the BBQ restaurant (and I use the term “restaurant” loosely) is not fit for human use, which, to her horror, my mother discovered on a previous visit. So now, savvy Texas road travelers that they are, my parents stop at the rest stop BEFORE they arrive at their lunch destination. When we finally arrived at Van’s (the only structure at exit 65), I was only momentarily put off by the dilapidated condition of the building; for, within seconds the amazing aroma of genuine Texas BBQ began to fill the air, my mouth began to water, and I began to pray that the health department would overlook this little corner of the world for just awhile longer.

I am not sure where to begin with my description of this place. The paint was peeling off of the walls, the ceiling had black mold growing on it, and I was actually thankful that I couldn’t see behind the make-shift wall into the kitchen. The waitress, who looked to be approximately 87 years old, was wearing a bright yellow cowboy hat, a purple bandana around her neck, rolled up jeans, and keds. She told us to sit anywhere we wanted. There were about six tables of varying shapes and sizes, and the place was already filling up. We chose a small table near the condemned-by-my-mother- bathroom and ordered three “Senior Plates.” You may find it odd that a young 30-something like me could get away with ordering a “Senior Plate.” I found it odd that the all the menu items had the word “Plate” in their title when there didn’t seem to be plate in the whole establishment. The meals were served on butcher paper. I actually took comfort in the fact that I was given a disposable plastic fork and knife, seeing as it didn’t appear that much got washed in that place. Nevertheless, here came my lunch: A scoop of potato salad, three slices of BBQ brisket, a half a pickle, a half a jalapeno pepper, a small Styrofoam cup of beans, and a cup of BBQ sauce. I am not sure if I have ever had a better meal in all my life. Seriously.

But my excitement for the day was far from over. We reached the Pioneer RV Resort in Port Aransas in time to take part in the much-anticipated “Hillbilly Ho-Down”—a special dinner event put on by the park’s Activity Director (named Muggs). As we headed to the clubhouse, I found myself caught in a sea of playful senior citizens wearing straw hats and overalls, with freckles painted on their cheeks. Well, most were dressed in this fashion. Some went for the more “authentic” hillbilly look: Bart Simpson Boxer shorts, a tank top, and a bathrobe left open. Oh my.

When we arrived at the clubhouse, we each were given nametags with our “Hillbilly” names. Both of my parents were given the name Billie Ray. Somehow it seemed right for them to have the same name. I was Tammie Lou. Next we got to have our picture taken next to the outhouse that was made from cardboard boxes. Everyone was delighted by the fact that the outhouse looked “occupied” because there was a pair of boots with blue jeans around the ankles visible beneath the outhouse door. While we waited in line for our food (hot dogs, thankfully, not possum), I noted the beer cans that were hanging from the ceiling as decorations. I could tell you about the games and prizes (toilet brushes were involved), the Chicken Dance (bathrobe man was drafted for this) and the jokes (centering on educational deficiency and hygiene habits) but I love you too much to regale you with such tales. Not when I still have to tell you about Laughing Bird.

My parents, I have discovered, are quite the party-animals. One night we are at a Hillbilly Ho-Down and the next night we have tickets to see Laughing Bird. Live. Right here in their very own RV Resort. What? You have never heard of the traveling musical/comedy duo known as Laughing Bird? According to their brochure they have played at just about every trailer park in our country. This married couple writes their own songs. He plays anything with strings and the harmonica. She plays the wooden spoons. I’m not kidding. Sometimes they sing, but you mostly hope they don’t. Gimmicky does not begin to describe their act. During one song the woman pulled everything from a golf club to a fishing pole from the cleavage of her red lacy dress. Another “song” included yodeling and auctioneer-ing—BOTH. And did I mention she played the spoons? Did I mention she looked like she was having convulsions when she played the spoons? Did I mention that they wrote and performed an epic song about the “mythology” of the spoons and their magical powers? And they were quite dressed up. Their audience blew in off of the beach wearing sandals and capris, but Laughing Bird was wearing an evening gown and tails. Somehow it didn’t seem fitting to play folk-music in formal-wear, but that is what they did. And just when I was afraid they were going to make us hold hands and sing “kum-by-yah” they made one last plug for their CDs and let us go.

Gosh, I wish David could be here with me.