Monday, December 31, 2012

From my kitchen

I sure missed my kitchen while we were in the states.
Furlough = lots of eating out at restaurants and fast food.
We did get some delicious home cooked meals, which we enjoyed.
We love going out to eat too...but even that gets old after awhile.
Although I'm not the greatest cook
and I definitely don't make fancy food,
my family thinks I'm the greatest cook in the world.
So I'm getting settled in my kitchen,
getting used to preparing three meals a day again,
and TRYING to keep four growing kids full.

Puff Pancakes
quick, easy, and delicious



Homemade Eggnog
I found a recipe online and since our whole family likes eggnog this time of year, I decided I would give it a try. 
Delicious...everyone loved it!
Last time I made eggnog was about 6 or 7 years ago, but I was not real pleased with the recipe.  It was too runny and had raw egg in it.
I have now found a keeper!


Some people say the kitchen is the heart of the home,
since our family spends a lot of time there,
I guess I would have to agree.
How thankful I am for my kitchen -
a refrigerator, stove, oven, running water, sink, dishwasher, counter space,...
Sometimes I forget to be thankful for these "luxuries" until I don't have them.   

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Simple Christmas


Hi....I'm back!
It has been a long time, but I'm excited to once again write in my online journal.
Although this post is current, in the near future I will be rewinding and covering our time in the states.  For now, we'll focus on the time since our return to Estonia on November 30, 2012.



The journey from Visalia, California to Johvi, Estonia took a total of almost 24 hours.  It was so wonderful to be home, but we were exhausted.  



We left sunny California and 75 degree weather and were welcomed with blizzard like conditions when we landed in Tallinn.


Thankfully the windy, blizzard like weather was not the only thing that welcomed us.  Our first Sunday back we were warmly welcomed by a dear group of people that had been waiting for our return.


For the first week or two after we arrived, it snowed almost everyday.  Gentle falling snow is so beautiful and peaceful.  I just love the view from our living room window.

view from living room
One thing that is hard to adjust to is the lack of light and sunshine during the winter.

8:00 a.m.

4:00 p.m.

Christmas preparations, celebrations, cooking, and activities started right after our return.  We didn't even have much time to get over jet lag (which Ron and I seemed to have a bad case of).  The kids didn't like the idea of not putting up the tree this year (I didn't like it either, but most days I was so tired that the idea was slightly temping).  So, we got the tree out of storage and decked our house for the holidays.

a Christmas tree lot in the parking lot of a large store
We had a simple Christmas this year.  I just didn't have time to do and prepare all that we normally do - bake lots of cookies (specifically sugar cookies), gingerbread house, pumpkin bread, etc.  But I will share some of the things we did do....

To focus more on the true meaning of Christmas, we made a paper chain and each chain had a portion of the Christmas story to read before bed.  It also had a question or two to answer and we shared a lot of thoughts about all the events concerning Jesus' birth.

our chain
 I also wrapped up books we had about winter and Christmas time.  The kids took turns choosing a book, unwrapping it, and then I read it to them.  This was fun mostly because we all did it together.

Caleb choosing his book
One of the kids' favorite activities was the ticket they found on their pillow when they went to bed  allowing them to get back up for hot chocolate and Christmas cartoons.  I was the coolest mom in the world that night!


Everyone of these activities was fun, special, and didn't cost a thing!


We were a little more creative in our gift giving this year - even the stockings.  Each person wrote a note for the other family members telling them something specific that made them special.  For example:  my note to Andrew told him what a gentleman he is to always open doors for me.  Ron really got in the spirit and made paper snowflakes to write his notes on.  We were all very impressed.
We also wanted to remember to be thankful for all the wonderful things the Lord blessed us with during our time in the states.  Many people gave us gifts, love offerings, gift cards, took us out to eat, we took a nice family vacation, etc.  So we all worked on a list of special things and activities and then read them Christmas morning.  We didn't need much under the tree to realize that the Lord blessed us abundantly in 2012.

our traditional *Christmas Day in front of the tree with a sign* picture

We had a delicious meal, but I must admit that I cheated a little by using some canned and pre-made items.  It just made my day easier :)

Sarah and I working on the pumpkin pie
 The menu:
a store bought seasoned chicken (Ron cooked it)
sweet potatoes
mashed potatoes
green bean casserole (brought canned soup from the states)
dinner rolls (made from scratch)
I forgot to make the stove top stuffing mix from the states :(  (we had it the next day with leftovers)
pumpkin pie (homemade crust, canned pumpkin from the states)
Everything was delicious!!!

ready to eat
Johvi, Estonia
We hope your Christmas celebration was as blessed as ours.  No, not with THINGS, but remembering that JESUS is the reason for the season.  He has blessed me with far more than I deserve.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Before I close this {lengthy} post, I'd like to welcome any new readers.  We met so many wonderful people as we traveled all over the United States.  I missed writing and communicating with you and look forward to catching up.  I'd love to hear from you too - leave a comment or send me an email.  
We also have a facebook page WINKLERS TO ESTONIA that you can *like*.  I keep that updated often with prayer requests, praises, and pictures.
Looking forward to keeping in touch with you!

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Knotts"of fun!

Our family has been in the states for almost 3 months now.  Let me tell you, life has been busy!!!  There seems to be something going on all the time between reporting to churches, serving and being a part in our home church, and spending time with extended family.  
I have two brothers and a sister.  Since my brother is also on furlough (from Cambodia), we are all in the states right now.  This is a very rare occasion.

Our first "get together with the whole family" was at Knott's Berry Farm!   

watching the rides from the parking lot - anxious to ride them
My brother, Stephen, planned and organized this exciting event.
We all met at my sister's house, loaded in the vans (with all the super excited kids), and headed out for an adventurous two day family trip.   

Day 1


Amidst  all the excitement, we faced disappointment that my mom got very sick a couple days before the trip and was not able to go with us.  My dad stayed home to take care of her.  Wasn't that sweet of him?  We sure missed having them with us.    
Uh oh!!!  Sarah is driving!
Another disappointment was that my sister-in-law spent the entire time in the hotel room since she was not feeling well.
On a positive note....one of my cousins, Malinda Benefield, joined us for our trip.  Everyone enjoyed having her with us.

all the girl cousins
(back row left to right) Gabby Benefield - 4,  Elizabeth Farrell - 11, Candace Benefield - 12
(front row, left to right)  Megan Farrell - 6, Emma Benefield - 9,  Emily Farrell - 8, Sarah Winkler - 9, Deborah Benefield - 11
After a full day of non stop fun, we left the park at 6 (because that was closing time).  We loaded back in the vans and headed for dinner at Denney's.  Once everyone enjoyed a filling meal, it was time to tuck everyone in for a good night of rest.
Now, our family fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.  However.....I heard that it didn't work that way in all the rooms.  Some people just can't stop having fun :)

sweet little Gabby
Day 2 started with donuts and fruit.  Then back to Knott's Berry Farm for more fun!

all the boy cousins
(back row, left to right)  Daniel Winkler - 12, Andrew Winkler - 11, Seth Benefield - 2, Timothy Benefield - 6,
Austin Farrell - 10, Josh Farrell - 4
(front row, left to right)  Nathan Farrell - 2, Caleb Winkler - 5, Stephen Benefield - 6

all the cousins
Day 2 ended with dinner at Jack in the Box and an exhausted group of people driving back to Visalia.

Day 2
I am so thankful for the family God has given us and the opportunity to make these special memories together.  There is lots of excitement in the air as we continue planning and preparing for our big family reunion taking place at the end of June before my brother and his family returns to Cambodia.  We also just had family pictures (with the whole gang - 27 people) taken by Jordana.  Look her up on face book or click on her name to go to her web page.  She did an outstanding job!!!  I can not wait to see them and then to share some of them with you.

March 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Goodly Heritage

March was a VERY busy month at our home church.  Everyone was gearing up for the California Christian School Competition that our church hosts.  It is an exciting time as the students prepare events to enter in the competition.  This kids were thrilled to get back to the states right in time to be a part.   We had been working on their events for many weeks while we were still in Estonia.   


One of my greatest desires is that my kids will serve the Lord with the talents that God has given them.  This competition challenges the students to develop and use their talents for His honor and glory.


Shortly before the competition, the students have a chance to practice their events at the annual school Talent Show.  Grandparents, other family members, church members, and friends are invited to attend.  It is also a fundraiser for the school to help pay for the students to attend the competition.


Our kids entered these events:
40 yard dash (Andrew)
Chess (Daniel)
Checkers (Sarah)
Art (Daniel, Sarah)
Spelling (Andrew, Sarah)
Piano Solo (Daniel, Andrew, Sarah)
Poem (Daniel, Andrew)
Ensemble (Daniel - Jr. High / Andrew, Sarah - Junior)
Hand Chimes - (Daniel - Jr. High / Andrew, Sarah - Junior)
Preaching - Daniel


All of the kids did an outstanding job!
I'll take a quick minute to share how the kids did (big smile)....if you don't mind
Daniel (Jr. High)
Preaching - 3rd place, Hand Chimes - Honorable Mention
Piano - 1st place, Poem - 1st place, Ensemble - 1st place

Andrew (Junior)
Poem -1st place, Hand Chimes - 1st place
Ensemble - 1st place, Piano - 1st place

Sarah (Junior)
Hand chimes - 1st place,  Ensemble  - 1st place

video

The Junior Ensemble did an awesome job!
What a joy it was to hear them sing I Love the Old Bible with such zeal and enthusiasm.

video

During the several days the students are gathered for competition, there are several preaching sessions as well. This year the older students were privileged to hear Pastor John Goetsch of Yuma, Arizona.  Stephen Benefield, Missionary to Cambodia, preached to the younger group.

the awards rally

young ladies from our school

students from Sequoia Baptist Academy

Junior Ensemble receiving their medals

Sarah is pleased with her medal

Andrew receiving an award

Daniel receiving his 3rd place ribbon for preaching
My parents, Pastor and Kathy Benefield, had 8 grandchildren involved in the competition this year.  How exciting to serve the Lord as a family and then to be on furlough and continue serving the Lord with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.  This was a special time for the kids.....and grandpa and grandma too.

Three of the grandchildren sang A Goodly Heritage.  The judges thought it was so good they wanted them to sing it at the award rally.  It was a touching and special memory.

Elizabeth Farrell, Candace Benefield, Austin Farrell

my parents listening to their grandchildren sing

I am so thankful for my heritage.  What a blessing it is for my kids to see their grandparents still faithfully serving the Lord.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Beginning our furlough

March 5, 2012, we left Tallinn, Estonia to begin furlough.

Early mornings are not my favorite time of day. However, once I got my eyes open and forced myself outof bed, I felt pretty good.  We got to the airport plenty early and everything went smoothly with check-in and getting through security.  After just a short wait at the gate, we got on the plane for our first flight and began our trip to America.









Leaving in the morning was perfect timing to see the sunrise from the air.  Isn't it gorgeous?!!!


Of course, the kids liked having personal t.v. screens in front of their seats.  It sure helps entertain them on that long flight over the ocean.  They also spent some time reading, playing games, and coloring.


Since our flight was during the day, no one slept much :(

Toward the end of the flight, the stewardess passed out cups of ice cream.  
Such a refreshing treat made a big hit!


Ron's parents picked us up at the airport and took us to their house in Lancaster.
Welcome to the desert!


The next afternoon we drove to Visalia where our sending church is located and my family lives.


Pizza, family, and fellowship made for a great evening.




Cuddle time with grandma was a great way to end the day.


The time difference and all the excitement caught up with Caleb and sleep took over.




We praise the Lord for His protection as we traveled.

*          *          *          *          *
Announcing the winner of the 
huge chocolate candy bar from Estonia!
#7 said,
"been following your blog now for almost 2 years I think.  Met you in Lithuania in June of 2010. :) had a blast with your kids!"
CONGRATULATIONS to Barrie G.
Please contact me (with the email me button on the right hand side of my blog) with your mailing information so I can send you your chocolate.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chocolate Anyone?

I'm guessing I have your attention, right?
Well, hang on just a minute and I'll explain.
First I'd like to share some pictures with you....

Caleb loves to play outside in the snow!
At the end of 2011 we had very little snow. 
The kids were anxious to get some so they could build snowmen, forts, have snowball fights, etc.

Sarah can usually hold her own with her brothers
Well, the new year brought snow.
Not as much as last year, but still plenty to play in. 

so strong!
After playing outside for awhile, the kids come in
covered in snow,
rosy cheeks, 
and red noses.

 We don't see the sun much in the winter, but when we do it is beautiful.


A few weeks ago, Ron took all the kids tubing.
Caleb was concerned about me staying home all by myself.
I quickly explained that I did not mind at all.

Andrew and Caleb getting ready to go down the hill
 I rode down this hill last year....it's a blast!
Remembering the fun they had last year, the kids were estatic to get to go again.
I'm so glad God gave my kids such an awesome dad!


A very fun day!
I think this is one of those things that will be a yearly tradition.



Now....back to the chocolate!

A while back a blogging friend of mine had a give away on her blog as she was heading back to the states on furlough.  Someone had the oportunity to win something special from her field.  Since I thought it was such a neat idea, I decided I would do the same thing.

How would you like to win a CHOCOLATE CANDY BAR from Estonia?

10" x 5" milk chocolate candy bar with almonds

All you have to do is leave me a comment.  That's it!  Just leave a comment about anything at all.  What I would be interested in mostly is something about yourself, how long you have been following my blog, and how you heard about my blog.

If you do not yet follow my blog, but you start following, you can let me know in a seperate comment for another entry for the candy bar.

For those of you who LOVE chocolate and want another opportunity to win, this is what you can do - leave a seperate comment with the promise to pray daily for at least one of these special requests:

safety as we travel to America on March 5th
safety as we travel through many states while on furlough
to raise additional support
our ministry we are leaving behind
new ministries we would like to start when we return
the salvation of Olga, Tonya, Valodia, Sylvia and others we are working with
Caleb's salvation
a family to help us reach the people of Johvi, Estonia

One more thing you can do that will give you an extra entry is add my new button that is on the right hand side of the blog. Now, I just did the button and I'm hoping it works. Please let me know if something isn't right.  Just to let you know, I may still experiment with the button when I have time.  If you have any tips or advice, I'm listening =)  Make sure you leave me a comment letting me know that you have added my button.

So, that is four possible ways that you can enter to win the CHOCOLATE CANDY BAR. 

The giveaway will end on March 5th at 9 p.m. (Pacific Time)
I will ship it to anyone that wins where ever you live.

Update:
I am also adding another chance to enter....if you put this giveaway on facebook.

Make sure you leave a seperate comment for each thing you do. 

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