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December 28, 2010


Today is the first anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever. Here's the tale which, though abbreviated, is the true story that spanned oceans and proved that love always wins in the end:

It had been just over 3 years since they met, 2 years since they decided to begin a long-distance relationship, and 11 weeks since they had seen each other in person.  As she got on a plane to cross the ocean again, words could not describe how eager her heart was to be with its other part, the only part that makes it feel whole.  Somewhere between his cobblestone streets and her 8-lane highways, somewhere between his quiet town and her bustling city, they discovered what real love is made of.

Though stuffy and sick, she endured what seemed like the longest two flights of her life, knowing the duration would soon fade from memory when she saw his face at the airport.  And this proved to be true.

Holding hands on the way home just made a planned detour along the coast of that same ocean a bit more delightful, and almost made her forget her congested head and inability to get warm, despite many layers.  And the hope of a proposal made her get out of the car, into the drizzling rain at every planned mountain and ocean view, not wanting to disappoint him... if this indeed could be "the spot". 

[And yes, you do have to admit that in this unusual circumstance, of course she knew it was coming soon.  And no, the knowledge of "soon" did not ruin the surprise.]
None, in fact, were the aforementioned "spot", and at the last, she mentioned, "I can't wait to just get to your house and sit on the couch and snuggle", for she knew the holiday visits and Christmas celebrations would fill their week quickly and all too soon she would be getting on that plane again.

Imagine, now, when a small, secretive stop on the way home turns into a winding road in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, in the rain, and ends at a quaint house with an unknown woman opening the gate unlocking the door for them.  She leads them through the small, round house with 3 levels, gives a few instructions in Portuguese, then leaves and gives him the keys.  With a bit of embarrassment, she now remembers her response when he mentioned that she could get her book from the car while he builds a fire:  "We're not staying here for the night, are we?" 

"Well, unless you want to drive back to Coimbra tonight....", he responded sadly. 
"No, let's stay here..." she said, "...but can we turn on the heat?" 
"Love, that's why I'm building a fire."

Her emotions got the better of her when the wood was wet, she felt awful, couldn't get warm, and he said he was leaving to prepare dinner... in the kitchen, which was down a steep flight of wet stone stairs. Outside. In the cold, dark night.  After a few tears fell, he invited her to join him cooking.  Her eyes dried when she saw the thoughtfulness of heart-shaped pasta that he had brought, which she knew had to be almost impossible to find in Portugal!  They ate a beautiful dinner upstairs, where the heat had risen, accompanied by the sounds of her favorite jazz music.  Dinner had helped her head to clear, and when he asked her to dance, she was reminded of why she loved him so much, and even more so as he spoke of love that conquered oceans and promised that his would last a lifetime.  She had barely noticed him fidgeting in his pocket a minute before, so as he danced and held her hands behind her back, she was completely surprised when he slipped the ring on her finger and followed it with, "So, Kim Salewski, will you marry me?"  She, of course, had to accept.

This story gets better as he begins a story of his own:  "So let me tell you why I chose a mill..."

"A mill", she thought... "so that's what this place is!"

"It used to be a flour mill", he said, "and I chose this place to propose because when we think of flour, we think of bread, and bread is the foundation of every culture and has been throughout all of history; it is the most common thing that every culture shares.  Jesus used bread in his miracles.  Just like bread is a foundation, I want to begin to build the foundation of our life -- together."

And just like that, she fell in love with the little mill house, its cold walls, small quarters, and wet firewood.  It was the perfect beginning to the next chapter that was about to be written... 

The mill
Loved the original windows!
Picnic tables made from the original round grinding stones used in the mill!

The view

The stairs down to the kitchen (platform is the roof)

Forever and ever...

...and the Lord sent us a double rainbow on the way home to remind us of His promises to us!

Happy New Year to us!

December 23, 2010


I do believe that I am a bit behind in posting.  I apologize.  After scrolling through some photos in my camera last night, I realized that I constantly shoot photos with the intention of writing a blog about said photo... but then I don't.  I think it's a combination of my perfectionism and my laziness.  Now it has turned into a really good opportunity for a New Year's resolution!

Inspired by my dear friend Emily, I began to think about the few ornaments that I brought to Portugal and the reasons that I chose to bring each one.  Like her, I began to relive memories of receiving the ornaments or buying them with the intention of remembering a special time or place.  As I look at my tree, I cannot imagine how I will choose just a few to describe here!

Yet before those stories are shared, I do believe I should start with one better: the tree extravaganza!  After [Kim] deciding that Christmas could not be complete without a tree, we headed out to choose one, and I prayed we could find one that you couldn't see all the way through.  You see, the Portuguese have begun a campaign to save the trees, so most everyone buys small artificial ones for their houses, and most are so sparse that you could easily have a dinner conversation with someone sitting on the other side of the tree.  Upon seeing numerous trees on display (of course, a display that was on scaffolding 15 feet above the sales floor), we found one that was shaped nicely, full in the middle, and just the right height.  We even double checked with a sales associate that we were, indeed, buying the correct tree, and she confirmed it as she helped us bring the box to the register.  It wasn't until later, after the diligent and patient Luis Miguel had put together the entire tree, that we realized this tree was not, in fact, the one we had requested.  Of course I blamed the sales clerk, shed a few tears (since most Portuguese stores do not accept refunds of items already opened) and sulked the rest of the evening.  Begging Luis to at least ask the store about an exchange, I took a photo of the tree that clearly did not match the photo on the box, and we headed back to the store the next day.  Thankfully, they were cheerful about it and told us to pack it up and bring it back!  :)

Did I mention how patient my husband is?  This would be our 2nd trip to the store in 2 days... with a receipt that was 6 weeks old.  Have I also mentioned that God is in the details?  I do believe He is, and I do believe that He cares that I love my Christmas tree!  The new tree was perfect, and though there are a few very large gaps in some places, it just gives her character.  We spent a few days decorating, as the lady of the house VERY incorrectly judged the amount of beaded garland needed to fill the tree (despite living with engineers for the past 5 years!).  And can you believe that my very patient husband almost fainted when I approached the register with 4 boxes of 100 count lights???  He thought that we could decorate an entire tree with less.  Knowing the huge expense of electricity in Portugal, I gave in, but have since daily reminded him that my father puts 1,200 lights on our family tree.  Just sayin'.

To further complicate the situation, instead of the lights being in one long string with an outlet plug on one end and an empty plug on the other (so you can connect the strands together), the strand is one big circle.  Time to figure that one out, engineers!  To get the best effect, we had to string them on 2 rows at a time.  Let me tell you, it was a disaster waiting to happen... especially when I asked my very patient husband to take off the entire first strand after we put them on because they were too spaced out.  And I reminded him (with a smile) that my dad was putting on 12 boxes of lights and we were putting on... 4.

Here's a commemorative photo of our first ornaments on our first Christmas tree as a family!

I chose to put on this ornament:
She's a little doll from Japan, carved entirely out of wood.  While in Japan for the inaugural Power [wheelchair] Soccer World Cup in 2007, Luis and I decided that we would commit to dating long distance, so Japan has a special place in both of our hearts.

Luis chose to put on this fish, as the Portuguese are slightly enamored with their fish.

My mom decorated a tree for Luis the first time he visited our family in WI at Christmas, and all the ornaments on the tree had significance to him or us... fish for Portugal, soccer balls because he loves the sport, a suitcase because we traveled a lot, etc.

Speaking of the suitcase, it is definitely one of my favorites...

...and, of course, the Pickle.

Milwaukee (my hometown) has a large German population and the pickle ornament is an old German tradition observed by those true Germans who would decorate their tree on Christmas Eve.  Parents would hide the pickle ornament amidst the green boughs and the child who found it first on Christmas morning would get an extra little gift from St. Nick.  I'm not sure how this got to be a part of my family... I think perhaps one of my mom's daycare parents gave it to her??  Now her daycare kids try to find it first thing in the morning when they arrive.

These two ornaments were ones that I have saved from childhood... I think I made the reindeer out of a clothespin... though I do have a faint memory of perhaps buying it at a craft show with my grandma when I was very very young.  Either way, it's true vintage!  I also like ornaments with words, and this one has always stayed in my collection because of that:

 Another homemade ornament was given to me last year by my favorite twins, Ava and Sofia Brickey!  Their mom, Stef, is a dear friend of mine from college and their dad, Dave, blessed us by officiating our wedding.  They are a family who constantly gives, even when pennies are tight!  We are so thankful for this family!

When choosing which ornaments to bring, I confidently chose a few from each place I have lived, because those are often the most special!  I bought this bird at Patina, my favorite boutique in Minneapolis...

[insert photo that won't load because Blogger is down]

...and this peach is from a peach farm in south Georgia.  My favorite part is that it is made out of a crushed aluminum soda can!

We also couldn't have a tree without representing a little hometown pride...

...and one from the beach to remember our honeymoon, or "mini-moon", in Florida!

I probably shouldn't leave Luis out of this, because he has acquired a few great ornaments from my mom...

And of course, I couldn't forget a few of my favorites from the packages we received from her and my dad and grandma this year:  a Unicef globe hot air balloon, really supersweetawesome metal woven star, "First Christmas", and some great sparkly snowflakes to bring out the silver in our tree!

We couldn't afford many  more decorations considering our couch and mattress came first, but here's a few of our halls that were decked!

The front door:

And of course an American Christmas Advent Calendar... I adore Norman Rockwell!

Our homemade mantle... complete with stockings knitted by my mom's friend Nancy, who knit my parents a set when they got married, then my brother and I one after we were born, then gave Luis and I a set at our wedding shower in Wisconsin!  Such a special memory to have with us over here!

All we had were these sparkly ornaments, so in an attempt to save money, we created a display, complete with a homemade "Merry" sign from some cereal box cardboard and glitter!  I love some sparkle here and there... and now all over my kitchen floor!

 I suppose the "newlywed" thing to do would be to have us actually sitting in this photo in front of the tree...

[just imagine photo of tree here... since Blogger won't let me load anymore photos tonight!]

...but by the time we remembered, we were always in our pajamas!  Maybe in the next post??  More photos and stories to come next week, as we're heading off to our first Portuguese Christmas in the morning, and I'm sure I'll have a LOT to blog about after!  We pray that your Christmas is joyful, and that wherever you are, whether you're facing joy or trial, remember this...

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

- lyrics, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Merry Christmas & Boa Natal!

December 16, 2010


I knew to expect gifts for Christmas... I mean, in a family like mine, gifts are given on every occasion that one could possibly think of celebrating!  Crash your car?  My mom will find a "Sorry you crashed your car" card.  (I speak from experience). Get a new house?  New job?  Start practicing a new hobby?  We Salewskis will find a way to celebrate it, and most likely it will come in a wrapped box, and in our case, with a stamp.

I wasn't surprised when my parents asked us what we missed and what we really wanted for Christmas, but I didn't expect them to have made special arrangements with good ol' St. Nick to have a package delivered to us BEFORE Christmas!  They did!  It arrived on Friday and was filled with Christmas goodies galore!

For those of you who hail from places outside of the Midwest or Scandanavia, I am deeply sorry that you were never able to experience the joys of St. Nick filling your stockings and/or shoes 20 days before Christmas.  It is a tradition eagerly anticipated by children, as it makes the wait for Christmas a bit more bearable!  For even those Midwesterners who may not know, St. Nick actually existed, and though it is difficult to know the exact details of his life, historians believe Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and presents.

Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5-6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicaea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in A.D. 325.  Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some two thousand churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas, since they were celebrated within weeks of one another. (You can read more of this pastor's account and contrasting opinions too).

The point of this post is not only to recognize that St. Nick truly was a gift-giver, but that the Salewski's are too!  :)  Here's evidence that our halls are now decked!

Allllll the goodies, including ornaments, Christmas-smelling room spray (the best!), mittens, DVDs, CDs, a photo frame, and Christmas socks!

The selection of ornaments just before we put them on our tree... now she's even more happy that she's FULL of decor!

Our favorite... sweater and hat set for our wine bottle!  :)
 Thanks, Mom & Dad, for making us feel loved!  We love you too!

December 7, 2010


It wasn't necessarily the size that surprised me, it was the depth.

Appearing to be about three inches thick, it was layer upon layer of meat.  Meats of various kinds.  Sandwiched between bread.  Soggy bread.  Soaked in sauce. Covered in cheese, or a fried egg, if you so choose.

Now, if you know me at all, you may know that I am completely disgusted by soggy bread, soggy French fries, pre-made refridgerated sandwiches that get soggy, and the like.  So you can imagine my reaction when Luis Miguel was describing the sandwich of all sandwiches, the one that was so filling that it could suffice for lunch AND dinner, and he mentioned that the bread on top and bottom was soaked in sauce.  It took everything in me not to gag on the spot.

We planned to visit a restaurant at the beach famous for their Francesinhas during our few days of holiday before the real world invited us in.  Our time at the beach got interrupted by an unexpected call for a delivery (see "small' post here), so the lunchtime delight was postponed a few days in favor of actually eating them at the beach... thus not having to prepare a picnic dinner, and therefore able to spend more time with our feet in the sand. (Look whose husband is becoming quite a planner!)

As we walked a mile, then sat at the incredibly cramped, bustling restaurant, one would have thought this was the only restaurant at the beach!  My stomach growled as the people swarmed and filled every possible space with chairs.  When the dish was finally set in front of me, my stomach flipped with anticipation, aghast at the thought of consuming this entire plate of food:

It looks a lot smaller than it actually was.

And yes, that plate is for one person.  This quantity of fries is only a bit more than your average McDonald's large, but for some reason, when spread out around the entire plate, the quantity seems to double!  From the bottom up, the contents are as follows: soggy bread soaked in francesinha sauce, then patties of pork, ham, bacon, beef, and presunto, then soggy bread again, then cheese.  There were toothpicks to hold it together and Luis Miguel kindly gave me a quick lesson in toothpick positioning (slightly visible above) in order to execute the eating of such sandwich in proper cultural fashion, which does not include it falling apart.  Luis also chose to have his topped with an egg, sunny side up, which was just adding one too many items if you ask me.

The fries were delicious, and the sandwich itself was... well... it was quite an experience!  Here she is a few bites in, with me thinking to myself, "Why in the world did I agree to this??"

The sauce was delicious and unique, a tangy barbeque flavor of sorts... and in honor of the Portuguese, I stuffed myself to the brim, but just could not finish any more than this...

... and actually, that's only half of what I left on my plate, because I gave the other half of this portion to Luis Miguel, who refused to finish it as well!  I would have been completely content with half of what I started with, and even then I think I would have been full!

It is customary to drink something after your meals in Portugal, something carbonated like Friese, a lemony Sprite-style ginger ale of sorts, which is just the remedy for this type of stuffed belly! 

And then maybe a nap on the beach.  :)