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Ukrainian visitors get a warm welcome

August 29, 2012, 17:30 3117 Author: Therese Apel www.rankinledger.com Nine Ukrainian adoptees from the metro area showed up at the airport to greet the seven children who are here to visit the United States for about three weeks

Nine Ukrainian adoptees from the metro area showed up at the airport to greet the seven children who are here to visit the United States for about three weeks. They are here through the program Joyful Journey, and their local sponsors are Tim and Lynn Loecher of Brandon. (Special to Rankin Ledger)

So, this will be a little bit of a "velcro column" this week. I'm going to just throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.

First an update on Tim and Lynn Loecher. You might remember a story in last Monday's Clarion-Ledger about their experience in adopting two Ukrainian sisters, and how they were opening their home to several more starting last week for almost a month.

Those visiting children got here last Wednesday, and Tim sent out an email to his Joyful Journey mailing list.

"Y'all, I cannot even put into words the immense emotions tonight as we welcomed our sweet Ukrainian visitors. I don't know if anybody thought to count; however I would conservatively estimate there had to be MORE THAN FIFTY PEOPLE there to greet the group as they came off the plane!! It was astounding to witness the outpouring of love for them. Then, the smiles on each of their faces later as we hugged and tucked them into bed would have melted the heart of even the most hardened soul. Can I tell you ... you do absolutely NOT want to miss out on spending time with these kids. They are just longing for love; and it is so easy to give," he wrote.

They'll be here for about another two weeks, and the Loechers have them a full schedule of activities, but the end result they're hoping for is that these children will find homes in America just like their own daughters, Kristina and Karen.

In Ukraine, 60-70 percent of orphans turn to lives of prostitution and crime, and 30 percent commit suicide. As I talked to Karen and Kristina, they told me the life here in the US is so much better, literally from the ground up. The toilets they were forced to use were simply holes in the ground that would fill to overflowing, and sometimes it was so bad that they would have to stand in the overflow.

When a 12-year-old's first example of what's better here in the USA is the bathroom, that's pretty indicative of the life she was saved from, if you ask me.

If you want to help Tim and Lynn or meet the kids while they're here, you can contact the Loechers at (601) 825-1019 (if they don't answer, leave a message), or at tloecher@joyfuljourney.org. They have two blogs that detail this adventure they've undertaken. The current one is http://lovinghischildren.blogspot.com, and the one that talks about their adventure with their own girls is at http://ourgirlsstory.blogspot.com.

Next, I like to give credit where it's due, and those people over at Heart & Soul Diner in Brandon are doing a great job. It goes without saying that the food is fabulous. When I saw the pizza omelette on the menu, I wasn't sure what to think about it, but when you take a bite of it, you'll never see breakfast the same again. And don't get me started on the bananas foster waffles. TO DIE FOR.

But all that aside, the best thing about Heart & Soul is the people. Since about three weeks ago, I have been there three times (or is it four? I'm not sure.) and those people are always nice, no matter how busy it is. They smile, and what's more, they have great manners. You don't doubt for a second that they're genuinely happy to be serving you. It's really an awesome atmosphere in there.

Go by if you can. Great folks over there.

One more thing: If you're into cooking, I should go ahead and own up to it that I have never been into cooking myself. I have a list of things I can make, and otherwise, if it doesn't microwave, I have never been interested at all.

Until recently. My boyfriend Michael is very smart. He started me off watching the cooking show Good Eats, with Alton Brown, by appealing to the science nerd in me. Alton actually has a few episodes where he discusses the scientific reasons behind certain reactions in different foods.

As a former bartender, I should also add that his episode about mixing drinks was pretty great.

Alton's a little cheesy, but once you watch a few episodes, you can't help it, you're hooked.

Then Michael signed up for www.emeals.com, where they'll give you meal plans and a list of groceries for a nominal fee. You just follow the easy grocery lists and recipes, and it makes you a chef in no time. It even gives you the cost of the ingredients.

There's a low-fat option, which that brilliant man of mine was smart enough not to tell me was what he chose until after we ate our first meal, which was beef and broccoli stir fry and rice that was pretty incredible. There's no bland old baked chicken and steamed vegetables here.

The first week, our menu included the beef and broccoli, fish with citrus sauce over rice with buttered carrots, crispy coconut chicken with sweet chili sauce and green salad, and sweet garlic chicken with couscous. In the interest of full disclosure, he does most of the cooking.

But now I know it's easy, and fun, and cheap, and yummy.

I just might end up domesticated after all. *wink*

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