Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Welcome to the 2nd annual Keep Calm and Hop On Giveaway Hop!

This hop is packed with amazing prizes at each stop. Be sure to check out the 3 hosts for wonderful grand prize packages. Visit daily to increase your chances of winning and good luck
This hop event is brought to you by:
MamatheFox will be giving away the the following all the (1) winner!
  • $30 in assorted products from MAM</ li>
  • Go Go Bugs by Sassy - $13.20
  • Bumpy Ball by Sassy - $9.99
  • (1) Squeasy Gear (winners choice of style and color) - up to a $16.99 value
  • (1) Simply Soft Blanket by Balboa - up to a $25 value
The temperatures here are up and down every week.  Crazy weather! One day it looks like summer- the next my car door is frozen shut.  Although I should be thankful that we've had a relatively mild winter so far.  I feel sorry for the readers in the Northeast!

As we approach spring- then summer- people will start to plan vacations and trips with the family.  NOW is the time to start planning- usually there are early bird specials for hotels.  In addition, starting to plan early helps you budget and not get sticker shock in June!

My contribution to this giveaway hop is a $10 Amazon gift card.  To win, use the giveaway widget as a tool to help you think about where you want to go, how to get there, and how much you need to save!  Be sure to enter the other giveaways in this hop as well

Enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card! 2/14-2/28

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

Other Stories You Might Like

Monday, February 13, 2017

Enter to win Disney's Mary Poppins on DVD in the #MovieMadnessHop!

There is so much going on this month!  From record highs for February to record snows in the northeast, we all need a break!  And what better way to take a break (and save money) than to cook a kettle of popcorn, grab the kids, and watch a classic movie!

Powered by Mom and  Mom Does Reviews are the terrific sponsors of the #MovieMadnessHop! This is your chance to win classic movies that have stood the test of time.  My contribution to this hop is the classic Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition (DVD + Digital Copy) 

Please visit the other giveaways in this giveaway hop!  They are all listed below the video clip.  This giveaway is open to US residents only and this blog is solely responsible for the delivery of this prize to the verified winner.  This giveaway ends on Feb 27th at 11:59 pm!  Enter daily for your best chance to win!

Win Disney's Mary Poppins on DVD in the #MovieMadnessHop!


Join Swagbucks!
You Can Get Free Gift Cards For Shopping, Searching and Discovering What's Online at Swagbucks.com

Other Stories You Might Like

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

BunkArt and the Communist Terror in Albania

Tirana, Albania (16131211609)It was still early in the afternoon when I returned to the hotel from Mount Dajti. I had been reading online about BunkArt- an underground bunker constructed during the 1970's. Built in the side of a mountain for the dictator and military, it was designed to withstand a nuclear and chemical attack.

Tirana Bunk'Art Doors

It is definitely not for the physically challenged!  I was dropped off at the entrance/ticket booth at the start of the path. Then you had to hike about 1/4 mile up the path to the entrance of the bunker.  You had to step over concrete barriers/steps and through a myriad of armored/concrete doors as you began the journey into the labyrinth built for the communist elite and Enver Hoxha. He had his own 2 room suite although he only visited the bunkers one time.

The bunkers have only recently been converted into a mix of museum of Albanian history (there are a lot of photos and info about the pre-WW2 kingdom of Albania), witness to the horrors of communism (a lot of files from the secret police- the Sigurimi have been transcribed and even translated into English), and art installations.   Most of the rooms had "themes"- a time period or event.  There was even a "typical" Albanian apartment from the communist era- though I suspect it was likely a Party member's apartment.  They lived separate from the others in a special area of Tirana- the Blloku ("the Block").

But the Bunker also served as a memorial.  So much of the communist terror had been internalized- you couldn't complain or even lament the murder of clerics or everyday citizens who- for whatever reason had been determined to be "enemies of the state"

Communism was murderous from the very beginning.  On the very first day in power, 12 "enemies of the state" were murdered.  I am reading "Enver Hoxha: The Iron Fist of Albania" a recent biography of the dictator himself drawing upon the recently declassified secret police and communist "Party of Labor" archives. He wasn't the smartest or the strongest.  But Hoxha was a master manipulator and liar.  His determination to eliminate anyone he perceived as an "enemy" began long before world war two.

His Stalinist policies continued even after the wall fell..while Hoxha went to his eternal judgment in 1985, his hand picked successors continued to grind their own people into the ground until 1991.  Although they did get a bit nervous when Ceausescu was executed (thus always to tyrants!) Nevertheless, political prisons remained open until 1991, when communism finally fell in Albania.

BunkArt and BunkArt 2 (a smaller bunker under Tirana) were both sobering reminders of the tremendous potential for evil and man's inhumanity to man.  A constitutional republic may not be perfect but the system of checks and balances allow people to maintain their freedoms and live to their fullest potential without resorting to violence.  At the end of the day, I have to admit that I was just upset that Hoxha didn't get his firing squad in the end.  But God is just and I know that justice is being done to Enver Hoxha and friends.  

As far as souvenirs available- well the shop inside the bunker was closed.  At the ticket booth (after I exited), there were BunkArt shot glasses (!), pens, and tshirts with Hoxha's picture saying that "I visited BunkArt before you!".  I know it was meant in jest but after seeing what that monster did, I had no desire to wear his photo (please don't walk up to me with a Che Guerrero or Castro tshirt either).  I bought a pen and left with the desire to learn more about this dark era.

Other Stories You Might Like

Monday, February 6, 2017

Winter Rescue in Moldova...

Tonight they are predicting snow showers and a low of 30 F in Chisinau. The older I get the less I like cold weather and the accompanying snow and ice. It just complicates life and causes high utility bills and headaches. I am thankful to have a warm apartment to come home to though. There is nothing worse than being cold and not being able to warm up- whether it's because of illness or lack of indoor heat.
 Many families in Eastern Europe are still dependent on wood stoves for heat- one more battle for struggling families as they struggle to keep the fire going. Mission Without Borders  is providing firewood, warm clothes, blankets, and boots to needy families and children in Moldova and the other six countries they serve in Eastern Europe. If you are warm right now, say a prayer of thanksgiving. And say a prayer for those who may not be.


Other Stories You Might Like

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Week in Albania: The weekend (part one)

Tirana panorama 2016
Skanderbeg Square Tirana

I had very few plans for the weekend (Jan 13-15) in Tirana. I knew that I wanted to visit the Stephen Center, a Christian bookstore, so that's what I did. I had printed a Google map from the hotel to the bookstore. The problem was that HUGE areas of the route were fenced up as they were/are renovating Skanderbeg Square.  So my route was not as straightforward as I thought it would be.

Eventually, I was able to find the Stephen Center and was able to buy some Albanian New Testaments, dramatized New Testaments (on CD/mp3), bookmarks with Bible verses, and souvenirs.

If anyone is visiting Albania soon, I have a couple of the New Testaments left.  Albanian bibles were so hard to find- even online!  I even found a copy of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe in Albanian.  I plan on mailing that along with the bookmarks to K soon.  I left the dramatized New Testaments with the front desk staff.  I knew they had a CD player in the breakfast room.  Most of the time, the girls would sit in the breakfast room (next to a small heater- it was so cold) instead of sitting behind the desk area (right by the front door).  So maybe they 'll take a listen on a slow, cold day.

On Saturday,  a warm front was scheduled to pass through- bringing the temperatures up to 50 F!  I knew that it would be the perfect day to take the Dajti Express to the top of Mount Dajti.  The hotel called me a taxi (it was on the far end of town) and I finally got to go up one of those incredible mountains that cover 70% of the country.  There was a restaurant at the top but that was the extent of my knowledge of what to expect.

When I arrived at the top (15-20 minutes), I discovered that the snow (which had melted in Tirana) still covered the ground.  And I found that we really didn't go to the TOP of Mount Dajti..it was covered with clouds.  But it was high up enough to get a panoramic view of the city and to be extremely cold!

There was also a HOTEL at the top!  The Hotel Belvedere was offering rooms for just $50 a night (this included free cable car rides up and down as there is no other way up!)  Maybe next time.  I walked around a little bit but it was so very cold so I peeked into the restaurant (not sure if it was open yet or not).  Thankfully it WAS.

When I exited the cable car..
It was also well heated!  I was not very hungry but went on and ordered an early lunch to take in the panoramic view of the city, take pictures, and warm up.  They were predicting rain for Tirana and sure enough the clouds started to roll in around 11.  It didn't rain at the top- it started snowing- slowly at first then harder.
I decided that if I wanted to get DOWN the mountain I better move it.  As you can see, there was already a layer of snow at the top.  It was like a winter wonderland.

So I finished my journey to Dajti early and returned to the hotel.  The day was still young and I had been reading about some communist era bunkers outside of town.. (to be continued)


Other Stories You Might Like

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Fighting Escalates In Eastern Ukraine

There are already 1.4 internally displaced people in Ukraine- the cast majority are from the eastern war zone while less than 100,000 are from Crimea. Russia is aiding and abetting another humanitarian crisis through its gross violations of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty. Russia, the US, and UK all were signatories of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. "The memorandum included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan." In return, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan surrendered their nuclear stockpiles. I can guarantee you Putin would never have invaded Crimea- regardless of the outcome of a "vote of the people"- if Ukraine still had the third largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world!

Now Ukraine is struggling with a war on the eastern front and over a million people without homes- exiled within their own country due to Russian aggression.  Carly Jones, national director of Mission Without Borders in Ukraine said:

We remain very concerned for the people of Ukraine and the long term impact the conflict is having on communities. Access to water is a critical issue with up to 1 million people at risk of a lack of access to safe water.” She continues, “We are keen to highlight it’s not just the eastern region that’s been affected, but across the country internally displaced refugees need shelter and support.” (Good News Shared website)

Mission Without Borders has delivered thousands of Operation Christmas Love parcels to the eastern front.  While the mission base is in Sarny (in western Ukraine), many internal refugees have flooded the area.  They continue to provide for thousands of children (still) in state institutions and hundreds of families are being sponsored on their journey to self sufficiency.  Pray for the work there as they care for many families in crisis and share God's love with those who have lost everything.  Pray for peace and justice in Ukraine.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Albania Day 2: Further Visits

On Thursday, January 12th of this year, I had the privilege of visiting Durres, Albania, and seeing firsthand the work that Mission Without Borders is doing in the second largest city of Albania.

A mixer similar to this one
After the first family visit (and observing the difficulties of the underemployed in Albania), it was decided that I should visit some "success stories". A phone call was made and we were off to a work site. The foreman at this worksite would soon graduate from the family sponsorship program. He is in the 4th year (of 5 years) His family was sponsored and he has worked hard to gain the skills and training he needed to provide for their needs. He had attended vocational training from the Mission and learned construction skills. We met him in an old warehouse. Him and his fellow workers were rebuilding it to be turned into a storefront.  He is laying the floor, fixing the brickwork, installing walls and insulation and doing all the plumbing.  Right now he is able to work full time 9-10 months out of the year.  He needed tools to do the contracting work and Mission Without Borders donors stepped in and provided him what he needed.  I was shown a portable concrete mixer, a stone grinder, power tools, and wheelbarrow.  His family is nearly self sufficient and I am confident his hard work will pay off.  Soon HE will be the one helping others in Durres as he continues to

"work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."  I Thessalonians 4:11

This video (from youtube) was taken just a week before my visit.

Did I mention it had snowed the previous night?  Snow still covered the grassy areas.  Thankfully, the roads were clear.  This area of Durres however was below sea level and had been a swamp.  The roads were gravel and dirt and side roads were washed out at times.  The snow wasn't deep but that didn't stop a LOT of snowmen from being built.  And these were no 2 foot baby snowmen either.  I saw a lot of 5-6 foot snowmen where kids had shoveled a lot of snow and made the most of this rare snowfall.

The second family we visited was a graduate of the program.  He now worked full time as a welder. The Mission had provided him the training (one of their training programs is welding) and the tools (including a portable electric welder!). The only reason he was home was that his job was up a mountain.  For a job, he would load all his tools and a portable welding machine onto his motorbike and take it to the jobsite.  The roads on the mountain were treacherous so he decided to work on some projects at home today.  He demonstrated some of his welding skills.  The mother stays at home with her children (who are going to the Mission Without Borders summer camp!) and also cares for 2 neighbor children while their mother works.  Their children were informed that they would be able to attend summer camp as well!  Mission Without Borders runs Christian summer camps for children throughout the summer

It was good to see 2 families whose lives were changed by the Family sponsorship program of Mission Without Borders.  The success of these 2 families gave me great hope for the first family (we had visited in the morning) who had just begun their journey.  Friday and the weekend I was on my own to explore Tirana!  But that is a story for tomorrow..

If you are a believer in "Jesus and a Job" (as the owner of my laundromat calls it)- meeting people's spiritual, emotional, education, and material needs- this family sponsorship program is really effective.  It stabilizes family life- keeps the family together (many men and women in Eastern Europe migrate to other countries looking for work and the left behind children suffer) and provides long term skills and spiritual hope.  You can learn more at the US website (www.mwb.org).  Partial sponsorship starts at just $25 a month. You'll receive annual updates and photos and the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to lift a family out of poverty into a new life.

I am still sending money from Amazon and Booking.com  affiliate earnings to Mission Without Borders (whenever they pay out).  You helped raise $400 in November and December!  Last months earnings were next to nothing ( I was preoccupied and you were recovering from Christmas).  Just know that if you do purchase from Amazon or book a room from Booking.com or other affiliate links you are helping!  Thanks!


Other Stories You Might Like