An Ode to our Blender

 

A couple of years ago, Mike & I decided we wanted a (very expensive) high-powered blender.  It seemed like an outrageous extravagance, but since we rarely just agree on anything, and we both thought it was a good idea, we went ahead and got one.

It was one of the things that often made me laugh: we didn’t have running water or stable electricity, nearly everything we owned was packed into the room we slept in, and we owned one kitchen appliance: a fancy blender.

There is so much delicious fresh food to work with here.  We’ve used it often for diet staples and for treats.  Most days, I make a fruit and veggie smoothie.  We use it regularly to create peanut butter, soups, hummus, butter, iced coffees, and to grind whole wheat flour.  I expect shortly we will be using it to make baby food.

However, the other day, our blender really and truly proved its worth.

Three years ago, we tried to make egg nog with our friend.  Due to several factors (including salty cream), it was a dismal failure.  The idea of consuming raw eggs on purpose makes me nervous, so I decided if we were going to do it, it had to be cooked egg nog.  I planned to make some last year, but the general queasiness of my pregnant stomach prevented me.

This year, I tried 2 times to cook egg nog on the stove, and despite my constant whipping, it ended up chunky.  But I didn’t despair, because I remembered that our blender can cook soups while it blends, so why not eggs and milk?

A brief internet search confirmed that it might be possible, and so, with high hopes, I began my third and final attempt at egg nog.

It certainly cooked, the first part was steaming – so no worrying about uncooked egg!  Then, the rest of the milk, the spices, and chilling it…   It was smooth, it was creamy, it was everything egg nog is supposed to be!

So, for the last week, we have had egg nog every day (some days including blended up with coffee cubes).  Its been a happy Christmas for us!

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Advent

After our first year in Rwanda, Mike and I went back to Canada for Christmas.  It was lovely.

We realized that being in a foreign country, with holidays that we don’t know about until they arrive, and seasons that have an unfamiliar pattern, we needed a way to mark the passage of the year; a rhythm that would be the same for us no matter what country we find ourselves in a given month.  This was pre-Beatrix, but we were also thinking about what traditions we wanted to have that would become important to our children, and help them move between homes and cultures as well.

I don’t especially feel bad about being away at Christmas.  Christmas, and the months leading up to it, are filled with too much commercialism that makes me crazy.  However, I love the time of celebration and of being with family, and it seems a little surreal that it can be December without eating too much decadent food, without extra visiting, and without the anticipation that comes as we look forward to the 25th.

The first tradition that will be part of our yearly rhythm is celebrating Advent.  It makes the time leading up to Christmas special.  If you’ve never been out of North America, its probably hard to imagine November and December without lots of sugar, constantly hearing Christmas carols, decorations in homes, the stores, the streets, extra shopping (or pride that you got it all done early), gift exchanges, egg nog, Christmas parties, etc, etc, etc.   But there is none of that here except what we create ourselves.  Advent is a way for us to spread out the celebration and anticipation.

Advent reminds us of Israel, waiting for the Messiah to come.  The most important part for me is remembering that although we are still in the midst of so much brokenness and injustice, that will not be the final word.

Last year we made an advent wreath, and we lit the candles each evening as we ate supper, and played “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” after we finished eating.  We loved the ritual, and looked forward to it each day!

This year, we started making an advent wreath, and then realized the plants we were using were covered in bugs, and both of us had a few tiny bites.  Needless to say, it went to the compost pile.

We had many pieces of bamboo left over from our fence – so this year we have an Advent raft.

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We also made an advent calendar.  Apparently, that is something people do – but all I knew before this year was pre-made ones with the waxy chocolates in them that we got as kids.  So we made our advent calendar with little notes and pieces of chocolate in them, and it has been great fun to open them each day.

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Its exciting to think of how we will adapt these traditions to be meaningful to Beatrix as she grows.

So, to those of you reading:

May you enjoy the traditions that you are a part of in this season,

May you enjoy the celebration time with family and friends, and

In the midst of whatever brokenness and pain you might be experiencing, may you be reminded anew that there will be a day when He will wipe every tear away, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.

 

 

Pictures of Home (at last)!

Well, I wanted to wait until we had our furniture, so that the pictures of our house aren’t just empty rooms.  Then I wanted to get a little more organized, so that we weren’t just posting pictures of chaos.  Now, I’ve been trying to get pictures when the house is all clean & tidy, and I have realized… that time may never come ;).    Its still a little disorganized, and we are still figuring some things out, but it is starting to feel comfortable.

The main part of the house is a large room, combining a kitchen and living room.  Here is our living room as seen from the kitchen (complete with Christmas tree).

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And here is the kitchen as seen from the living room:P1020613

We both love to cook, and have been managing in very cramped and/or shared kitchens.  This is a great luxury.

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Off the living room, we have a small room for use as an office, or potentially another bedroom.  (We are planning to hang up a curtain, and maybe eventually put some glass doors in.)  You can see through the living room, to the door to our bedroom.

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Off of our bedroom, we have a small storage area and a large bathroom.  Its difficult to get pictures of those areas, so I’ll just let you use your imagination.

This is our guest room!  As you can see, the bed is put together.  Our future guests will be more fortunate that our first guest, in that they won’t have to put the bed together before they can sleep in it.  (And trust me, this was nothing like assembling IKEA furniture.)

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Another luxury we decided on was two (!!) bathrooms.  So, for those of you considering coming to visit, you can see the bathroom you would use:

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That’s a toilet that really flushes, and a shower (cold water only, but often that’s all one would want)!  The sink is just out of view on the left.

We really wanted to do more fermenting (sauerkraut & other veggies, kombucha, yogurt, sourdough, etc), as well as sprouting, so we incorporated a space for that just off the kitchen).

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And that’s the virtual tour of our house!  We have a fence up now, and a gate, which gives us some privacy and more security. (And we are planning to get a dog.)  Another day, I’ll post some pictures of our yard.

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged us and contributed towards our house!   We are really enjoying it so far!

 

Sneak Peek (With bonus Beatrix pictures)

I know people have wanted to see house pictures, and believe me, I’ve wanted to be able to show them!  But until now, it has pretty much been the same as it was when we left for Canada (ie, empty).  We ordered a bunch of shelving, tables, a couch, a bed, etc, and it was finally all ready this week.  Mike went to pick it up, and now we are working at organizing the inside.  Its really exciting!

So, there are more pictures to come, but for now:

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OUR BED!!!  It was wonderful to not be sardines last night.

We are also working on the outside: doing some beginning landscaping so that the next rainy season we can start our own gardens, and getting a fence done.  The fence will help our house be a little more secure (a little harder for thieves), help keep our dog in (we don’t have one yet, but soon), provide a base for a hedge of flowers and fruit, and help diminish the number of people who just stare into our house when they go past (considered very rude in this culture, but somehow its OK if you are looking into a mzungu’s house).

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It also appears that in my attempts to not inundate people with pictures of Beatrix, I have posted too few.  I’ll try to do better at that, starting right now:P1020137

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She does this a lot, especially when she wakes up in the morning.  She’s strong = try doing it yourself!

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A Smokin’ Hot Weekend

Two of the guys and I (Mike) have been working this last week on our second installment of an underground watcher catchment tank (and system).  As we’ve been working we’ve had ample time to dream big and discuss the merits of food… and particularly meat.

After a few days of discussion, we concluded that what we have been missing for oh-so-long has been smoked meat.  And that the best way to address that failing would be to immediately  (or the next available weekend at least) begin building our own smokehouse in order to get that homemade beef jerky in us as soon as possible!

The afternoon of this decision we went shopping for meat, and subsequently had a meat cutting party.  Each of us made a different marinating sauce and cut the beef into appropriate jerky-sized pieces.

Then on Saturday, we started building a small mud house with two separate rooms: one for the fire and the second for hanging the meat.  We mudded it well, made some meat-hanging frames, created a tin roof and left it to cure for an appropriate length of time to avoid damaging our structure.

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After waiting a whole 12-15 hours, we began our first attempt at what could be an incredibly satisfying or monstrously disappointing operation.  After hanging the meat from frames and starting the fire we waited most of the day while the jerky smoked.  But our patience was rewarded with amazing teriyaki, honey-mustard, and pepper beef jerky!

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Sunday evening was filled with dreams of smoked hams, cheeses, and sausage, in what will likely prove to be a team building hobby and possibly community building project.

Our First Day Out

Ok, its not really our first outing, but last Tuesday was the first day Beatrix and I packed up and left together, with the house empty.  We did more or less what I have done on many other days, but now we left our own house empty, and the baby went with me.

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I’m not very good at selfies; I haven’t practiced much. Oh well, if I stand until I get a good picture, she’ll wake up and need to eat again before we go.

“Will the clothes I left on the line still be there when we get back?”

“Is one diaper enough?”

“Its pretty hot.  Will she overheat?  Her head is covered, but will the sun shine through it and burn her skin?”

Well, we went anyway, and took some smoothie to Mike, who was beginning this season’s work in the garden.  I also wanted to see everything that was new/changed since the end of April.

The playground has begun:P1010719

We are planning to build different structures to create a playground: for kids to play and for families to congregate.  The materials need to be accessible locally, reasonably priced, and safe.  This is the first structure.  A children’s church in Denmark fundraised to help build the structure.

A section of the healthcare centre has been completed:P1010721

WIndows, doors, and some electrical/water has been added.  The office is furnished and ready for use.  Part of our team has begun opening 2 days a week for things like basic wound care, pre- and post-natal counselling, and education.   They will also be teaching in the schools over the next few weeks, with topics like personal hygiene, puberty, and sexual education.

The moringa  has been growing!

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One of our team members has been harvesting it and giving some to breastfeeding moms. Many mothers don’t produce enough milk for their babies due to dehydration and malnutrition.

The water system has been changed, and we have been able to start selling water again!

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(There were more people here the first day, but I didn’t have the camera.)

During the longest, hottest part of the year these last few weeks, the tanks almost ran out of water, but the supply lasted for the garden, animals, and the community until the water came back on.

And, we found Mike, working with others in the garden, so that it is ready to plant when it starts to rain.P1010726P1010727

Farewell Canada (for now)!

I promise, this won’t entirely become a “mom blog.”  But seriously, its hard to resist continually posting pictures like this:

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and this:

(That's my brother)

(That’s my brother)

and this:

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(my dad has been SO very happy with his first grandchild… my mom has too, but she’s not as photogenic.)

(And wow, is Mike cute with her – but there will be pictures of them later, on this blog that won’t be entirely about baby 😉 )

We are leaving for Rwanda soon: we’ll be moved into our new house and settling in by the end of the week.

I have some mixed feelings about returning:  I am very excited to live in our home, missing our friends and co-workers in Rwanda, and ready to get back to our work.  However, I feel concerned for our little one, and for all of the new “dangers” she will face (besides my nightly concern that she will suddenly stop breathing for no reason).

We have had such an incredible summer in Canada.  People have been so kind and generous to us.  It has been unbelievable how much we have been cared for.  Our family, our friends, and even strangers have done so much to help ease our transition into a family of three.  We have been awed and overwhelmed.

So I wanted to say “thank you” to all of you who have encouraged us, given us gifts, fed us, welcomed us into your homes, provided for our needs, and generally loved on us.

We are returning feeling very blessed and very full.