Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to Cut a Green Pepper

Probably 8-10 years ago I was watching a random TV cooking show--I'm pretty sure it was a South African show--and I saw the chef cut a green/bell pepper (or do you say capsicum?) in a way that just made so much sense. Ever since I've cut my peppers this way and it makes a huge difference. 

Enough people have passed through my kitchen and said, "Wow! How did you do that so quickly?" that I decided to share 'my' method here.

First grab a pepper--green, red or yellow and set it on your cutting board.

Cut off each end. You want to end up with a bell pepper tunnel.

Next, take your knife and cut down one side of the pepper tunnel.

Then run your knife along the inside of the pepper to sever the membrane that holds the seeds onto the pepper.

You'll end up with a cute seed bundle and a long pepper strip. 

It's easiest if you cut that one long strip into two pieces so they can lay more flat.

Cut the pepper into thin strips, or in a fancier terms: julienne the pepper

Turn your strips and cut in the other direction--you'll end up with a nice dice.

Easy peesy!!

Do you have any tricks in the kitchen?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Big Reveal!

Part of our trip preparations involve getting all 22 of the kids to sit down all together so we can get a group shot.

Sounds easy enough right?

The goals are pretty simple. 

We only need about half to be smiling at once. 

Most of the faces should be showing. 

The noses should be reasonably clean.

How do you think we did?

Names Left to Right
Top Row: Ephraim (14 mos) [can you see him peeking there?], Nathan (3), Janet (4),
Second Row: Beauty (4), Jennifer (3), Lizzie (2), Denny (2), Moriah (3), Peter (2)
Third Row: Henry (4), Theresa (5), Jack (2), Ernest (6) Ana (14 mos) Sandra (4)
Fourth Row: Queenie (5), Johnny (5), Chola (6), Elias (5)
Baby Row: Joseph (6 mos), Naomi (4 mos), Grace (11 mos)

Whew! That was a long read, right? Now, who has your favorite expression?

Related Reading: The Whole Gang   See how they've grown.

Exactly One Year Ago: Water Play
Exactly Two Years Ago: T.J   Today is my oldest son's 20th birthday. Happy Birthday, T.J

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sundays in My City--Beware the Shortcut

 Two roads diverged in a [green] wood,
And sorry I could not travel both ['cause I was tired]
[I] looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim ['cause it was shorter] was grassy and wanted wear......

.......I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

  Adapted from The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. 

Today we visited one of my favorite places on earth. Ntumbacushi Falls! We have a volunteer who has been working with us since November and we hadn't been to the falls with her yet. Also, this is Timothy's last chance to see the falls before he moves back to the States.

To get to our favorite swimming spot (shown above) is quite a hike. The initial part of the trail is quite steep and, at this time of year, slippery. The last time we were at the falls I learned about a shortcut that takes you straight through the woods rather than following the falls in a more meandering route. 
By the time I got to the top of the steep part of the hike my kids had already moved on down the trail. I decided to take the shortcut and beat them to the top. This trail was way wetter than it had been in August and by the time I reached the part where the two trails met up again, my shoes were soaked. But! I had beaten my kids to the top and I was so happy.

 I waited and waited for my kids to come around the bend. When they didn't appear, it hit me that they didn't actually realize that I had taken the shortcut and therefore might be a bit concerned when I didn't show up anywhere on the trail behind them. Sighing, I headed back down the trail--the long one this time--and sure enough found my kids waiting for me. They had even sent Troy back down the path to search for me. Oooops! So much for my cutting time off the walk. I'd now had to travel nearly the whole path twice.

But, wasn't that sweet of them to look after their aged and decrepit mother??

So what lesson can I learn from this? First, I have really great kids. And second, I shouldn't take a path less traveled--at least not without telling someone first--and that will make all the difference.

I'm linking up with two lovely ladies today:

Unknown Mami

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Reviews--Old Man and The Sea, Les Miserables & Pygmalion

I've been trying to post a new book review every Saturday. I'm working on some really exciting ones. 

Today, since Timothy is about to fly the nest, I thought I'd share some of his favorite classic book reviews. We're all on Goodreads and my kids have a competition of sorts in how many books they can read and post ratings/reviews on. Now, that's a competition I can get behind!

A few humble Reviews by Timothy~ (his title--not mine)

The Old Man and the Sea
by Ernest Hemingway

 "A triumphant tale not valiantly written. There has been some speculation that this story is an analogy about impotency, now although I didn't see that as much as others. as I did read this lifeless and dully written book, I was becoming impotent, at least figuratively. Overall a great story, but because of the morbid writing, I suffered through it. In a way, this book was my fish to struggle to catch."

Les Miserables
  by Victor Hugo.

 " Beautiful. I must say that this story may be the most beautiful tale ever told. Although the book is full of sorrow and misery, the main character valiantly defeats the obstacles thrown at him in his life. Oscar Wilde once said in De Profundis that one cannot enjoy the beauties of life without learning the feelings and essence of suffering and sorrow, and I believe Jean Vanjean did just that, not by choice but by fate. Lastly, I will leave you with a quote about this book, "so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless."--Hauteville House, 1862./ ."

    by George Bernard Shaw.

 ** spoiler alert ** 
"I really enjoyed Pygmalion, quite entertaining and intelligent. I have two reasons why this did not get five stars (he gave it four). Although close to the incredibly funny banter as what "The Importance of Being Ernest" had, I wasn't very much entertained till the second half of the play. Secondly, I really felt that Eliza should have married Higgins, and since she went for that Freddie boy, I was quite disappointed."

 Exactly Two Years Ago: Keeper, Sleeper, Weeper

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kittens and Babies--Nothing Better

 Our cat, Chai gave birth to her first litter of kittens. She had two kittens, we think a boy and a girl.

 We took them outside for the first time today. Peter and Moriah were there to witness the event. 

 Moriah wasn't crazy about the kittens. She is most definitely not an animal person. She tolerated them well enough though.

Peter liked them. He even let them climb onto his lap. He wasn't entirely sure, but he petted them and said, "Nice. Nice".

But, wait! Who is that coming up from behind?

"What have you done to my babies??"

 "Are you OK, my babies? Did this human child hurt you?"

I've been amazed at what a good mommy Chai is. Instinct is a beautiful thing!

Exactly Two Years Ago: Older Brothers--Who Needs 'Em?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FAQ #3

 Why an orphanage?

As I said in one of my other FAQ posts, we moved to Zambia to work with a community school. Our line of thinking at the beginning of our time in Africa was that we would work to enable those already working in Zambia to do their jobs better. So, rather than being a teacher in one class, we wanted to help give all the teachers the tools to do their job. “Teaching others to teach others”.

We worked hard with the first school and helped to give them new buildings, a library, a small job for extra income, and plenty of training. It was a success! We knew though that as long as we stayed there in Lusaka, the leadership of the school would always depend on us to meet their needs. We made the decision to move to a town a few hours away. We were still available for training classes, to raise awareness of financial needs should they need it, or to help. But, we weren’t right on their doorstep.

And, as we knew they would, the community school thrived! They found donors, built new buildings, and today they have not only a school serving over 600 children, but residential care for orphans, a hospice clinic and a church! Fantastic!

In our new town, we kept busy working on teaching and training. We held leadership seminars, Bible courses and Tom took many trips out into the bush with Campus Crusade to shows  the Jesus film.

The kids and I wanted to spend some time working with children so we began volunteering at a local orphanage. It was a ‘transit home’. Only for children below the age of 3 years old, the orphaned babies would either be reunited with their fathers or other relatives or taken to another orphanage. Rarely, they would be adopted.

That house for babies broke our hearts. Poorly funded and even more poorly supervised, this institution (and it was firmly an institution) was not a home where children were loved and cared for. 

Desperate to do what we could to help, Tom and I decided to approach the board about becoming consultants. We would come in several times a week, teach the staff how to better care for the kids, identify needs and find ways to meet them, and best of all, fill those babies with love.

Sadly, although the board welcomed us with open arms, the director was less thrilled. Immediately we began to find problems with apathy, laxness, and even greed. The children had ragged clothing, but though there was a shipping container filled with new clothes, the director dragged her feet about opening it and taking anything out. The children had no toys to play with. “They’ll fight over the toys”. Again, there were plenty of toys in storage, but we weren’t given access.

There were wonderful babies in that house. I loved every one of them. Little James who had inquisitive eyes and clung to Tom every time he saw him. Baby Agnes who had severe mental issues and ended up tied to her crib. The other little babies who crawled around on the floor, largely ignored until visitors came to scoop them up.

My heart broke more and more every time we worked at the orphanage, but there was so little I could do to improve things without the support of the director.  One day I sat down and felt such heaviness on my heart. I just knew that nothing would be right in my world until I had done all I could for the babies who had no one to take care of them. 

Tom felt the same way and before we knew what had hit us, we were consumed with the calling. Now we just had to figure out how to make it happen.

Exactly One Year Ago: This is Africa--Computer Edition
Exactly Two Years Ago: Lend Me Your......Opinion

Exactly One Year Ago: Spooky and Uncanny
Exactly Two Years Ago: Theresa

Monday, February 20, 2012

Where Has the Time Gone?

Last Wednesday I wrote a quick note with a promise of more to come on Friday. How on earth did it come to be Monday??

Well, I know where some of the time went. Tom and I spent Thursday night in Mansa. We're trying out this shop only every two weeks thing. Tom enjoys not having to navigate 100 miles of potholes twice in one day. Our necks, backs and derrieres thank us. And, we get a little alone time. It's win-win. You would think that with us being there an entire day instead of just a morning, we'd be able to get out early the next morning and head back down the road. But, nooooo. Somehow, the errands keeping coming and the to-do list keeps growing and so we end up getting back on the road around 2 PM. So, not so much time for blogging when we finally get home.

Then, this weekend we had guests! A missionary couple that moved into our area--just south of Mansa--decided to spend the weekend with us so we could exchange ideas and thoughts. It was a wonderful time, but also didn't leave me any time for blogging.

Today, I had to take Joseph to the clinic and that took ALL morning. Well, nearly all. The rest of my morning was spent interviewing two nanny candidates. 

Can someone please do me a favor and stop time for just a bit. Please. But, stop it in such a way that allows me to keep working. Every time I look at the calendar and see the days until my departure dwindling, I panic a little. 

I know, that I know, that I know, that everything will turn out all right and I WILL be on that plane on March 10th, but I have no idea how that is going to happen.

    Hyperventilating in Africa,


P.S. Please say a prayer for Joseph. He has swelling in his left leg which could mean all sorts of scary medical things ending with 'itis'. We ran some tests today and eliminated some possibilities (Hooray for no HIV!) but didn't get an answer yet. 
He's doing so well in every other area. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him at the clinic as he played with my phone cover and behaved exactly as a 6 month old baby should. I hate to think of him suffering.

Exactly One Year Ago: Carnival Fun
(Almost) Exactly One Year Ago: Fab Friday Foto XIII (What doesn't belong in this photo?)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life on our Homestead

Just a couple pictures showing life around here:

Tom holding up some of the corn from our garden. I feel like few veggies can compare with straight off the stalk sweet corn.

Jasmine learned how to sew this past week. She took to it real well and began hemming fabric for new curtains in the children's rooms.

 This is probably the third or fourth sewing machine we've owned since Tom and I got married. Each time I would see a used machine at a garage sale or resale shop, I'd imagine all the homemade things I could make and all the money I'd save. Tom would remind me that I didn't really know how to sew, but I'd tell him in all earnestness that I COULD LEARN. Once we'd dragged the machine home I would do my best to learn, but sewing machines are hard! There are so many places the thread has to pass through before you can even begin to design a new prom dress out of your mother's torn 1940s dress. 

The machine would then sit in a corner of my room, mocking me. A few months later we would set it out at our own garage sale.

 After the first machine, Tom was not as easy to convince. But, I would give him a spiel, "That was last time--so&so was just a baby. Everyone is older now. I just know I can learn this time." Once more the machine would be loaded in the car. One more I would study the machine. And once more, the many holes and levers would confound me and I'd be back to draping clean laundry over it.

Because of my history, I was pretty impressed with how quickly Jasmine took to sewing. I told her how proud I was of her and asked her if she was proud of herself. "Not really. It's kinda easy, so I don't see what the big deal is." Well, alrighty then!

I'm off to Mansa for two days but I hope to have a FAQ post up on Friday afternoon. 
See you then!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My U.S trip is scheduled and the plane ticket purchased! I fly out on March 10. This year Timothy will be joining me so he can enter the next stage of his life and head off to college. My main goal in the U.S will be to raise funds for our annual budget and our next stage of construction.
I would like to be very busy during my whole time in the U.S so don’t be shy about setting up appointments, civic gatherings, Sunday school socials, brunches, luncheons or just about anything. The story of Kazembe Orphanage needs to be told!

I'll primarily be based out of Houston, but will be traveling to Louisiana, Midland/Odessa and Oregon for sure. Dallas, Nashville, and Alabama are also on my radar.

I'll be in the States from March 12-June 7. Let me know if you want to set up a time to meet.

As I fill the calendar I'll post places where I'll be speaking so you can be sure to catch me at your church, another church or an event. If you don’t already, consider following Kazembe Orphanage on Facebook so you can see all the events posted there and RSVP if you’d like.
I'll be out in West Texas (Midland/Odessa) for most of May. A church out there is flying Tom over so he and I can have a bit of R&R. I can't wait!!

My return date to Zambia is June 7 so if you have anything you’d like to donate (needs list to follow soon), we’d like to have it all gathered by June 1st.

I'm so excited to get to have some time State-side, to sleep in an American bed--Oh, the beds!, to eat in restaurants with customer service, to drive! on smooth roads!, to hug my college kids, to attend church. And to see as many of you as possible! Oh, so many things to look forward to!

Exactly One Year Ago: I'm Alive
Exactly Two Years Ago: Even Hypochondriacs Get Sick
Exactly Two Years Ago: Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

P.S. I have no idea why the background is white. But, my allergies are acting up and I can't see straight anymore. Please forgive me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Straight from the Halls of Hogwarts....

....via the African Bush

Here is the latest wild creature to pass through our home. And, if you'll look up on the left-hand sidebar  at the list of things that have bitten Tom, you'll see it's been modified. 

Click over to Tom's blog for more pictures and to see all the details on this beautiful bird.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review -- 30 Lessons for Living

When I first saw 30 Lessons for Living by Karl Pillemer--as intriguing as the title was--it also seemed a bit cliche and pat. What did this book have to offer that was unique? As the author himself says in the first chapter, there are more than 30,000 self-help books in print today and people rush out to buy them hoping for a quick fix. Why read, or even better, buy another one?

30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans is exactly that. Advice that has come from hundreds of elderly people (or as Karl puts it) experts--those who have been there and done that. Many times when reading a self-improvement book I wonder how the author knows their advice truly works. Some of the marriage books have been written by people who have had multiple spouses (meaning divorces) so they may know what doesn't work--but do they truly know what works? For every parenting system touted in a book, there is another book showing the exact opposite. What do we follow?

30 Lessons for Living was written after hundreds of people, in the sunset of their life, were interviewed and asked what advice they would pass down to younger generations. Some of their answers may surprise you.

Karl's book breaks the lessons down into six major themes with five key lessons in each. As I read through the book I found myself convicted and challenged on many levels. I read about the lessons on marriage one evening just after a spat between Tom and I. And every lesson was one that I could take to heart--and even better, because they're tried and true, they are practical and doable.

I read the section on living well in your career as I did Payroll--so many good lessons for me in that section--and since I was having a particularly trying day--the lessons seemed even more needed. And the parenting section--so much good in there as well.

This is a book that I will mark up and highlight and return to again and again.

I could go on and on, but I highly suggest you read it for yourself.
Exactly Two Years Ago: I Can't Believe We Did That

I was given a free digital gallery to review. My opinions, as always, remain my own.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kute Kids

I'm going to share, from time to time, some of the quips and quotes that come out of our kids mouths.

 When we show the kids new cartoons or movies, it's very important to them to know who the 'bad guys' are.

A couple weeks ago we showed the kids Tangled for the first time. We were nervous about how they would perceive the 'mom' in the movie because Repunzel obviously loved her and we thought the kids might be confused about a parent figure being the villain.

At one point in the movie though, Rapunzel's mom was refusing to allow her to leave the tower. After the argument between them leaves Rapunzel in tears, the evil lady threw herself down and sighed sarcastically, "Great, now I'm the bad guy!" 

Johnny turned around with big eyes and said, "See! She's the bad guy! She said so!"

Problem solved. Since she had confessed with her own mouth the kids all knew who the villain was.

Exactly Two Years Ago (yesterday): My Week in Review (part one)  The first post in a series that chronicled one of our craziest weeks.
Exactly Two Years Ago: Mr. Tom's (& Amy's) Wild Ride 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Checking In

I know. I know. I've been absent. I apologize. 

I wish it could be something exotic and adventurous that has kept me from writing, but it's just been work plain and simple--office work at its finest.

If I were a truly great blogger I would have whipped up loads of articles in my free time to have available to publish during busy moments. Sadly, I'm not there yet. 

Here are some of my excuses in no order whatsoever:

Child needing multiple and daily injections for a week. 

Piles of files to tidy and complete to wrap up a year of charitable work.

Child with convulsions caused by either malaria or epilepsy.

A staff member who stole from the orphanage and had to resign.

A Super Bowl Monday to organize in the middle of a workday (meaning I didn't get the day off)

An upcoming trip to prepare for.

Allergies that require me to take knock out medicine early each night.

An adolescent with math issues.

And so on and so forth. 

This time of year must be busy all the time. As I scanned through my archives to find something I wrote on this date in other years, I came up empty

But, I do have an assignment for you! and I'll have another later in the week.

Today's assignment: Tom is preparing our brand new video (which I will be taking with me on the aforementioned trip) showing the kids and the orphanage over the last year. Every year he makes a new promo video and he's done amazing work. Trouble is, he feels like he's used up all his tricks. He says he has video block or director's block or something like that.

So, here's where your part comes in. Over at Vimeo we have four of our past videos. Could you take a peek and then let us know in comments what you like or what you'd like to see more of, or what would interest you in a video. We're shooting for a ten minute video. I can't wait to hear your ideas!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Fab Friday Foto XXXIII

"We hope you'll be our regular guests!"

Ba Dum Bum!*

Thank you very much! I'll be here all weekend.
I was in Mansa for two days. I'm very tired. Please forgive the Junior High Humor.

*Totally unintentional pun.

(Almost) Exactly Two Years Ago: Are We a Normal Family? A bonus chuckle for today

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

FAQ #2

I started this series last week with Question #1--Why Africa?

Next question:

Why Zambia?

Now that we knew we were heading to Africa, we just had to narrow our choice down to one of the 53 nations of Africa. Some were automatically ruled out because of the danger: Somalia for instance. Another criteria was that we really didn't want to have to learn a new language. We'd been there and done that. We were ready to go to a country where we could immediately jump in and get to work. Though we both speak Spanish to some degree (Tom is fluent) that wouldn't help us on the African continent.

We ruled out South Africa because we felt there were many misisonaries and mission works operating there already. And, there was the crime rate to consider. We took the fact that we were taking a large family overseas very seriously. That's not to say we let fear rule our decisions but we did look at all the options while seeking for God's Will for us.

There were a few countries we were interested in: Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.
Tom had built a website for us so we could show future sponsors our past work and what we wanted to accomplish in the future. We were contacted by two different missionary couples in Kenya and Zambia. Both projects looked interesting. Both worked with children. The main difference was that the Kenyan project was going to be a private Christian school for wealthy students where the income would allow humanitarian projects to go forward. Tom and I would be teachers in the school. 
The Zambian project was a school for underprivileged or orphaned children. Our main role would be equipping the teachers. We would have the chance to reach out more to the community. 

Zambia seemed like a better fit, but we wouldn't know for sure until we took a closer look. Tom took off on the 35 hour journey to Africa. I could fill at least one whole post with his experiences over the next two weeks. He fell completely in love with Zambia and its people, crying on more than one ocassion (he's gonna love that I mentioned that) and remarking to his mom on his return that he had never felt so much in God's Will.

To top it off, one of Tom's heroes, David Livingstone lived and worked in Zambia for many years and eventually died here. (Side note: David Livingstone actually died just a few hours from where we live now) It felt like all the pieces in the puzzle of our life were coming together. It felt right.

Tom returned from Zambia thrilled with what we would be able to do as missionaries to Zambia. In his short, two-week trip he had helped out at the fledgling community school, encouraged local pastors, and taught several Bible studies to college students. The possibilities seemed endless--perfect for someone who loves to be busy with many projects.

I was excited about working with local teachers to give them the tools they need to do their job, as well as assist the school in building and expanding in order to help even more children.

Now that we had a country chosen, all we had to do was raise the funds. and what a job that would be. Regular support as well as the initial cost of flying 8 people halfway around the world. We were ready to get busy, work hard and see what God would do.

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