Monthly Archives: November 2009

Still Here

Just a quick note to let you faithful readers know that we are still here. And well. No, we haven’t fallen off the ends of the earth, we just had a million little things around the house to deal with. Colds, minor theft, holiday prep and dog fights to name a few… This pile of tiny annoying things that seems to coincide with some of the most difficult times to be away from home – now.

There are always two sides to the coin, and it is not all doom and gloom here. The most spectacular news is that the bed we designed for Anna and ordered to be built mid-August was finally delivered Friday!! And Kent has lovingly been painting coat after coat of white paint on it for me and today it gets built and she gets to stretch out for once. So pictures of that happy moment are coming soon!

Delivery Day

We try to buy from local farmers whenever we can, but after 3 straight months of eating rice we were dying for a slice of bread! Something as simple as a favorite staple food can be the taste of home. We have African friends who have moved from a ‘sweet potato’ staple area to a ‘plantain’ staple area and craved their ‘home foods’.

So we’ve discovered that wheat is Kent’s home food (not shocking since his great-grandfather was a wheat farmer). I will never forget the day early in our marriage when I found his delight in freshly-baked bread still warm from the oven. The problem is that no one can grow wheat here because of the climate. In case you were wondering this is officially in the sweet-potato region, and their cousins: potatoes are my home food (there must have been a potato farmer in the family). You can bake ’em, fry ’em, boil mash or steam – I will be a happy lady. I’m so thankful good potatoes are grown here locally!

And today is a very exciting day because we are getting our second sack of wheat berries delivered from Uganda. Each month we get a few sacks of goodies purchased in Uganda on our behalf. These are things that can’t be found locally, or that aren’t even imported by merchants, and I thought you might like to know some of the things we look forward to on delivery day:

100 lb. wheat berries (after sorting out chaff, freezing the weevils, and grinding – we bake!!)

2 containers ‘American Garden’ Iodized Salt (don’t take yours for granted!)

3 lb. raisins

1 lb. broccoli

6 semi-sweet chocolate bars (chopped finely for ‘chocolate chips’ or eaten straight)

2 containers cinnamon (local spices are: chili, nutmeg, salt – they flavor foods other ways)

2 containers sage (for Kent’s Thanksgiving stuffing)

4 lbs. popcorn

10 apples (for my Thanksgiving sweet potatoes)

1 lb. butter (for the holiday, usually we get by with the 1/2 lb. we can make from fresh milk)

It’s definitely different shopping for a month or two at a time, and buying everything in bulk. Because of all the foreigners coming through here we buy other staples here in bulk too:

5 liters olive oil

50 lb. sugar

50 lb. rice

100 lb. flour

16 lb. oats

No it’s not Mr. Olsen’s General Store on Little House on the Prairie, but we shop like it is. With the boys eating more than I do already, our grocery lists are only going up from here! What staple is your home food?

First Language Acquisition – The Sequel

Several months ago I posted a bit about Anna’s first language acquisition. She hadn’t mastered her /k/ and /g/ or velar sounds. Two of you who are speech therapists assured me that this was totally normal. It was super cute while it lasted, which wasn’t long. She quickly learned to form them in the middle of words (word-medially) and next she had them at the ends of words (word-finally). Last, but not least, she could form them word-initially. Are you digging these official linguistic terms? Yeah, my linguistic prowess is not what it used to be, but I digress… The aforementioned speech therapist friends confirmed that word-initial velars are often the last to master. Whew. She’s ‘normal’.

General progression went something like this:
“Tent, avotado in the sack”
“Tent, avocado in the sack”
“Kent, avocado in the sack!”

I’m still missing the ‘avotado’ days. (NOT the food I assure you!) And she DOES call him Daddy 99% of the time.

She is a chatterbox. Yes, sometimes MORE than Joel. We joke that she is made for facebook and twitter because whatever she’s doing she is constantly telling you her status update! Thankfully, as I am a fan of QUIET mornings, she is too. Whew! But she gets really going by the time we start school. She sits at her little desk right next to mine and cuts, glues and colors for 2 straight hours. “I am cutting paper. I am cutting paper. I cut around the bowl. Look! I cut around the bowl Mom! Now I will get out blocks. I will get out blocks and build a boat.” You get the gist.

She’s made for school too. She is the first student to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. She likes to lead it, “I badulations to duh flag…” She was walking around practicing her ‘badulations’ for a long time before we figured out that it meant the ‘pledge of allegiance’! And here I was trying to get her to say congratulations. It’s truly unbelievable to me that at 9 months I had her hearing tested because she wasn’t saying anything!

So, we seem to have moved from the gains in pronunciation, to the gains in vocabulary. Even though there are days when I’m feeling really done listening to more status updates, it still melts my cold heart to hear ‘Thank you God for Mom’ or ‘Luv you Mommy’. Those are the ‘it’s all worth it’ moments.

Hope I can hold onto those long enough to make it through the teens… each day has enough worry of its own.


I don’t have fabulous stories today of amazing adventures, games or jokes. Today was a normal Saturday in Congo (you’re probably wondering, and rightfully so, if that’s really possible…). You know, it’s the day to change the sheets, to buy and cook a little extra to cover Sundays, a huge pot of potato soup and some clean sheets. Nothing very noteworthy really. But this week, for the first time in seven years I didn’t change any diapers. Now there’s something to thank God for! There was nostalgia for me when the baby is officially weaned, when they officially move to a big bed, when they are officially too heavy for me to carry… but I’m really not going to miss diapers. Not. Even a little bit.

I was out shopping in the morning driving at 20 mph (2nd gear is my friend) over our bumpy dirt roads trying to avoid many motorcycle taxis with everything but the kitchen sink sitting on the back, when suddenly something caught my eye. From maybe 30 yards ahead I could see a foreigner. Strange. It was strange because they almost never just walk around (almost always it is easier to be driven in the company car with air-conditioning blasting and windows rolled up to keep dust and needy hands out). So there was some white guy in shorts. Normal for you, but strange here. Shorts are not worn here in general… okay, only for schoolboys. And short shorts are nearly taboo, so it was a bit shocking. I got over it after a good chuckle. And turned the corner a while later to see not one, not two, but 40-50 of them! This was a touristy shorts invasion nearly blocking the road. I have no idea where they came from (Italy?), but they obviously aren’t from around these parts!

Really, it was a fairly boring (in a good way) Saturday!
Enjoy your Saturday!

Cooking Cake in Congo

Kent likes cheesecake. He likes a rich dark gingerbread cake too, but we did that last year. So this year I wanted to make him a raspberry swirl cheesecake for his birthday. I know it’s shooting a bit high, and I should probably have a talk with myself (again) about having more realistic expectations. I enjoy a bit of a challenge in dessert-creation. And besides, in a land of no cake mixes any cake of any sort will be work. Might as well be something different we will all enjoy. Not to mention the fact that we’ve just finished 3 other more traditional cakes off after 2 straight weeks of birthdays. We’re caked out. Time for cheesecake! I really should have made it a full day in advance, but that was Sunday so tough.

In case you were wondering, there is no cream cheese here.



BUT… we had our yogurt spoil last week, and spoiled yogurt strained through cheesecloth (good to get rid of the alcoholic vinegary whey) for a few days ends up looking a bit like cottage cheese and tasting a lot like cream cheese. SO… I was prepared with my 3 ½ cups of cream cheese!

Now there are no raspberries here either.



BUT… the UN cast-offs shop has raspberry jam! And if you boil and whip jam you can get a sauce thin enough to swirl. Thank God for an old Kitchen Aid to do all this mixing and whipping!

I’m sure you’re seeing the pattern here… There are no graham crackers here for the crust, and usually British ‘digestive biscuits’ make a decent substitute, but I was out of them and so were stores.

Hakuna biscuits.


BUT… Kent had a cup of cookie crumbs in the fridge from a failed dark chocolate gingersnaps experiment and with a few more cookie crumbs I found plus melted margarine and quick-cooking oats it morphed into a ‘real’ crust. SO… we had a chocolate-ginger-something crust!

You can see why there is never a short answer to “What do you eat in Africa?”

Other than changing most of the ingredients I did exactly what the online lady ‘erin’ said to do, even putting one egg in at a time and pouring the sugar continuously. I did end up beating the batter? a bit longer than I have before, but I think it made for a smoother texture in the end. Here it is in the oven!!! I’m always a bit apprehensive trying a new recipe with 4 substituted ingredients, but it’s equally as thrilling when it works!

We topped the edges with more raspberry jam sauce and stuck dark chocolate chunks around the edges (instead of those luscious fresh raspberries in the pictures), and drizzled Kent’s signature dark chocolate sauce over the served pieces. Now Kent would’ve been thrilled to have chocolate sauce all over any of it, but there is where we differ. True confessions. Now the ugly truth comes out… Kent would actually prefer a chocolate cheesecake, but…

I have a fruit-chocolate taboo,

which extends to yogurt.

There’s just something I detest about ‘sour’ with ‘chocolate’.

No chocolate frozen yogurt thanks.

No chocolate cheesecake thanks.

No chocolate oranges thanks.


I enjoy chocolate in just about everything else. So I had some pretty selfish motives in shooting for a raspberry swirl cheesecake: This was made for me to be able to enjoy Kent’s cake without the chocolate and raspberry and yogurt touching. =)

And it was GOO-OOD!


My apologies for a strange format of our blog these days. I haven’t yet figured out if my techno-ignorant self deleted some important codes somewhere, or if blogger is having a really bad week. Please bear with us.

Happy Birthday to Dady

After traversing the globe and East Africa this year, Kent was looking forward to celebrating with a quiet day at home. Early in the morning he got to chat on the computer with his sister for the first time.

Yeah for technology! For mid-morning snack Anna delivered his first treat: Sugar free Extra dark Chocolate with a kiss) as he worked on his computer. — /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”Arial Unicode MS”; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1 -369098753 63 0 4129279 0;} @font-face {font-family:”@Arial Unicode MS”; panose-1:2 11 6 4 2 2 2 2 2 4; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1 -369098753 63 0 4129279 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} h1 {mso-style-next:Normal; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; page-break-after:avoid; mso-outline-level:1; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-font-kerning:0pt; font-weight:normal; font-style:italic;} h2 {mso-style-next:Normal; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; page-break-after:avoid; mso-outline-level:2; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; font-weight:bold;} h3 {margin-right:0in; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; mso-outline-level:3; font-size:13.5pt; font-family:”Arial Unicode MS”; font-weight:bold;} h4 {mso-style-next:Normal; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; page-break-after:avoid; mso-outline-level:4; font-size:18.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; font-weight:normal;} h5 {mso-style-next:Normal; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; text-align:center; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; page-break-after:avoid; mso-outline-level:5; font-size:14.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; font-weight:bold;} p.MsoBodyText, li.MsoBodyText, div.MsoBodyText {margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:14.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} p.MsoBodyText2, li.MsoBodyText2, div.MsoBodyText2 {margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; font-style:italic;} a:link, span.MsoHyperlink {color:blue; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed {color:purple; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} p {margin-right:0in; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Arial Unicode MS”;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>While he worked, I was in the kitchen frantically working on a raspberry swirl cheesecake (see next post for the whole cooking story…). For now I’ll just say, the cake worked – yay!

I include the second picture only because it shows how much help he had in blowing (check out Anna’s cheeks!) out candles. Kent chose garlic cheese white sauce over penne and broccoli for his birthday dinner and we had sides of rosemary rolls (from again) and ginger stir-fried green beans too. He treated himself to a Tangawizi (Ginger beer) that’s really strong.

Proof that he got presents.

I brought all sorts of Cmas wrapping paper neatly folded in the suitcase, but somehow forgot the birthday paper. Hm. Who knew that making your own wrapping paper could be fun? James drew stars and bats for ‘Dady’ (and a token Cmas tree because that was the example of wrapping paper I had to show him), and the kids learned how to curl paper ribbons. Yes, you can curl paper (gently).

Bob the Builder seems to have hi-jacked Kent’s office and it is filled with tools and parts of things to help renovate this house. Needless to say, it is not very conducive to thinking, so our handmade presents focused on sprucing up his office. He got new curtains, matching desk dust cloth (made from one of those sheets we picked up from the ‘Games I post), more dark chocolate (Swiss – 80% – with Tanzania on the label? Go figure), chocolate gingersnaps (that worked!)…

…and a decorated crafty can from the kids for pencils. (Anna DID eventually let go of the bag of cookies.) The kids did a nice job gluing fun pictures onto their cans, and Anna did a stellar job of cutting up a million tiny pieces to help. Cleaning up was another story…

Overall he deemed it a fun and tasty birthday!

Medieval Helpdesk

I post this for 4 reasons:

1) I found it funny.

2) It’s filmed by a Norwegian Broadcasting Company and I’m somewhat Norwegian. Hey! It’s just fun to listen to them speak and here the cognates with English.

3) For John, who knows what it’s like to be the ‘helpdesk’.

and 4) Because it makes me think about literacy. Being a literacy specialist in Africa I have first-hand experience to prove that we take our literature-rich environment for granted. While it’s a funny look at modern help desks, it’s also sobering to realize that there are remote regions where this could still happen today. Hope you enjoy!