Archives for June 2012

Book giveaway: The Last Hunger Season

Today I’m giving away two copies of an intriguing book called The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change.  This book tells the story of a group of Kenyan women who are trying to improve their lives by working with an aid organization called One Acre Fund.  I read the book in two days and was  fascinated by the look into the lives of these four farmers.

Though I don’t agree with all its politics, overall this is exactly my kind of book.  As an advocate for orphans, I believe that there is not ONE single solution for the orphan crisis in Africa, but I believe that a variety of ideas could be partial solutions.  International adoption only helps a few children. Good healthcare would help more families stay intact.  In-country adoption programs like Bring Love In have exciting potential.  But an adequate food supply is absolutely a crucial part of keeping more mommas alive so that they can raise their own kids.

If you’d like to win one of the two copies of this book that I’m giving away, comment below and tell me why this books sounds interesting to you.  For a second entry, go like One Acre Fund on facebook, then come back and tell me that you’ve done so.  I’ll pick two winners of this giveaway early next week.

Family fun

As parents of teens, John and I are constantly trying to balance their wish for increased freedom with our desire to protect our family time.  One of the things we do on Sundays is ask that our kids all sit with us in church.  Their friends are welcome to join us, and usually we fill at least part of two rows.  But we want to worship together.  They have their adult lives to worship wherever they wish, but only a few precious years with us.

Last night was our local God and Country rally, a huge Christian rock concert/ patriotic celebration/ fireworks display where there were tens of thousands of people.  Our teens begged to go, and to their delight I said yes. (John had to work, so he wasn’t able to be in on the fun.)

Though our kids were looking forward to seeing friends there, I also wanted it to be an event our family experienced together.  So after the teens wandered around with friends for an hour or two, checking out booths, etc, I asked them to sit near us for the main performances and the fireworks.  The older teens were fine with it, but some of the 14 year olds weren’t thrilled– they were imagining more independence.

But when I asked them to be with us, their friends came too.  Kids played cards on quilts spread in the grass. They blew bubbles, waved glow sticks, sang, clapped, watched the little kids dance, exclaimed over fireworks– together. Everyone ended up having a great time, making memories together instead off in little separate clumps.

Sure, I could’ve given the teens more space.  And another time I probably will. But last night I made a stand for family time. They’ll have their whole adult lives to do things apart from family if they wish. Our togetherness last night enriched their younger siblings’ experience. It enriched mine. And even the reluctant ones had plenty of fun along the way, and made some good memories too.  

Family time is worth fighting for.

Cloth napkin bouquet

Large families like mine tend to go through a lot of napkins at mealtime. A few years ago I got fed up with spending $8-10 on paper napkins every month and decided instead to use washcloths.  Several packets of the cheapo Wal-Mart wash-clothes later, we were in business.

For awhile we used one napkin/day/person, setting used napkins on chairs between meals.  But when the vacuum-person moved chairs, things sometimes got shuffled. I got tired of finding a kid-messed napkin at my place, and decided fresh napkins each meal were the better way to go.  But that made for a lot of napkin-washing, often of clean napkins.  Recently I decided that a container of napkins in the center of the table was the way to go.  That way messy folks could grab a napkin, and the rest would stay clean in the container til they were needed.

I spotted a cute little washtub- style  tin at a thrift store that was big enough for 15 or so napkins, and realized it would be great for the purpose.  When my 16 year old daughter got done rolling napkins and filling it up, I thought the arrangement looked a lot like a bouquet.  Wish I’d thought of this solution sooner!

If you don’t happen to have a cute tin, I think a wicker basket or a variety of other similar-size containers would work equally well.  One additional benefit of  wash-clothes napkins– they’re big enough to double as towels when mopping up the inevitable milk spills at mealtime.

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Church Camp 2012

Last week was my annual week of mega-cooking for church camp. Five days of planning and two days of shopping culminated in a Wednesday-thru-Sunday camp that consisted of 12 meals and a bunch of snacks. There were 100+ campers most days, which means we served around 1250 trays of food. It was our biggest camp yet.

We have a system where folks sign up to help with the cooking on a rotating basis, 4 or 5 cooks per meal.  My job is to make sure the food is there, along with a flow chart to step them through the cooking process, so that things are ready to serve in a timely manner.  I’m SO glad to have lots of help, so I don’t actually do all the cooking.  But many meals I’m in there, answering questions, problem-solving and lending a hand.

Many of the meals were old favorites we’d served before: hot dogs, pancakes, taco bar, pizza, etc. A few of the changes: one morning we served homemade biscuits and gravy which was a lot of work but was a big hit. I did a potato sausage chowder on the last day which some kids looked at cross-eyed but adults really enjoyed. Every evening we served a salad bar, which was very well received, I think. On the first night I made a huge vat of this award-winning chili. I was afraid I’d have tons left, but between that evening, and a potato bar a couple days later, almost all of it disappeared. Definitely a hit.

One thing that I tried that was slightly disappointing: this Alton Brown method of ‘boiling’ eggs. They came out perfectly twice at home.  Unfortunately (fearing liquid centers) I chickened out and baked them 34 minutes instead of the recommended 30. PLUS I was using a convection oven which tends to cook faster than a regular one. They weren’t terrible, but some ended up a bit rubbery, and had brown bits. I think if I’d baked them 29 minutes they’d have been perfect. Ah well.

I averaged around $1.57/plate, which I think is pretty decent considering there were multiple offerings and fresh fruits/veggies at every meal.  We had some leftovers, but the only thing that I made way too much of was pizza. It eventually all got eaten, but we were swimming in pizza for a couple days.  Apparently 28 lbs of flour is more than enough for 110 people.

Other interesting factoids:

  • It takes about 35 pounds of pork roast to make pulled pork for 100 people.
  • I bought 45 dozen eggs and had EIGHT eggs left.
  • 21 pounds of canned corn is NOT enough for 100 people.  (Apparently lots of people like corn.)
  • 50 pounds of potatoes is about right for a potato bar for 100+ people.
  • I began with 16 gallons of milk, and had someone go to the store for 5 more gallons.  And we STILL ran out of milk before the last meal.

All in all, it was a successful camp. The kids had a blast on the lake.  The adults had a great time visiting.  We all had some really great worship and Bible study sessions.  And no one went away hungry from camp.  But I’m glad it’s not coming around again for another year.  I’m tired of cooking!

I’m an INTJ. You?

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Do you like taking personality tests?  I love them, which, it turns out, is pretty normal for my Myers-Briggs personality type.  Here’s a fairly quick test you can take if you’re curious what type you are.

Once you know your own type, it’s also kind of fun to find out what types various famous people are.  The other night, in the middle of watching the final season of 24, I had to pause to google what Jack Bauer’s personality type is.  (He’s an ISTP, if you care.)

I also have been harassing my family members by asking them take the test.  It is an interesting way to understand them a bit better, I think.  Turns out my hubby is  an ISTJ — I think we balance each other out pretty well.

If you decide to take the test  (there are many others online too– that one just happens to be free and fairly brief)  I’d love to hear what type you are too!

(Home Depot paid for space at the top of this post.)

Recipes I want to try

I write this type of post so I can remember what’s caught my eye lately food-wise. Gluten free cooking has been on my mind even more lately– another one of my sisters went gluten free after her doctor recommended it due to thyroid issues. That makes 3 sisters plus my mom. Yikes. I’ve been figuring less wheat is probably better for me too and have had my eyes open for a variety of healthy gluten free options.  Here are a few things I’ve bookmarked recently.

 

Sweet potato veggie burgers

Coconut flour pizza crust

Award winning chili

Kale chips

A good excuse for cake

Seems that another birthday has rolled around.  Mine, this time.  A good excuse for my 16 year old daughter to make a most amazing cake.

Not sure how I feel about turning the number written on that cake.  But with faces like these around me on a regular basis, I am most blessed.

 

And the cake?  It tasted just as fabulous as it looked.

Dress from a t-shirt

Awhile back I spotted a turquoise and grey striped t-shirt at the thrift store.  Anything turquoise always catches my eye– it’s one of my favorite colors.  And this extra-large shirt was so soft and cozy that I decided it really needed to be a future sewing project.  It sat for awhile as I decided what to do with it.  But when I saw this adorable tshirt-to-dress tutorial, I knew I wanted to give it a shot.

First, off with the arms.  Then I trimmed off the collar and cut a bit more off the top so the armholes wouldn’t be too deep.   Next came a narrow hem at each armhole.

I made the neckline of my dress more simple than shown in the tutorial– I just hemmed the top edge with a wide hem and tunneled a  piece of fold-over elastic through it, cutting it long enough to make a bow.  You could also use ribbon, but the elastic makes the neckline nice and stretchy which is good for play.  My daughter loves the fluffy fabric/button embellishment I added onto the front and has worn two out of the last four days.  With shorts it is a cool and comfy play dress. I think it’s a hit.

 

 

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Setting hens

Early summer is a nice time of expectancy.  The tomato plants and pumpkins are getting bushy.  There are baby apples on the trees.  We’re just getting our first raspberries.  This year we have an added feeling of expectancy because of our chickens.

We’re down to only four hens and had been talking about buying some more baby chicks.  But then two of our hens went broody, and seemed so determined that we thought we might as well see if they could hatch out some eggs for us.  They had been sitting right together, in the very same nesting box.  But the other hens were climbing in and out and we knew that it would be better to separate the setting hens from the rest of the group, both so they’d be less disturbed during setting, and so that they’d not be bothered while raising any babies.

So in the dark of the night a week or so ago, we moved both hens out of the moveable run where they all spend their summers, and back into the regular chicken house where they could brood undisturbed and hopefully hatch us out some chicks.  Since they’d been setting together, and I didn’t want them to feel disturbed by their move, I opted to make them a nesting box out of a cardboard box a bit bigger than the box they’d been sitting in.  We currently have nine eggs under the two of them.  Eggs take 20 or 21 days to hatch out, which puts us somewhere around June 28th if this works. They’ve been getting out of the box now and then very briefly to eat and drink, but then go right back to setting, so we are optimistic.

For those of you who might be interested in chicken types, our rooster is an Araucana, and so is one of the broody hens. The other broody hen is a silky.  We have a Buff Orpington hen and a banty who laid some of the eggs.  And I got three eggs from a friend who has Buff Orpingtons.  It will be interesting to see how many babies we’ll get and what they’ll look like.  When we do, I’ll try to get some better pictures of the little ones than I was able to get of their mommas sitting in the dimness of the chicken house!

Monday tidbits: adoption and orphan care

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The winner of the book Not Just Tacos is commenter # 4 Stacy.

I’m really excited to be hosting an event in August to hear Levi and Jessie Benkert talk about the great new project they’ve begun in Ethiopia, where they pair widows and orphans into families.  This post show their very first mother-baby pair.  Look at that mama’s face as she looks at her new child– loveliness!  These women are committing to legally adopt these orphans, with Benkert’s organization Bring Love In making it financially possible.  Exciting, exciting work they’re doing!  If you live in the Boise area, contact me via email and I will wrangle you an invitation to attend the event on August 8th.  For other cities that they will be stopping at, see their summer tour page.  Not everyone can adopt a child.  But this is a way that almost anyone can minister to widows and orphans.

I also happened across several good posts recently related to parenting adopted kids.  These are very worth reading, especially if you find yourself parenting a child with challenges.

 I Broke the Baby describes mothering a child who has difficulty self-regulating.

Not Easy  speaks of the life-altering focus-change we experience as we do the hard work of parenting.

A Father’s Adoption Journey– is a wonderful description of an adoption written from the perspective of a dad who didn’t start out expecting that adoption would be right for his family.

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(Note: Coca-Cola rented a bit of space from me at the top of this post.)