Monday, August 27, 2012

I am the Baking Queen...

…Young and sweet only Thirty-three…or rather Thirty-Four. Anyways, over the past few weeks I have indeed been the baking queen. Here’s what we’ve been enjoying:

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins:
1 ½ cups white sugar
½ cup shortening (I did use Crisco this time, because I happened to have some, but I usually use butter/baking margarine)
2 eggs
3 bananas
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda IN 2/3 cup sour milk (just under ¼ cup vinegar, plus enough milk to total 2/3 cup)
3 cups flour
Chocolate chips

Cream shortening and sugar. Add beaten eggs and mashed bananas. Add sour milk and soda. Mix in flour, salt and vanilla.  Toss in chocolate chips.
Bake at 325 in muffin tin or bread pan. Time varies according to your oven : )

Mom’s Favorite Apple Bread (from Gram Willie):
4 cups apple, peeled and diced small
2 cups sugar **
2 sticks butter
3 cups flour
2 tsps each baking soda and cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

**mix apples and 2 cups sugar in a large bowl. Leave at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Melt butter and let cool. Mix flour, soda, and cinnamon into apples. Stir by hand. Stir in butter, eggs, vanilla.
Bake at 325 in muffin tin or bread pan (makes 2 loaves). Sprinkle a little sugar on top before baking if desired. Large loaves need to bake about 1 ¼-1 ½ hours.

Nice Grandma’s Cinnamon Bread (from our Elm Ave neighbor, Mrs. Johnson aka Nice Grandma):
¼ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
Streusel: ½ cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix batter together. Layer ½ of batter, then ½ of streusel, ½ batter, ½ streusel.
Bake 50 minutes at 350 (my oven took quite a bit longer). Do NOT overfill pan! I did and it made a mess.

Lemon Cookies:
1 stick (125 g) butter, chilled
1cup PLUS ¼ cup sugar
Grated peel of 2 lemons plus 1 TBSP lemon juice
1 large egg
1 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Combine butter, 1 cup sugar, lemon juice and peel til fluffy. Mix in egg. Add flour, soda and salt.
Option 1-place remaining ¼ cup sugar in a bowl. Roll heaping tsps of dough into balls, roll in sugar, smoosh down a bit on cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes or until edges are golden.
Option 2-Roll dough into balls, smoosh down a bit on cookie sheet. Bake. When cooled, coat with glaze made from powdered sugar and lemon juice (more juice=thinner glaze).

Lemon Cake Custard (from the Sunnyslope CRC cookbook):
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp butter
½ tsp salt
6 Tbsp flour
1 lemon, grated peel and juice
2 eggs, separated
1 ½ cups milk

Combine sugar and butter, add salt, egg yolks and flour, then add lemon (juice and peel) and milk. Fold in beaten egg whites, stiff but not dry. Pour in baking dish, which has been placed in a larger dish of warm water. Make sure the water only comes up about ½ way up the side of the baking dish. Bake 1 hour at 350. It will look golden when done. The top halg will be like a sponge cake, and the bottom like a lemony pudding. (This dish is good the day it is made and the next day, but then it does start to separate a bit)

Chocolate Chip Cookies (from my friend, Athena):

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (softened)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz. Chocolate chips

Mix first 5 ingredients with beaters.  Add dry ingredients.  Stir together.  Spoon onto cookie sheets.  Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Fast Facts from Jori (and other kid related stuff)

Here are some recent “facts” that Jori has shared with us:

Did you know that if you dip a banana in wine it won’t be banana color anymore? It will be wine color. Me: What’s wine? Jori: You know, it’s like blood, but it’s bad for you. Some people drink it.

Did you know that when baby elephants go “aroo, aroo” they aren’t crying for their moms? They are just talking.

Did you know that teddy bears love honey?

Here are some other little Jori tidbits:

We recently picked up some food for a program that was taking place in the community. Jori’s response to our giving; “I’m happy we’re helping them out, buuuuut that just wastes our money!” We explained that helping others isn’t a waste and that we were able to help because we didn’t get as many groceries for ourselves. Her response; “you want us to die?”

The past couple nights, we’ve been praying as a family before bedtime. Last night when Darin tucked Jori in, she told him that she wanted to pray for him. So she asked him what he was having a hard time with. Darin said she could pray about the water filters. That wasn’t enough information for Jori, so she asked him what filter stuff he was working hard at. We could hear her praying out loud for her daddy and his partners “Carel and Blessing”.

Tonight before we prayed, the kids were singing songs from school, including “Our God is an Awesome God”, “Father I Adore You” and then the mysterious “Cost yer bellons”. We weren’t sure if this last song was in Tswana, Afrikaans or what, but we had no idea what a “bellons” was. After listening to them sing it a few times, we finally realized they were supposed to be singing “Cast your burdens”, but the heavy African accents of their classmates has led both of our kids to sing “cost yer bellons” for the past 3 weeks. They were both really skeptical that the words were indeed “Cast your burdens”, but they finally accepted that we were right.

Tyson made it SIX days in a row without moving his peg. He was so proud of himself and we are so proud of him too. We try not to make that the main focus of his day, but after moving his peg almost every day for the first few weeks of school, it’s quite an accomplishment for him. He did end up moving his peg yesterday, but he told us "I just let it go. Let it go". We are glad he is learning that moving a peg isn't the end of the world! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's keeping Darin busy?

About a month ago, Jonna promised that I would fill everyone in on a new opportunity that was presented to me.  Sorry for the delay, but here you go.

Early in June, I got an email from Lou, a colleague of mine from Michigan who used to be a missionary with the CRC in South Africa and other parts of Africa for many years.  He has been somewhat involved with our gas station venture as well; I had gone to him for advice on the investment because of his background here in SA.  For the last two years, Lou has been working as the international marketing director for Sawyer Products, a Florida based company.  Sawyer manufactures water filtration products that were designed for taking into underdeveloped areas where safe, clean water isn’t available.  Lou had been all over Africa and had contacts in many countries, so he was a great choice for this role since the product is also heavily tied to missions. 

Lou was looking for some help in SA to get the Sawyer filters in front of non-profit and mission organizations.  There was a gentleman named Carel(pronounced liked Carl) that had been working with Lou here in SA for about a year and had made some progress, but Lou wanted to increase the time and effort here.   Lou visited SA in the middle of June and I spent half of 3 straight days meeting with him and Carel to talk about what I could bring to the table.  After Lou left, Jonna and I talked about the opportunity for about a week before deciding it seemed like a great thing for me to get involved in.  With the future of our petrol station still up in the air, having some income from this would make it a little easier for us to wait for the resolution of the issues holding that up as well.   

So while we stayed in Pretoria at the house of our friends for a week at the end of June where there was unlimited internet, I gave myself a crash course on water filtration and products that were available here.  Since that time, I have been meeting with Carel once or twice a week as we plan our next 6 months strategy.  I have been making contacts with many organizations and visiting people in the townships around here to find out more about the local water situation. 

Carel and I have already taken on another gentleman named Blessing to work with us.  He just spent 3+ weeks up in Zimbabwe meeting with organizations there that can possibly use our products.  I’m also developing a marketing plan with a man who lives in a township north of Hammanskraal.  He saw the filter, committed to buying one before he even knew the price, and a week later told me he was quitting his job as an architect so he could devote more time to work as a distributor for us in the local villages!  It is exciting to already see the big potential for job creation after only a couple of months.    

While the filters were designed with missions in mind and that will be a big part of our focus, there are also recreational product applications that we hope to investigate as well.  In the US, Sawyer filters are sold in Walmart, REI stores, Cabella’s, etc for campers, hikers and fishermen who want to drink safe water when they are out of reach of a good water supply.  With South Africa being more developed than other African countries and with a big outdoor, tourist economy, we plan to target some of the wealthier population who could use the products in that way.

Investing in the gas station was never about a dream to run a business like that.  It was about providing us with income while we volunteered in South Africa and about having an opportunity to participate in a newer area of Christian witnessing known as Business As Mission.  I see this opportunity with Sawyer as being an even greater example of that model as not only will we be creating jobs and supporting the local economy through our business work, but our products literally save lives and in some cases help missionaries reach people by first providing for the physical need of clean water and then later opening the door to be able to share the Gospel with them.  To help Carel and I as we build the business, we have been accepted as an official Partners Worldwide project.  This is an organization started under the CRC that connects entrepreneurs in the US with business startups around the world to help create jobs for the poor.  We will have a couple mentors in the US that will help us with planning and strategy and a greater network of Christians to tap into for advice and contacts in our work.   

We are excited about this new direction in which God has pointed me.  After almost a year of not having any real work to do, it feels great to again be able to put into practice some of what I’ve learned in my 10+ years of business experience.  This has the potential down the road to fully support our family here in SA while we continue our other volunteer work in the Hammanskraal area.  But at least for the first six months as we get this going, we will still need to rely on the support of others who believe in what we are doing in South Africa.  More to come on that topic next week. 

Please pray with us that God will bless this work and that we can see many great things come out of it!  If you want to see more about the products and the impact they have had across the globe, please go to       

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Random News of the Week

We had snow here today. Yes, snow! It was cold. How cold, I'm not sure, but cold enough to turn the tips of my fingers white when I was frantically pulling my laundry off of the line. We also lost power for about three hours, which made it seem even colder. Darin was walking around the house in a stocking cap and I dug out my long johns. The kids said they saw the snow from their classroom window and all the other kids were going wild. I'm guessing this was the first snow most of the kids had ever seen. Did I mention that the "snow" was just little flurries, so lightly falling that you almost missed seeing it come down? Still, having snow in this part of South Africa is pretty amazing. 

The kids are loving school. Tyson has been on green 2 days in a row, which means he hasn't had to move his peg!! Jori knows the names of all the kids in her class and she loves to share little details about each child with us, especially if it involves pegs being moved. Every morning the kids have devotions together. This is one of their favorite parts of the day. They come home singing "Father I adore You", "The love of Jesus is so wonderful" and "Stomp the devil lower, lower". 

I visited an "art therapy" program in one of the neighboring townships on Monday. The arts are not my thing. I mean, I like them, but I'm not so good at them. Monday was a music day, which involved pounding on drums and waving flags. If you know me well, you can imagine my horror at having to stand on a stage and wave a flag. Granted, there were only 5 other people present and they were also waving flags, stomping their feet, banging on drums, or doing some funky (way funky) dancing, so it's not like I had an audience (other than the very curious neighbors who were probably wondering why 4 white people and 2 black youths were doing all the above mentioned things). I had a hard time keeping a straight face and really just wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all. However, it wasn't a bad experience so I will be going back. Strange and awkward, yes, but not at all bad.

At this same event, I had my first run in with polony. Polony, rhymes with bologna, but they are not the same. Yes, they are both processed and are stuffed with fillers, but bologna comes in a nice package all sliced up. It is firm, like all lunch meat should be. Polony is pink and it comes in a log, sometimes 4" thick, like sausage. Did I mention that it is pink? It is also a bit squishy looking. You could take a piece of bologna, hold it by your fingertips and wave it around. I'm thinking that if you tried that with polony it would fall to pieces. I did not even know how to open the polony and felt like a total dork asking for help, but I didn't want to ruin the packaging. I also was not sure how thick to cut the polony, so again I asked. I was then instructed to cut it with a mandolin type cutting device. It was pretty awesome. I made THREE polony and tomato sandwiches all by myself, however, I did not partake in the polony feast. I just couldn't bring myself to try the stuff, although my American friend Annie did tell me she eats it with crackers and cheese on occasion, so perhaps someday I will indulge. 

We have seen a lot of stray dogs running around outside our fence. We've tried calling to them, but they just run the other direction. Maybe someday we'll see a pack of stray dogs chasing a herd of impala. Or perhaps we'll see a herd of stray dogs get eaten by a pack of jackals. Nice. Or maybe they'll get squashed by the herd of buffalo, a pretty wild group that decided to bust out of their holding pen after they were spooked by a couple lionesses. 

It's only Tuesday night and the week is already chock full of randomness. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thank you for Praying!

A huge thank you to everyone who has been praying for our family this week, especially our dear Tyson. On Monday, Darin and I met with Tyson's teacher and that meeting has given us a lot of peace about many things we were feeling confused and frustrated about. We know there are still going to be times when we may not understand why things are done a certain way or times when we disagree with how things are handled, but we will continue to take things one day at a time and I will try to not jump right into the deep pool of bitterness that I often find myself in, and will instead try to walk with my dear husband who remains calm until he has heard both sides of the story : ) 

The third week of school has been much better than the first two. Tyson was still saying his stomach hurt on Monday morning, but after we met with his teacher and were able to explain a few things to Tyson, he has not complained of an upset stomach again! Tyson's teacher made a plan to have the kids in his class speak more English on their breaks, and that has eased a lot of his loneliness. Yesterday afternoon, he did tell me that he had been singing a "lonely song" that he made up (doesn't that make your heart hurt???) during recess, but in the same breath he told me that he had been playing with one of the boys in his class earlier during the break. I talked with him about focusing on the good things and not the sad things. I want to be sensitive to his hurts, but I also want to help him see that things are getting better. 

I don't know why I am still amazed by the power of prayer, but I am. I often use prayer as a last resort instead of seeing it as the powerful weapon that it is. We can definitely tell that many people have been praying for us this week and we are thankful that God answers prayers, even when we wait to turn to Him until we are feeling at the end of our rope! He is so patient and faithful. even when we are not. 

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

Wow, wow, wow!!! We are only $50 away from reaching our goal!! Thank you to everyone who gave over the past week. The house is really taki...