Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chocolate Love!!

A few nights ago, I was desperate for chocolate. There were no Cadbury bars left in the fridge so I decided it was time to pull out the recipe books and make myself a treat. It was already after 6, so I had to find a recipe that called for ingredients I already had in the house as there isn’t a 24 hour Family Fare right next door to us like we had at when we lived in the apartments. My friend Amy, who writes a fantastic blog that I wish I could link to, but can’t because I am offline (I am almost positive her blog is called everyday-mom.com and if I am wrong, I hope Amy will correct me in the comments!), sent me the Sunnyslope CRC cookbook, which is the church where my dad was a pastor when I was in elementary school, a few months before we moved to South Africa. How’s that for a run-on sentence? Anyways, Amy sent me this cookbook and a few nights ago I made Joan J.’s brownies and they were fantastic!! So here is the recipe for you all to enjoy the next time you find yourself without a brownie mix.

Joan J’s brownies

2 cups sugar, ½ plus 2 T. cocoa, 1 tsp. salt, 1 cup cooking oil, 4 eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 ½ cup flour, 1 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the sugar, oil, eggs, cocoa and vanilla together. Add the flour and salt. Blend well and add nuts if desired. Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake for exactly 30 minutes. Remove from oven and pour topping over brownies.

Topping:

6 T milk, 6 T butter, 1 ½ cup sugar, ½ cup chocolate chips

Place the milk, butter and sugar in saucepan and bring to a full boil. Boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until well blended. Beat until thickened and chips are melted. Pour over brownies.

I made ½ a batch because at the time we only had a 9x9 pan. They were so good and I could eat the frosting plain. I just might do that sometime, only make the topping and eat it without the brownie. That brings us to our second recipe. This comes from our new friends Mirjam and Alex. We went to their house last week and Mirjam made this cake for us. Last night we made it to bring to some other friends. Sadly our frosting did not turn out quite right, so the cake looked a little ugly, but it was still delish.

Mirjam’s Chocolate Cake

½ cup butter, 1 cup water, ½ cup oil, 3 Tbsp cocoa: Mix all together and microwave for 4 minutes

2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda: Add dry ingredients to dough

½ cup milk, 2 eggs: Add milk and eggs and beat well

Bake for 30 min at 180ยบ (that’s 350 Fahrenheit)



Fudge icing:

2 cups icing sugar, 2 Tbsp cocoa, 2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp water: Place in microwave for 30 sec on high. Mix and spread over cooled cake.

We have had a fun, but busy week. Last night we had a fun evening with new friends, which ended with a power outage, which always makes for fun memories. Now it’s Saturday and we are looking forward to a quiet day around the house. Hopefully it will be less windy than yesterday so we can sit in the sun for a bit, but If not I’ll just spend another day cuddling my hot water bottle and that will be nice too.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Strange, but true


The kids like to play lots of different role playing games together. Right now they are playing some game and they just said “First, it will be our birthday, then we get married, then we move in together and finally, we get to go swimming!!!” Guess which one of those things made their imaginary characters the most excited? If you guessed swimming, you are correct. I love kids.

Our children believe they can speak German. They came into our room this morning just to show us how they can communicate. They make a lot of guttural “g” sounds and speak in low tones. Last night we took part in a very multicultural small group (3 from the states, 1 from Northern Ireland, an Indian who was born in South Africa, 1 from England, 2 Austrians, 2 Germans and a white South African. I think that is all, not counting the children). There are more members of this group who represent other cultures who could not make it tonight. Most of them are missionaries with Operation Mobilization. Our family had a wonderful time, and “learning” German was a bonus for our kids!

When we first arrived 6 weeks ago, we were told that the elephants and lions would be arriving soon. We were also under the impression that we would be breaking ground on the Petrol Station by the end of June. It is now the last week of July and none of these things have taken place.

We drive through a gate to enter the Dinokeng Game reserve. Each time we drive through, there are a different number of men standing guard. There is no rhyme or reason to this. This afternoon there was no one standing guard. That was a first.

Our boy is sleeping with underwear on his head tonight. White briefs, if you must know. We took his bandage off this afternoon to check how his wound is healing and forgot that we had brought the medical tape back to TYB yesterday. The wound is mostly healed, but a bit oozy, hence the underwear head gear.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Housing Options

So, I think when I last wrote about housing, we were looking at a place in Twee Riviere and I was telling you all how I wanted something bigger and better than what we were able to afford. Let me give you a quick recap of what’s happened since then before I go off on something else. About a week and a half ago, we made an offer on a house in Twee Riviere. It was one of the smaller units and we were both feeling really good about it. We found out a few days later that our offer was not accepted, which was a HUGE disappointment, but there was another unit that was almost identical to the one we wanted. So last Tuesday, we decided to go back to Twee Riviere just to look around a bit. We didn’t go in the house, but took a quick look around, felt good about what we saw, and were planning to make an offer on it. We decided to drive by the other unit just to see it once more. While we were over there, I saw a lady watering her plants and thought I’d just go ask her a few questions to see what she thought about living in Twee Riviere. THANK GOD I did! She was so nice and friendly and started by telling me what a great place Twee Riviere was. She said the people were so friendly and it was quiet and that it was a nice community. However, she then told me that we should NOT buy a house here and invited me in her house to see why. We went in and she pointed out huge cracks in the ceiling trim. Then she took me down the hall and showed me where the wall was starting to crack. She said she has neighbors who have had whole walls crumble down and others who have huge cracks in the floor tiles. Apparently the whole place has been built on clay and as the houses settle many of them are cracking and having other issues. This lady was renting, so she said for her it is not so bad because the people they rent from will come in and fix things, but the people who have bought homes and are living in them have been told that they bought the house “as is” and it’s up to them to deal with the problems! I walked back to our car to tell Darin and just felt like God had His hand on my shoulder the whole time. We are so thankful that He protected us from harm!

So that is where we left off. The houses we were looking at were in an area/suburb called Montana. We both felt like living in Montana would be great as it would be kind of centrally located to the church we’ve been attending, Darin’s work and there were also some English speaking schools nearby. Since the whole thing at Twee Riviere kind of fell apart, Darin and I have kind of taken a few steps back and have been trying to figure out if there really is a best place to live. It just seems like there are so many options and each one comes with different pros and cons.

We’ve been getting to know some more people from church and are even going to visit a small group tonight. Through talking with people at church we’ve found out that if we were to live in Montana, we would basically be on our own. The closest small group to us would be about a 15-20 minute drive, and church would still be about 20-25 minutes away. This may not seem like a huge deal as many of you drive that far each week, but we want to be able to get involved in things through the church and be able to get together with people from church, especially if we are homeschooling, and I’m just not sure that would happen if we weren’t living closer to the church and the people who go there. However, Darin would be a bit farther from work and we’d be farther away from the area where we are currently living, which is an area we really love.

We’ve also been getting more involved with Mama Cathrine, so we’ve talked about the possibility of staying out in the Hammanskraal area. We really love being out here. We are starting to recognize people when we go shopping and they are starting to remember us. We love being out here on the farm and being more out in the wild. It is exciting and the kids have so much room to run and yell and just be kids. However, if we would stay out here we would be so far away from everything. If we were to keep attending Eastside church, we’d have about a 45 minute drive each week. It would be about the same to go to the closest small group. Darin would be about 50 minutes away from the petrol station, which is not very convenient.

We could also look at housing near the petrol station, but then we would be far away from everything else and we’d be in a very Afrikaans area, which is not really a problem, except we don’t speak Afrikaans. We do not know of any English speaking churches or schools in the area. We’d just be a bit cut off from everything, but it would be convenient for Darin and we might be able to get more involved with the community there.

So now we are just kind of back at square one. We are SO thankful to be where we are at currently and we are in no hurry to leave, but at the same time we know that at some point we need to decide where we are going to lay more permanent roots. Please pray that we would both be more aware of where God is leading us and not so caught up in the things that we see as obstacles or hardships. We have a lot of decisions to make and are glad that for now we have time to seek God’s leading while we enjoy the resting place He has provided for us at this time. Pray also that we would be free from worries, both big worries and the little tiny ones that creep in. All of the places that we could possibly move to are different not only in location, but culturally as well. In some places it would seem almost like we were living back in America. While this isn’t a bad thing, I worry that we will get too comfortable and might fall into the trap of cutting ourselves off from the needs around us. I also worry that if we end up somewhere that is more remote, our kids will feel alone and cut off and won’t have a chance to make friends. So I guess it is mostly me that has lots of worries, so please pray for me : )

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It’s like living in Michigan…only different


We have bought more juice in our first 6 weeks in South Africa than we bought in 6 months living in the states. The juice here is just so good. Instead of apple and orange, we drink litchi, guava grape, breakfast blend and more. Yum!

Tyson’s favorite food out here is 2 minute noodles, also known as South Africa Ramen noodles. Back in Michigan I loved myself a bowl of Ramens, especially chicken or oriental. I will say that I am not such a huge fan of them out here, but Tyson and Darin really enjoy them. Tyson likes cheese, pizza, sweet and sour chicken, barbeque chicken, and beef. He was not a fan of lobster or steak. 

In South Africa, French fries are called chips and chips are called crisps. We have already eaten our way through several bags of crisps-too many to count! Our favorites are Simba (brand) Salt and Vinegar. So good. There are a few other brands of Salt and Vinegar crisps that are decent, but some are just weak.
If I went to a grocery store and asked someone to help me find the tomato sauce, they would lead me to a bottle of ketchup. Instead, I must ask for tomato “puree”.  Confusing to say the least. 

You must ask for “tap water” or you will be served a bottle of water. And if you do want bottled water, make sure you tell them you want “still” water or it will be bubbling.

We can buy ice cream here, but it is super expensive. A package of 6 ice cream bars costs roughly $8! A couple weeks ago we “splurged” on the bars that cost about $4.50. Not good. It was more like ice milk. So sad for this ice cream loving girl. I have seen some places in the mall that look like they sell gelato. I am guessing it might be a bit pricey, but once winter is officially over and the hot weather is here to stay, I will be treating myself! I really miss Ice Cream Alley and their $1 cones!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thank you Wycliffe International Cookbook!


We just had such a super dinner. ALL of us ate happily and greedily, which is no small thing when you consider our sweet Jori refuses to eat about 90% of the meals we prepare! So what has left us all with our happy stomachs?? Homemade Flour Tortillas! We found the recipe in the Wycliffe International Cookbook. I have a couple other recipes along, but they call for lard, something we did not have on hand. The Wycliffe recipe called for lard or oil, something we always keep in our pantry. Here is the recipe. You must try them. I am hoping we can make some to freeze and use for quesadillas, but am waiting to hear from a friend about the best way to freeze these beauties! We only made ½ a recipe tonight because we weren’t sure how they’d turn out, but next time we will definitely make a full batch! We all wanted more!

Flour Tortillas
Combine 4 cups flour and 2 teaspoons salt.
Cut in 6 tablespoons shortening or oil (I just used a fork to mix it together and break up the giant clumps)
Add 1 cup water

Form a ball. Add more water if necessary (which it was for us), until bowl is clear of all dough. Knead well on floured surface and make balls the size of an egg (ours were a bit smaller than an egg and next time we will make them a bit larger than an egg!) Let stand for 15 minutes. Roll thin with a rolling pin (or container of cooking spray if you don’t have a rolling pin) to about the size of a salad plate (ours were like the size of the smallest plate in your cupboard, a tea saucer). 

Place in hot UNGREASED skillet and cook for about 2 minutes on one side. Turn and cook 1 minute longer. Makes 2 dozen.

These were so good. We were all waiting for the next one to come out of the pan. The kids were actually sad when their 3 were gone. I made guacamole and it turned out ok. I used lemon juice from a lemon we picked off a tree, one semi ripe avocado, a bit of chopped onion, some minced garlic and salt.
Seriously, such a good meal. Company worthy even! So come out and see us and we’ll make you some homemade tortillas : ) They’ll only cost you the price of a plane ticket, which is totally worth it. Just ask Jori, the child who finally ate a full meal with her family!

Every Boy's Dream

Yesterday, I (Darin) got to experience something that almost every boy (at least in the US) has probably told his parents he’d like to do when he grew up.  I got to fight a fire!  Shortly after lunch time, Tyson and I headed into town.  It was a normal sunny, cloudless day.  As we were driving down the driveway, I saw in the distance what looked like a huge cloud, but when I looked closer to the horizon, I saw that it was actually the result of a large fire that looked to be burning off in the distance.  I pointed it out to Tyson and we soon forgot about it.  About 2 hours later, I went across the road to TYB to connect online and I saw Mark(the director of TYB) and Hans(a Dutch businessman who is volunteering at TYB for the next 6 months) standing over by the fire fighting machine that Mark stores on their property.  It belongs to a bunch of neighbors who pitched in to buy it for using on brush fires that are common during the winter here.  There are municipal services in town, but even there, we’ve heard stories of waiting 5 or 6 hours for an ambulance to arrive.  So outside the city, everyone is on their own.  We’ve been here about 6 weeks now, and the only precipitation we’ve had was about 5 minutes of VERY slight drizzle one night that wasn’t even enough to fully wet the ground.  I asked Mark if they were getting ready to help with the fire.  He said that Derrick (from the lodge next door) was busy taking the seats out of his game drive vehicle so they could load the tank into it and head out to help.  I thought it sounded like fun to go along and Mark said they could use more help.  But seeing as I was dressed in shorts and Crocs, I had to run home to put on more appropriate fire fighting gear.   After frantically looking for my work jeans and some old shoes or boots to wear (I didn’t want them to leave without me and I told them I had to go check with the boss to see if I had permission to go), I settled on wearing old khaki cargo pants and my white basketball shoes that I took along in case an impromptu game broke out sometime I guess. 


We got everything loaded and were off.  Along with the water tank, we had a few fire beaters, basically thin wooden poles with 2x2’ pieces of rubber attached to them for beating the grass to put out flames.  There were 6 of use in the vehicle; we made up quite the formidable crew.  Mark the retired engineer/children’s home director Englishman, Hans the electrical engineering consultant Dutchman, Darin the future petrol station owner American, Derrick the game lodge operator white South African, and 2 maintenance guys that work for Derrick black South Africans(one was named Jacob and I never caught the other guy’s name).  Where was Kurt Russell from his Backdraft days when we needed him??

We drove off down the road, Hans and I hanging on for dear life in the back of the truck with no tailgate as Derrick bounced down the gravel road.  About 15 minutes later, after talking to several guys along the way to find out where we were needed, we drove up to our first line of fire.  There were some people already there that were dressed like firemen.  I asked Mark who they were and apparently they were trainees in a program that helps young adults get an education, presumably in fire safety or something like that.  Their uniforms were quite official looking, however the glorified Camel packs they wore didn’t seem to be very efficient in putting out the flames, sometimes 10-15’ high when consuming bushes and small trees.  Derrick drove out into the bush and we started the pump and we took over.  The high pressure flow from the water tank hose quickly knocked down the flames and the rest of us followed with the beaters and put out any small flames that sprung up again.  We spent about 30 minutes putting out the flames in that field, but we could see that the fire was still raging in many other fields around. 
Our tank was about empty, so we headed out to find a place to refuel.  We found a nearby game lodge that graciously opened their gates and filled us up at their well.  When we got back out on the road, we could see that the fire we had just fought was tiny compared to a nearby field.  Because of all the fencing around properties here, it sometimes is confusing, even for locals, to know where to enter certain properties and how to maneuver around them.  We saw a group of 4 other trucks with water tanks on the road ahead and joined them to see what the plan was.  These were trucks from a bunch of local lodges.  It was neat to see how people basically dropped everything they were doing in a time like this and did what they could to help their neighbors.  With the fire jumping so many roads and burning on so many properties at one time, it was kind of chaotic as to who was organizing the efforts where.  A few guys made calls to the land owners in the area and we all headed out after a plan was agreed to.  We basically spent the next 2 hours working on different fire lines in a couple different areas.  At times, fire was burning on both sides of us and it was difficult to see and breathe with all the smoke.  We sometimes split up with the water machine going one way while the “beater people” headed the other direction.  At about 6:30, after it was dark except for the flames, we were still out in the middle of a field when a truck came up and told us that they had started to back burn the other side of the section and were going to let the whole thing burn as there weren’t any buildings on the land.  Our job was done at that point.  Everyone was sweaty, covered in soot, hungry, and tired. 

After 10 minutes of trying to figure out where we were and how to get back to the main road, we were headed back home.  Remember how cold it gets when the sun goes down in SA?  Hans and I got to experience what it feels like to ride in the back of a truck traveling down the road, dressed for warm weather, with outside temps probably around 50.  After 20 minutes of bouncing around and my arms almost going numb from the cold, we arrived back at TYB.  Everyone was safe, no one got hurt, and we all got a great workout!  Derrick estimated that over 2,000 acres burned in the fire.  We heard a rumor that a house had burned down, but no we talked to knew for sure.  After a long shower and dinner, I was ready to sit down for a few hours and do nothing.  This morning, my back and arms were quite sore from swinging the beater for hours.  But nothing actually hurts worse than my butt, from bouncing around in the back of the truck thru fields and down gravel roads full of ruts.  I’m still cleaning black stuff out of my ears, nose and eyes today and I’m sure my lungs have seen better days, but it feels great to have been able to contribute in our new community and I feel a little more South African than I did yesterday at this time. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Random


I was driving back from town a couple days ago and said to Darin “This is like driving in Holland (Michigan) during Tulip Time”. If you have ever been to Tulip Time, you just might know what I mean. There are so many tourists in the area and they do not understand the rules of driving in Michigan, especially the infamous “Michigan Turn”, which has replaced almost all left turns. A lot of people I know would stay out of Holland during Tulip Time because driving around with people who don’t know the rules of the road can be a bit dangerous and frustrating. The difference out here is that I feel like a lot of the South African drivers here are the tourists. I’m not saying I know all the rules of the road out here, because I so obviously don’t. But when I see a stop sign, I usually stop. Out here there are several stop signs that seem to be ignored by almost every driver. The taxis out here are crazy too. You just never really know what they are going to do. So, if you want a little view into driving in South Africa, more specifically out where we are currently living in South Africa, just head to Holland Michigan during Tulip Time. Just watch out for the tourists! 

Darin is gone tonight and the kids are watching a movie so I was able to slip outside for a while tonight as the sun was starting to set. It is beautiful. The smells, the sounds, the sights. I found myself thinking “I am in South Africa. I am actually living here” and that is a pretty amazing thing. On the flip side, there are other times that I think that same thought and instead of seeming amazing, it terrifies me. I realize that we are going to be here for a long time. “An indefinite amount of time”, is what we usually tell people. We’ll be setting up house here, sending our kids to school here, joining a church here and more. Our lives will be here. Both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

I do not miss the internet nearly as much as I thought I would. It has been so good for us to be cut off from nonstop internet usage. That being said, I am ready to be able to make phone calls without having to drive somewhere to do so. It isn’t super convenient. However, as with all things in life, this too shall pass. I also do not miss the TV as much as I thought I would. Now, when the next season of Amazing Race starts up, I’ll probably be singing a different tune, but right now I’m doing ok. We all are. The kids do miss PBS, especially Wild Kratts, but we can download a few more episodes from iTunes and that will take care of that. What I DO miss is the library. I am reading a book I picked up at Keegstra’s Dollar Store, and if I was back in Michigan and had picked this book up from the library, I would have stopped reading it and returned it by now. However, I am desperate to read right now, so I will keep plugging on!

I really need to start home schooling the kids soon, just to get us into more of a routine. I think the longer I wait, the harder it will be for all of us to get started. I also need to figure out how quickly the kids go through the different “subjects” we study so I can figure out if I need my parents to bring out any more material in October. That’s right!! Our first visitors are coming in October and we are so excited! My mom keeps sending the kids “secret” emails asking them to tell her what they want her to bring along to South Africa : ) It’s too bad Pebbles the dog can’t come along, although I think that might put my kids over the edge.
The flies out here are super annoying. You try to talk, and they fly right by your lips. I remember being grossed out when flies in the states would land on my food and I’d think “they are using my sandwich as a bathroom”, but now they are using my FACE as a bathroom. So gross. They try to go up your nose too. It’s just not cool. Not cool at all. 

We saw a whole family of giraffe out by the watering hole this morning. They were SO cool. The baby was even out there. So amazing. They are just so lovely to look at. Amos is filling the watering hole higher so they can get to the water more easily. Those poor giraffes have to bend so low to get a drink! We’ll put some pictures up in a few days!

That’s all the randomness for now!

Our January so far

Tomorrow our baby girl is starting Grade 7!!!! How is that even possible? Jori and I had plans to get pedicures over the school holidays, an...