Archive for July, 2010

Ten Thoughts on Swaziland

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

We had a fun trip to Swaziland, but are also glad to be back with our daughter.  It was tough to leave her for two weeks!  It has been hard talking about our trip, because it wasn’t your typical trip/vacation.  We met up with a lot of people to talk about what their organizations are doing on the ground in Swaziland.  It was very informative and left us with a lot to think about. 

Here are ten thoughts/moments/whatever you want to refer to them as from our trip:

1.  Swazis are very hospitable.  Wherever we went and whatever we were doing people were very nice.  We felt right at home, not like tourists at all.

2.  Swazis love their tea and instant coffee.  This is a hard one for me to get used to because I am somewhat of a coffee snob, and really am not a huge fan of tea.  I am coming around though!

3.  I am not sure I could drive in Swaziland, but Ben did a fantastic job.  First, they drive on the opposite side of the road!  Plus there are all these unwritten etiquette rules you have to follow.  For example, people expect you to drive on the shoulder so they can pass you.  It works well, but when you aren’t used to it, it makes it kinda tricky!  Plus all the cars are five speeds, which I am not a huge fan of driving (I can drive them though).  In Mbabane (the capital) every street is on a hill with lots of stop and go.  This is tough in a five speed, Ben even had a little trouble sometimes (although he wouldn’t admit it). 

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4.  It is a beautiful place.  There are basically three levels (and Ben might correct me on this, but these were my impressions).  Highveld which is up in the mountains and has lots of trees.  Also, quite cold at night in the winter!  Midveld which is in the middle (duh!).  It has mountains, hills, trees and grasslands.  Lowveld which is more deserty like and hot!  It was dry and sandy here.  Each level was beautiful in its own way.

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5.  The food was yummy and even a little Western.  They love their meat, we went to several braais while we were there and the majority of the food that was served was meat!  Not a very vegetarian friendly place.  They also eat a lot of “pop” (not sure on the spelling of this) which is finely ground maize served several ways.  One way they served it was in sticky patties.  It didn’t have a lot of flavor, but they used it to pick up other food.  They also serve it differently in the morning as more of a porridge type dish. 

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6.  There are also fresh fruit trees everywhere, and most people have a garden year round in their yards.  We saw lots of avocados, bananas, mangos and spinach.  Can you imagine having an avocado tree in your yard…yummy!

7.  Livestock rules the roads!  No kidding, wherever you drive you have to be extra cautious because there are cows, goats and chickens crossing everywhere, even on the interstate type roads.  The animals wonder all over the place grazing.  No one has big fences to keep the animals in, they just go where they want.  The crazy thing about all this is that everyone knows which livestock belongs to them and have no problem (for the most part) with animals wondering around.  Can you imagine that happening here in the states??

8.  Housing was interesting too.  You had anything from the indigenous mud and grass huts to concrete/brick homes.  Some houses were very “Western” and others were out in the bush.  We definitely found all levels of living while we were there. 

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Helping to build the roof of a traditional hut.

9.  Converters are no fun!  Half the time my hair dryer and straightener wouldn’t work.  I even “dried” my hair with the air conditioning from the car a couple of times.  Next time I think I will just bye a hair dryer there!

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It was like a game to see what converters we needed to plug different things in! 

10.  We are mores sure of our decision to move there now more than ever.  We just aren’t sure what we will be doing, although now we have some more concrete options in mind.  I think Mikayla will love it as well!


Here are a few shots of a WKU tradition…the red towel photos!

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Posted in Life |

Field Trip #7

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

We missed two weeks of field trips because Mikayla was with her grandparents and we were in Swaziland.  But with summer drawing to a close we took one of our last few field trips this week with the Goodman’s and Shoemaker’s.  We headed to Jackson’s Orchard, one of my favorite places in Bowling Green.  Mikayla has gone there several times in the fall, but this was our first summer experience.  It was relatively quiet, we were actually one of the few people to brave the heat and man was it hot!  We didn’t last very long, but she sure had fun while we were there.  We ate a picnic lunch, played in a plastic house, went down some huge slides and played with the goats.  We even grabbed some peaches and shared an apple cider slush.  It was a great day with my Little Miss!

Jacksons and Slumber party 005 Come on mom, I am ready to go play!

Jacksons and Slumber party 007 Ready to eat lunch.

Jacksons and Slumber party 009 She was not too thrilled with taking a picture together, she just wanted to play.

Jacksons and Slumber party 012 Looking at the goats with the big kids!

Jacksons and Slumber party 013 Bye bye goats.

Jacksons and Slumber party 014 Concentration face…

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Feeding the goats some weeds.

Jacksons and Slumber party 023 Lots of stairs to climb so we could slide.

Jacksons and Slumber party 021  Wee…big hot slide!

We have one more field trip planned for the summer and then I must head back to work.  It sure is going to be hard to leave Mikayla everyday after the fun summer we have had!

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Posted in Parenting |

Swaziland so far…

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

We are still doing well here in Swaziland.  It has been quite the blur, but things are going well.  I am tired, but we have met some really amazing people.  We have tonight to just relax and chill for a few hours with just each other, which will be nice.  Here are just a few highlights from our journey along the way.

1. African wild game – We got invited to a brae the other night complete with impala and warthog.  The impala was good (similar to steak but a lot tastier).  The warthog was okay, but not my favorite.  It tasted like smoked pork with a lot more fat.

2. Coffee and tea – These seem to be regular staples around here.  You go into a home or place of business and are immediately offered coffee and tea.  I actually had four cups of coffee today!  Quite different from in the states.  However, the coffee is mostly instant (which is actually another first for me – and not a huge fan!).  There have been a few stops along the way to have French press coffee, and that is a welcomed change.   The family we stayed with last night had French press coffee and it was fantastic!

Africa 046Mmm…so much better than the instant stuff! 

3.  Tourists – When looking back at the camera today of pictures we have taken thus far I realized something…we haven’t snapped a lot of pictures.  I think this is because we haven’t felt like tourists, it just feels so natural to be here.  It is very strange to be in a foreign country, a days travel from your home and not feel like a tourist (or outsider).

4.  People – The people here are amazing.  So hospitable and friendly and relaxed.  The pace of life is much less stressful and busy than the USA.  There are also a lot of Expats here in Swaziland.  We have met a lot of people from the UK and Canada while visiting various places.  Speaking of people, while at a school the other day I was introduced to a princess who attends the school.  Kind of random, but fun!  We also met a pastor (who we were intending to meet with later in the week) and he asked us if we wanted to go to lunch.  We agreed and along the way somehow ended up on a safari with him!  Crazy!

5.  Pineapple – Did you know that pineapple grow on a bush thing and not a tree?  I didn’t until just yesterday when we drove past fields of pineapple plants.  Quite fascinating.

6.  Homesteads – Poverty here is much different than elsewhere.  It doesn’t show up in the center of cities like in most places or even in the towns.  Most people live on homesteads across the rural area (mud huts and subsistence living).  A homestead is a small plot of land where an extended family all live together.  So rather than having villages they have scattered homesteads. 

We head home in a week.  It is crazy to think a week has already gone by.  Here are a couple of photos.

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Nothing like an avocado tree growing in your backyard!

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Bulembu Sunset

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Roof of an open grass hut.  Regular huts are constructed from mud, stone and sticks with this type of roof. 

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Isn’t it beautiful? 

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Random toilet paper holder…wouldn’t you love to have one of these in your bathroom?

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Posted in Life |

We’re Alive!!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

After an entire day of travel (plus some really when you figure in drive time today), we made it to Swaziland.  No major hang-ups (you can read about some driving excitement here if you wish).  As for jet lag, we haven’t experienced too much.  We had a little trouble sleeping last night but I think that was more to do with excitement, thoughts about Mikayla, etc than anything else.  We purposely stayed up all day today so we could sleep well tonight.  This was a huge feat for me because I have what Ben calls “car narcolepsy”.  Meaning I tend to fall asleep the moment I hit the car!  I made it four hours today without sleeping…go me!

Ben and I have a running joke that we will have the cleanest windshield wipers in all of Swaziland because every time he reaches for the turn signal he hits the windshield wipers.  You see, everything is backwards when you drive on the left hand side of the road, including where the turn signal is.  It is very comical!

We drove a lot today, so tomorrow will be our first day of seeing the country and really getting a feel for life and people here.  We will try and get some pictures up later, but for now I must sleep.  Good night (or good afternoon to all you Kentuckians)!

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Posted in Life |

Bonus Field Trip

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

We went on a bonus field trip this week to pick blackberries at The Orchard in Tennessee.  It is a great little pick your own farm with blackberries, strawberries and peaches (all when is season of course).  I have been three times and each time have thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Although it was hot, I think everyone had a good time.  Ben even took time off to come pick some berries with us.  I am pretty sure Mikayla ate almost a whole quart in the hour we picked.  If you get a chance you should check them out.  We came home and made some yummy blackberry jam to have for the next year.  Here are some shots of the fun we had. 

blackerries and Indy 002 Picking berries.  She learned really quick to only pick the black ones and not the red ones!

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blackerries and Indy 004 Sneaking a bite or two.

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blackerries and Indy 006 A mouthful of berries!

blackerries and Indy 007 The berry loot!

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All tuckered out after a hard day in the field!

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Berry juice all over! 

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Mad that we took her berries away!

We leave in the morning for Africa.  I will try to post along the way, but not sure about Internet access. 

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Posted in Life, Parenting |

Field Trip #6

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

For our sixth field trip we ventured back out with Lara and Lylah to Indianapolis, Indiana.  We did a lot of things the two days we were there, but the highlight was going to the Children’s Museum.  The girls were real troopers the whole trip and didn’t really “breakdown” until we got stuck in traffic for two hours on the way home.  On the way up they refused to take naps.  It was almost comical because they were studying each other and trying to figure out how two babies got in the backseat.  We went straight to the museum and enjoyed lots of fun exhibits.  We even traveled Egypt and back in thirty minutes!  Here are some photo highlights from the trips.  However, the photos don’t even begin to grasp how cute the girls were playing with each other.  They are roughly three months apart, but they play so well together.

blackerries and Indy 018 Toddle Play Place at Museum

blackerries and Indy 023 blackerries and Indy 025 Turns out my daughter loves to play in dress up clothes.  She got really mad when I took this animal costume off of her.  Sidenote – we weren’t sure what kind of animal this was supposed to be, any guesses?

blackerries and Indy 027She was loving this scarecrow.  There were also flowers with holes to place the stems in.  She liked this game a lot. 

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blackerries and Indy 033Cutest couch potatoes ever! 

blackerries and Indy 034There was a whole mirror maze exhibit.  My daughter is so vain and loves to look at herself in the mirror, so this was another big hit! 

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blackerries and Indy 044First carousel ride.  Really difficult to get a good picture! 

blackerries and Indy 045 Everytime we went around the carousel a lady had a monkey puppet and Mikayla was mesmerized.  She is a big fan of puppets as well.

blackerries and Indy 046 Mikayla made it safely to Egypt, even if she is a little wet from her water.

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Again, this child loves to play dress up!

blackerries and Indy 051Cutest Egyptian babies ever! 

blackerries and Indy 054 We even made some new friends…

blackerries and Indy 055 …did a little baking…

blackerries and Indy 058 …rode a sphinx…

blackerries and Indy 061…and petted a crocodile, all in our trip to Egypt! 

blackerries and Indy 062 Cruising along on some motorcycles.

blackerries and Indy 064 Disco Diva!

blackerries and Indy 067 Barbie fun

blackerries and Indy 068  blackerries and Indy 070Barbie is busy, can we take a message please?”

blackerries and Indy 071 Loving on the doggie

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Two sleepy babies after a long day of playing at the Children’s Museum!

We also went on a bonus field trip this week.  I will try and post about it soon, but now must get back to cleaning and packing for our big trip!



Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

We leave for Swaziland, Africa in less than a week.  It is hard for me to believe!  Even harder for me to believe that the last time I was out of the country was the summer before we got married and it was to…Africa.  Kinda crazy!


The team I traveled to Africa with in 2004. 

I love traveling and experiencing new cultures, but I hate leaving home.  This trip will be especially hard because we are leaving Mikayla behind with the grandparents.  I know she will be in good hands, but I sure will miss her smiling face and cute little actions.  We hope to post some while we are away, but no promises.  Internet can be kind of tricky in other countries.

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Mikayla and I will be making a quick trip to Indianapolis with Lara and Lylah this week, so stay tuned for updates on that.  We are going to the Children’s Museum.  I am so excited to see how Mikayla interacts with the exhibits.

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Posted in Life |

Summer Sausage Skillet

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

This is another yummy way to use up all of those fresh summer veggies.  Ingredients include:

One pound summer sausage or kielbasa

1 medium or 2 small squash

1 medium or 2 small zucchini

2 ears of corn, cut off the cob

1 onion

4 roma tomatoes

3 small or 2 medium new potatoes

Black pepper

Cajun Seasoning

Chop the veggies and sausage into bite sized pieces.  Season with black pepper and Cajun seasoning to taste.  Sautee in a skillet until crisp tender.  Serve warm.  I didn’t manage to get any pictures of this, but it was really yummy! 

I served it with roasted okra.  To make line a baking sheet with foil, chop okra and place on pan.  Then drizzle with 1 Tbsp of olive oil and season with Cajun seasoning and onion powder.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  This was a nice change from the mess of fried okra and yummy without the sliminess!

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Posted in Cooking |

Summer Spaghetti Bake

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Garden food 009

This is a spin off of traditional baked spaghetti, but yummier and healthier.  It is loaded with fresh summer veggies.  Here is what you will need.

1 lb of ground meat of choice (we use turkey, but some prefer beef)

1 package of noodles of choice (we used spaghetti because that is what we had on hand)

Any garden veggies in season (this particular dish had squash, zucchini, onions, shredded carrots, and green peppers)

Italian seasoning

Spaghetti sauce (although if you have tomatoes ready it would be even better with some fresh stewed tomatoes)

Cheese (we used parmesan and Italian blend)

Simple and easy, here is what you need to do:

1.  Chop veggies into bite size pieces or smaller.  If you are making this for picky eaters (i.e. toddlers) then you could process them in the food processor and make a veggie puree.  They don’t have to know what is in there! 

2.  Brown meat with chopped veggies.  Drain.  In the meantime, boil water for noodles and put noodles on to cook.

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3.  Drain meat and return to pan.  Mix in spaghetti sauce or stewed tomatoes.  Add in Italian seasoning and allow to simmer for a few minutes.Garden food 003

4.  Layer meat mixture and noodles in pan.  Top with cheeses.  Cover and bake for 20-30.  Remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until cheese begins to brown.

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5.  Serve with yummy garlic bread.  To make bread mix a couple of tablespoons of softened butter, garlic, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.  Spread on bread of choice (we used hot dog buns today because that is what we had on hand, but it is best with a French loaf).

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Speedy tip – To speed this dish up we pre-buy ground turkey in bulk and cook it immediately.  Then we divide it up into Ziploc baggies and freeze until we need to use it.  When we are ready, we defrost and add to a dish.  This saves about 10-15 minutes of prep-time on a dish like this!  We will also do the same thing with stewed meat and chicken.

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Posted in Cooking |