Archive for June, 2012

This Week’s Happenings 6/17-6/24

Monday, June 25th, 2012

We had a pretty uneventful week here in Swaziland, but here are a few highlights.

Last week we decided that we would partner with Joe and have a garden together.  We all wanted a garden, but none of us wanted to do the work by ourselves…enter teamwork!  The ground is very hard at our garden plot (right outside of Joe’s house), but we were able to dig about 1/3 of it out and prep the ground.  Basically you dig a big ditch and then alternate filling it with manure, straw and dirt.  This helps to aerate and enriches the soil.  We hope to finish digging in the next week or so and then plant by July.  We will see!  We worked again this week and were able to get three of the four berms finished.  One more weekend and we should be about ready to plant.

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Ben and Mikayla hanging out in the ditch before we filled it back up to make our berms.

We have always known that we had a condiment obsession.  Most of the time our condiment shelves in the fridge are overflowing.  Since arriving in Swaziland and restocking our fridge and pantry, we have also developed a "heat" obsession too.  Particularly a hot sauce and chili obsession.  We pulled these gems out of the fridge and spice rack.  We also have a bag full of frozen chilies in the freezer and a whole rack of chili’s drying in our laundry room.  Do you think we have enough?

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From left to right:  Ben’s homemade Peri-Peri sauce, homemade chili paste, dried bird’s eye chilies, Peri peri sauce (sweeter), Tony’s Cajun seasoning (our favorite), a Mexican seasoning we picked up here, Chili powder, Ben’s homemade hot sauce, dried and crushed chilies, Nando’s Peri Peri seasoning (Nando’s is a local chicken food chain), Black mamba hot sauce (delicious), Nando’s garlic Peri Peri (also delicious) and in the front row we have Black Mamba chili paste and Cayenne pepper.  I guess you could say we love some heat!

Sometimes Ben comes up with the best inventions and sometimes they are just plain silly.  He would call the following a "best invention", I call it just plain silly!  Instead of pouring Mikayla a glass of milk he took two straws and put them together to make a large straw so she could drink milk out of the box/carton.  By the way, have I mentioned the milk here before?  It is what they call long life milk and you buy it off of the shelf.  It will last for months in the pantry and then three days once you open it in the fridge.  I hate the taste of it, but for convenience sake it is nice because we don’t have a grocery around the corner to purchase milk from when we need it.  I am looking forward to a nice glass of real milk when we head back to the states (along with some Mexican food and a few other staples)!

Letter R, birds 018 Don’t you just love her mischievous face here?

Early in the week we were painting some rocks for our learning time and I ran inside to get something.  When I came back out this is what I found.

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Turn your eyes for five seconds and this is what a toddler does with paint!

After Mikayla found out her friend Lylah could draw people a few weeks ago she decided she wanted to give it a go.  (Do you think she gets the competiveness from Ben or me?)  We have been working for a couple of weeks on drawing stick people and she has finally caught on (sort of).  Here are some snapshots of her people from this week.

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Can you see the tiny feet at the bottom?  She hasn’t quite got the hang of drawing the feet yet!

Ben caught the stomach bug I had a couple of weeks ago at the end of the week so we laid low.  Unfortunately I came down with something on Friday and Saturday we were both pitiful!  Good news though, we are both feeling better today!

Here is a bird for Steve.  I think we have posted this bird before, but it was before he had his Swazi bird book!  These birds look really cool when they are flying because of their long tail feathers.

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Posted in Life |

Toddler School–Letter Q

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Any other toddler school folks struggle with the letter Q?  We sure did!  I managed to find/come up with a few good ideas, but overall it was a hard one for us.  Here are some of our activities from the week.

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She painted a question mark with Q-tips.  While she was painting we played the question/statement game.  I would say something and she would identify if it was a question or a statement.  Then she gave it a turn.

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We made a Quarterback Q.  We talked about what a quarterback does and what sport they play.

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Muffin tin math.  I used this trick when I was student teaching and pulled it back out for Mikayla this week.  She put corresponding jelly beans in the muffin tin to match the numbers.

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Letter Q queen.  Mikayla insisted she needed a staff (where she got that from I will never know)! 

I had intended to do a quilting activity with her, but we never got to it this week.  I may try and throw it in next week just for fun!  We also played a game where I would call out letters.  If I said Q she would run quick, for any other letter she would run slow!  Another game we played was she rolled the dice and quacked as many times as was rolled.  With the baby here this week, we practiced being quiet a lot!  For our snack this week we made a quiche together.  As usual, Mikayla loved rolling out the dough for the crust and pretty much forgot about the rest of it!

All in all, not a bad week considering it was a difficult letter.  We move onto the letter R next week.  I am thinking along the lines of mostly rainbows and rocks, but we will see!

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 6/7-6/16

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

While most of our friends and family in the states are preparing for summer (or in it really), we are starting to feel the cooler temperatures of "winter".  When I say winter, I really mean more the temperatures of a Kentucky fall.  It is cool in the morning and night, but still heats up quite a bit during the day.  It has been a nice change of pace from the constant heat we usually experience!  We have even been able to enjoy a few fires around our fire ring and snuggle up on the couch with a blanket. Since we don’t have air conditioning (only fans) or a heater we really feel the outside temperatures in our house.  It stays relatively cool in our house for most of the day now and is very cool when we wake up in the mornings.

We spent last Saturday driving the folks from Cabrini College around Swaziland.  In one day we were able to hit all the "hot spots" and show them all the different elevations.  Mikayla got to play on three different playgrounds throughout the day so we she was a happy camper.  I bought a fantastic wooden mask in the shape of a giraffes face thanks to some haggling by Joe.  And Ben got to drive around the mountains!  Despite the 12 hour day, we all enjoyed ourselves. 

On Sunday we hosted a farewell dinner at our house for the Cabrini College guests.  I made my usual staple of bread and dessert.  For dessert I made this recipe for Cookie Dough Brownies – a layer of brownies, a layer of cookie dough and a layer of chocolate glaze.  And I must say they were AMAZING!  So amazing in fact that they inspired us to make cookie dough balls dipped in chocolate  later in the week.  I just took my regular recipe for cookie dough, omitted eggs and baking soda and added in some milk.  I used a melting chocolate I had picked up at the grocery a few weeks back to dip them in, but it ended up not being very tasty.  With good chocolate these would have been incredible!  We didn’t complain too much about the bad chocolate though and had those puppies devoured in less than a week!

On Monday, Zodwa from the office came back from her maternity leave for a few days to help out with some finance issues.  Mikayla and I offered to watch her 1 month old for the week while she was working.  His name is Sewandzile (pronounced say-wand-ZEE-lay).  Mikayla was a great helper and loved having the baby around.  She always wanted to hold him.  He was a little bit of a crier, but we still managed to get our regular school work and housework (for the most part) complete with him around.

On Friday, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart with Cabrini staff and a few people from the community.  It wasn’t quite as eventful as our last feast, but still fun.

The birds have been out like crazy in the mornings this week.  Here are a few shots I got of some for my father-in-law.

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Not a great shot, but this guy also has a black tuft of hair on the top of his head.

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And just because she is so cute in her new dress, here is a picture of Mikayla.  We bought the dress when we were at Bush Fire a few weeks ago.  The lady who ran the shop said that she designs the dresses and then gives the designs to Swazi women to make out of fabrics from Swaziland and South Africa.  She had so many cute dresses it was hard to decide on just one!  This dress is corduroy on one side (with sequins and fabric to make up a flowery viney design) and then fabric on the other side (it is reversible).  Does anyone else have trouble getting their three year old to stand still and smile for pictures or is is just us?

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Such a ham!

We went out and picked some of the last bird’s eye chili’s as a family this week.  Ben took 1/3 of what we picked and made a batch of hot sauce.  It made for a rather strong smell in our house for the day.  Some of the hottest hot sauce I have ever tasted!  My Uncle Mark would have loved it.  We are planning on freezing some and drying the rest.  We plan on using some of it as part of our Mexican themed dinner this evening!  Happy Saturday!

Posted in Life |

Toddler School–Letter O

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Last week we spent studying the Letter O.  This was a fun letter and Mikayla really enjoyed the games and activities we did.  And in case you missed my last post, Mikayla learned to write her name all by herself this past week!  She is getting so big. 

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We made an owl family out of toilet paper tubes and scrap paper.

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She practiced tracing lines, letters and matching pictures with this handy trick from my friend Lara.  Insert paper or worksheets into a sheet protector and they automatically become reusable when paired with a dry erase marker!

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Owl number match.  The owls had dots that corresponded with the numbers on the tree.  She had to match them up and glue on the correct tree.  This is one of those games where I wish I had access to a laminator so I could laminate and save for future uses.  It is one of the few number games she has actually really gotten into!

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Octopus name match.  Each octopus had the each of her names spelled out on the tentacles.  It just so happened that each of her names had seven letters so it worked out perfect if I added the full name on one tentacle. 

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Here is a close up.  I left the tentacle with the full name intact and cut the tips off the other ones.  Then she glued them on in the correct order to spell her full name.

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Another simple math game.  She stamped dots (or fingerprints really) onto the tentacles of an octopus to correspond with each number.  She loves anything dealing with numbers!

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Owl letter matching game.  The wings had capital and lower case letters on them and the body of the owl had pictures.  She matched them up according to sound.  To help her check her work I wrote the letters on the backs of the owls.  I had intended this game to be a multi-use game, but she insisted on gluing the wings on so the owls could fly!

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We made an O look like an owl, but I forgot to take a picture of it!  We also played an opposite matching game that her Mimi and Poppy sent for her birthday.  And of course we talked about the color orange and had oranges for our snack!  This week we move onto the letter Q, a tricky letter if you ask me!

Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 5/21-6/6

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

We have been so busy living life lately, that I have neglected blogging!  Here are some quick recaps of what has been happening in our lives.

We celebrated Ben’s 30th birthday in style over the last few weeks.  The celebration began the weekend of his birthday when we went to one of the biggest events in Swaziland – Bush Fire (  It is a huge music and arts festival over three days.  We didn’t attend the whole thing, but went for the day on Saturday.  Mikayla had a blast running around, dancing and after some coercion from daddy playing on the blow up inflatables.  If you know us at all, we aren’t big music people, but still had a lot of fun.  We stayed with our friends Peter, Callista and Aviva that evening.  We had a relaxing Sunday at their house playing and going for a small hike in their neighborhood. 


Ben hanging out with Mikayla and Aviva at Bush Fire.

Last week we welcomed three members of Cabrini College in for a two week visit (Anne, Edna and Melanie).  We have had a great time getting to know them and of course Mikayla is loving all the attention they are giving her. 

Ben was gone last week for four days at a conference and unfortunately while he was gone I came down with a stomach bug.  Mikayla spent a lot of the week watching TV while I napped on the couch.  After four days of puniness I was finally feeling better on Sunday.  As bad as I felt, we are very fortunate to have stayed relatively healthy during our time here.  Luckily I began feeling better just in time for our big Pig Roast as part of Ben’s 30th birthday celebration.

One of our staff members, Sharon, gave us a pig and so the boys (Ben and Joe) decided to tackle roasting the whole thing.  On Thursday I took two other staff members (Stadium and Fodo) to pick up the pig and we spent the evening watching them slaughter it in our front yard!  Mikayla had a blast and thought the whole process was pretty interesting.  Then on Sunday the boys got to work prepping the pig for his cooking session!  You can read more about in on Ben’s blog here.  The meat was delicious and between the pig and all the other goodies, we ended the evening completely stuffed.  We have been eating roasted pig since Sunday – including some delicious pulled pork quesadillas!



Mikayla has been really grasping onto concepts quickly lately.  She surprises me each day with her knowledge and things she knows that I didn’t know she had picked up yet.  She can now spell her last name and probably most exciting of all is that she wrote her whole name by herself for the first time this week.  I sat next to her and showed her how to form each letter and then she would make it on her own.  For a couple of the letters I laid my hand on her wrist to help control her movements, but she made the movements all on her own.  She was so proud of herself when she accomplished it. 


First attempt with sidewalk chalk – a little hard to see.


Second attempt on paper with markers.  As you can see she wrote really large at first and we had to start over.  She was really concerned about her "y" because it had a loop on it instead of the straight down diagonal.  I explained to her that some people do the loopy "y" and that it was okay.  She was cool with it after that! 

That is pretty much all the big stuff that has been going on!  Hope everyone has a great week!