Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

This Week’s Happenings 6/24-7/1

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Our week wasn’t too eventful, but we were able to finalize some of the details for our upcoming trip to the states.  Here is a rough overview of what what we will be up to while we are around. Please keep in mind that things are flexible.  The only thing set in stone now is our flight schedules.

  • August 18: Everyone departs Johannesburg in the evening.
  • August 19-22: We arrive in Newark that evening and will spend some time in NYC.  Ben will be working, and Mikayla and I are there for pleasure.  We are hoping to catch up with my brother and sister-in-law while we are there since they will have just moved to Boston. 
  • August 23-26: Everyone travels to Chicago for a Cabrini fundraiser.  We will be staying with Ben’s family that live in the southern suburbs of Chicago.
  • August 27-31: Ben flies back to NYC and then heads to Philly.  He will spend the front end in NYC for meetings and the back end (at least 29-31) will be at Cabrini college in Philadelphia.  Mikayla and I will fly out to Nashville on the same day and arrive at 8:30am.
  • September 1-24: Ben returns to Kentucky for a few small fundraisers and time with friends and family.  Tim and Chelsea are due to have a baby during this time and we are looking forward to snuggling with Baby Reid during part of this time as well as spending time with other family and friends. 
  • September 5-6: Ben will travel to St. Louis by car for a fundraiser there.
  • September 16-24(?): This last week is being left open for Ben for meetings that will develop in NYC/Philly/DC (or elsewhere).  Mikayla and I will still be hanging out with folks in Kentucky.  Mikayla and I will fly straight to Newark on Sept 24 to return home.  Ben will meet us there from wherever he ends up at the end of the trip.
  • September 26: Arrive back in Jo-burg in the morning.

So there you have it folks!  Let us know if there is something specific you had in mind while we are around.

As for the rest of the week…

We spent the week without the sisters because they were in Ethiopia visiting with other sisters.  There is another section of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart there; the sisters went there this month and then next month they will come here to Swaziland. We picked the sisters up at the airport on Saturday and said goodbye once again as they traveled to South Africa for a few days.  Mikayla was so excited to see them though and ran right up and gave them both big hugs!  It was really precious. 

Since we had to be in town to pick the sisters up from the airport on Saturday we decided to take full advantage of the situation and spend some time on a hike we have been wanting to do since we arrived in Swaziland.  You can read all about it here on Ben’s blog.  We basically hiked up to the top of Execution Rock and drove around Mlilwane to see some wildlife.  Here are a few of the pictures we took.

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Our view coming into the park.  Please note the two hippos just hanging out on the island!

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Close up on hippos.  The lighting is terrible, but you get the picture.

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At the beginning of our hike.  See that big rock on the left…that is where we went.

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Cheesing with daddy…

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And mommy!

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Our little hiker.  She insisted on walking most of the way.  We only carried her when the rocks were steep and plentiful!

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The wildlife around the rest camp is used to humans and so they are really friendly.  Here is Mikayla hanging out with a Nyala.

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Huge crocodile!  We were able to get pretty close to this guy! 

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And of course we saw lots of zebra!

Here are some bird shots from our visit.

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This is one of my favorite bird shots we have taken thus far!

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We also spent a lot of time at the hostel this week.  I am helping out with the afterschool enrichment program we run for the children.  It is a program that focuses on English, reading and math skills.  Basically I am just offering support and suggestions for ways they can make the program more engaging and meaningful for the kids.  Mikayla has even started taking part in the groups and joining the youngest group that is focusing on sounds and basic math.  She is becoming more independent at the hostel and runs off with the kids to play immediately.  Where a month ago she would have hung onto my leg at all times and made sure I was in her line of vision at all times.  She still has though moments, but more and more she gains her independence.  It has been really fun to watch her progression.  The hostel staff even commented on it the other day!

Ben did some cooking this week.  He made a really delicious meal with Impala steaks one night.  And then another night he made a grilled shrimp dinner that was super tasty.  He used Julia Child’s birthday shrimp recipe and it was delicious!  On Sunday morning I made Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with a cream cheese frosting.  Mmm!  Who ever said you couldn’t eat well in Swaziland!

Mikayla enjoyed spending time playing with her baby dolls and princess dolls this week.  That is pretty much the only toys she wanted to play with!  We were also able to take some three year portraits one evening.  It was a very impromptu thing so her hair is a hot mess and the outfit isn’t what I had intended them to be taken in.  But she is still cute!  There is an album on Facebook with a lot of the pictures, but some of the best ones can be found here.

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This Week’s Happenings 3/11-3/18

Monday, March 19th, 2012

For the most part our week was pretty uneventful.  We are now less than a week away from when we pick Ben up at the airport and we are so excited!  We have missed him so much.  The beginning of our week was pretty quiet, but things seemed to pick up a little towards the end.

On Thursday we headed into Mbabane with Joe and Joey to try and take care of some paperwork stuff.  I needed to get a Swazi license because my KY is about to expire.  What a process!  Anytime you have to deal with the government here it seems to be a process!  We called ahead to make sure we had all the important documents we needed, but apparently this was wasted.  As soon as we got there I found out I needed copies of more papers and they needed to be certified from the police department.  Luckily I had everything I needed, but ended up running around town for a couple of hours trying to get it all taken care of.  And in the end, I still don’t have a license in hand.  I had to leave all the paperwork and then come back in 1-3 weeks to pick it up.  Crazy!  Oh well, at least I got the bulk of it done.  Just seems silly to drive two hours to pick up a license!  But such is life I suppose!

As most of you might know, Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day.  I am not Irish, but I thought it would be fun to host a St. Pat’s dinner anyway.  So we had the "Americans" over for dinner on Saturday.  Joe cooked corned beef and cabbage, the sisters contributed some potatoes complete with all the fixings and I made Irish Soda Bread.  I also made some rainbow cupcakes.  These have been on my radar for a long time, but they are time consuming so I never got around to making. 

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Irish Soda Bread – four ingredients, no rise time and some of the easiest bread I have ever made.  Plus it was pretty tasty.  I think we will make this one again!

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These guys didn’t the layering I had hoped they would, but they still reminded me of a rainbow.  And what is more important is Mikayla had fun helping to mix the colors up!

In edition to our St. Pats treats we also made granola bars (my friend Lara’s recipe) and my first ever quiche (courtesy of Betty Crocker)!  Both were tasty and hits with those that we shared them with.  I love quiche and it was amazing to me how simple it was.  The hardest part was the dough for the shell, and even that was pretty basic!  I would say I would be making again soon, but unfortunately Ben doesn’t like eggs so it might not happen for awhile.

We got some very exciting news from one of my best friends in BG this week.  I am not sure I can share the news yet, but just know that it was so exciting I actually started crying when she called to tell me.  That doesn’t happen too often!  Congratulations again friend!

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We finished off our Dr. Seuss unit this week and Mikayla had so much fun.  I made some finger puppets for her and they just had to be a part of cooking!  Too cute.  Here she is showing Thing 1 how to add spices in!

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Sporting some new jammies and a book sent from her Mimi and Poppy.  They sent her a couple of outfits and we spent a lot of time on Saturday trying them on over and over.  Plus they sent a really fun Cat in the Hat and Franklin video that she loved.  Thanks again!

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For Steve

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Posted in Life |

Cooking Out of Necessity!

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Not much has happened in the past week, so I thought I would write a different kind of post.  If you know me at all, you know I love to cook especially bake.  Now that I am home with Mikayla full time I find that I have much more time to experiment and try new recipes in the kitchen.  We can get almost any ingredient that we need at the grocery store, but we end up having to make a lot of familiar items and pre-prepared items from scratch.  And those ingredients we can’t find, we have substituted – Ben found a fabulous ingredient substitution list online that we use often.  Here is a short run down of some of the items that we are used to buying already prepared from the store, that we have to make from scratch here in Swaziland.

Ranch dip – I love me some Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix.  Tasty and simple.  The other day we found some sour cream at the grocery so I gave my own ranch dip a try.  I combined a couple of recipes I found and came up with a pretty fantastic dip.  Comparable, if not better than Hidden Valley!  I used salt, black pepper, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder and mixed them in with the sour cream.  I didn’t take exact measurements so the next time might not be as good, but Mikayla ate it up with some carrot sticks.

Dressing – While you can buy dressing here, we have opted to make our own.  Mostly we make a vinaigrette from olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixed with some herbs and spices.  I would like to try making ranch dressing if I ever find a good recipe.

Whipped cream – Last weekend I made crepes to go along with my mango pepper marmalade.  We had some heavy cream in the fridge so we thought we would try to make some whipped cream.  The first time was a complete failure.  We whipped it for too long and ended up with sweet butter.  Our second go round was much more successful and better than anything you can buy that is already made.

Ice cream – In Swaziland you  can’t find traditional ice cream, only "frozen dairy product".  It is a frozen treat, but far from ice cream we are used to.  Plus with the closest grocery almost an hour away, it would melt (unless we took a cooler with us) before we got home.  Ben’s parents got us a battery operated ice cream maker for Christmas and we are loving it!  The first time we made it, we didn’t have the correct ingredients, but figured we could substitute some stuff.  Boy were we wrong.  It tasted more like snow cream than ice cream –not bad, but not what we were expecting!  The second attempt we found the correct ingredients and we made a vanilla and a mango ice cream.  It turned out perfect, creamy and delicious!  So glad we have the ice cream maker.

Pancake mix – In the states I always relied on Bisquick for my pancake making.  Just add an egg and some milk and you are good to go.  However, Bisquick is non-existent here in Swaziland, so we had to start from scratch.  After a couple of tweaks, we have found a recipe we love and it is easily adaptable.  We can make a plain pancake or switch it up and make some flavored ones.  We have made some pumpkin pancakes using our butternut squash puree and some spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg), and apple pancakes (just add in a little homemade applesauce and chopped apples) just to name a couple.

Bagels – This has been one of my favorite discoveries.  So easy and absolutely delicious.  Also very easy to adapt and change the flavor based on what you are craving.  So far we have made five different batches and plan on making more! 

Angel food cake – Sister Barbara approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I had ever made an angel food cake before.  My answer was no, but that I would be willing to try.  I am so glad I did, because it was tasty (and I don’t even like angel food cake) and probably a lot healthier than the store bought version.  I also made two tasty glazes to go along with it – chocolate and vanilla.

Cakes – Pretty much any cake you would find in a box, you have to make from scratch here.  We did find Funfetti cake mix in South Africa but it was super expensive.  I have made several cakes from scratch since arriving and all have been better than any store bought version.  In addition to angel food cake, I have made chocolate cake, carrot cake, apple cake and yellow cake.

Bread products – So far we have only been able to find loaf bread, which means all other bread products have to be prepared from scratch.  We have enjoyed making the following "breads" since our arrival six months ago: breadsticks, focaccia, pizza crust and dinner rolls.

Tortillas – One week we discovered black beans and tortilla chips at the grocery so we decided to have a Mexican meal.  We needed some tortilla shells to go with it so we made some from scratch.  Seriously, they were so easy!  We have made both corn and flour tortillas on several occasions.

Hummus – I posted about our hummus experience a few weeks back, but worth mentioning again.  Super easy to make and modify to your flavor profile.  It will be even easier if we ever get a food processor!  A great accessory to our flour tortillas too!

Guacamole – In the states we typically made our own guacamole, but on a couple of occasions we would buy the version that was already made.  Here on the other hand, you don’t have a choice…you have to make it on your own if you want it at all!

Fudge pops – An easy and tasty frozen treat.  Mikayla in particular is a fan of these!

Apple sauce – Made Grandma Clark style by simmering apples and a little cinnamon!  We almost always have some on hand in the fridge.

Black beans – I love black beans, but am ashamed to say that until I arrived in Africa I had only ever made the "canned" version.  Homemade are SO much better! And it makes a ton so you can have other things besides just black beans and rice.  Some things that we have tried are black beans and scrambled eggs, a black bean and sausage mixture, Azteca Black beans (black beans mixed with couscous, corn, jalapeno, cilantro, onions and some spices), and black bean burgers.

Brownies – I love a good brownie and have tried a couple recipes.  So far I haven’t found a go to brownie recipe.  Any suggestions?

Mac and cheese – Of course we don’t have access to the famous Velveeta cheese that I love, so we have to make our own Mac and cheese from scratch.  The other day I made a tasty mac and cheese casserole using cheddar and parmesan cheeses. 

Pumpkin pie – At Thanksgiving we wanted pumpkin pie so we made one from scratch.  We used pureed butternut squash for the pumpkin and made the crust ourselves.  It was delicious and tasted just like the real thing!

Cinnamon rolls – I almost didn’t mention these because we made them from scratch in the states, but thought they were worth mentioning.  Well worth the time commitment to make.

Spaghetti sauce – In KY we would often make our own sauce in the summer months, but in the winter it was Prego or some other variety of jarred sauce that found its way to our tables.  Now, if we want spaghetti we find ourselves making it from scratch.  Ben is an expert at making spaghetti sauce.

Alfredo sauce – Tried this out for the first time the other day.  With a few more tries and a little tweaking I think we will have a delicious sauce.  A little heavy cream, parmesan cheese, butter and spices you have a delicious and quick alfredo sauce.

BBQ sauce – We have made several variations on a BBQ sauce in the last few months.  They have all been a little on the liquid side, but still yummy when cooked with some chicken. 

Marinades – Pretty much any marinade you would use for grilled meats we have made.  It has been fun to experiment with different flavors and see how they turn out.  Ben is the expert marinade maker in our house.

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Posted in Cooking |

This Week’s Happenings 1/30-2/5

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

Is it really already February?  Time seems to be flying by.  We have been in Swaziland now for over six months and seem to be in a pretty good routine and feel 100% confident about our decision to move here.

And six months in, Ben is already prepping for his first trip back to the United States.  It will be mostly business, but he will get to see some family in Chicago so he is excited about that.  He will be gone March 5-24.  If you want more details on his trip just let us know.  We will miss him for sure, but will keep ourselves busy while he is away!

The puppies are growing each day and every once in awhile we will find them sneaking into our house to take a break from the heat.  Here is a shot from them the other day.

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Mikayla got a couple of Signing Time DVD’s from her grandparents for Christmas and has really been loving them lately.  She is getting really good at signing along and really focuses on getting her hands in the right positioning to make the signs.  The other day I was watching her while she was watching a Signing Time and she was signing right along to the video and songs and was even signing words that hadn’t been taught, just shown.  So precious!

On Saturday night Joe (the new volunteer) came over and cooked a fabulous dinner for us.  He made braised rabbit, mashed potatoes and gravy.  We paired it with focaccia bread I had made Friday and some butternut squash chocolate chip cookies.  The rabbit actually tasted a lot like chicken and Mikayla ate it up.  Delicious!

On Sunday we had folks over for lunch to complete our mango chili pepper challenge.  I made crepes with a mango pepper marmalade and homemade whipped cream (super easy by the way).  Ben made grilled chicken breast strips marinated with a ginger infused mango heat glaze.  And Joe made a mango/pepper cocktail with Rum.  The sisters contributed a chili dish.  It was a tasty meal and we had a lot of fun experimenting with different flavors.  I love that I have more time to do stuff like that now!

Tonight, as most of you in the states know, is the Super Bowl.  Our satellite is actually broadcasting it live, so we decided to watch it.  The only downside is that live means 1:00am.  I guess we will just be tired tomorrow.  I told the guys I would be willing to watch it if we had appetizers, so appetizers it is at 1:00am!  I will contributing a homemade ranch dip with veggies and potato skins.  Can’t wait!

On a downside, my driver’s license is set to expire at the end of the month.  We tried to get this taken care of before we left but the courthouse wouldn’t let us renew it because it was too far out and hadn’t expired yet.  There is no way to renew overseas, so I have to get a Swazi driver’s license.  Unless we can figure something else out I will have to go through the whole shebang…written test and driving test.  Should be fun!  To say the least I am not looking forward to it at all.

That’s about it in news from the Kickert’s for this week.  Hope everyone had a good week.

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Mikayla enjoying some toasted pumpkin seeds!


This Week’s Happenings 1/16-1/22

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

A bagel obsession began this past week.  It started by making Finding Joy in My Kitchen’s Pumpkin spice bagels.  They were super easy to make and very yummy.  When those disappeared in a day (we shared some with the sisters of course) I started pondering what I would try next.  The next day I was bored while Mikayla was napping and decided to try adapting her recipe into an apple cinnamon raisin bagel.  I swapped the pumpkin (which I used butternut squash in the first place) for some homemade apple sauce, added some raisins and about a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg for the spices.  I kept everything else the same.  They were also delicious.  Ben wanted some onion and garlic bagels, so while my apple ones were rising I used this recipe to make a plain bagel.  Before cooking I brushed with a watered egg white and then sprinkled on a mixture of onion flakes, garlic powder and coarse salt.  They were a little heavy on the garlic, but delicious!

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Garlic and onion are on the left and apple, cinnamon and raisin on the right

We also tried our hand at making hummus with our tahini paste we found over Christmas.  Delicious as well (even if it was a little lumpy since we don’t have a food process or blender)!  In the states we always bought hummus because it was relatively cheap and convenient.  However, making your own is just as cheap and probably healthier.  Plus, you can season it to your own personal taste buds…an added bonus!  We also made a maple bacon biscuit that was pretty tasty.  This one was definitely not healthy, but we love all things bacon!

It rained a lot on Monday so Mikayla got a chance to play in the rain.  Please excuse her lack of clothes, this was a spur of the moment decision.  In hind sight, we would have put her in her bathing suit, but oh well!  I think she loved it!  Turns out the rain was actually the remnants of a tropical cyclone (hurricane) in the Indian Ocean, no wonder it rained so much.  It ended up being cloudy and raining off and on for the rest of the week.  Not complaining though because it kept the temperatures lower.  I actually slept covered up with the comforter most nights!

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We also spotted a couple of new birds this week.  Anyone care to venture a guess as to what they are?

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This is the same bird as the first one, just a little cloudier of a picture and of course one is a male and the other a female.

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This guy was extremely hard to capture, but if you look closely you will be able to tell what it is.

On Saturday we headed to Matsapha (where the airport is in Swaziland) to pick up a long term volunteer, Janet.  By a strange twist of fate, she also happens to be from Kentucky.  We met her briefly during our first trip to Swaziland. She will mostly be helping at healthcare with the pharmacy, but I am sure you will be hearing a lot about her in the upcoming weeks.  Next week, Sister Diane’s nephew, Joe, will be arriving.  He will be here for at least a year, but probably two years.  I hear he is a bit of a computer guy, so now Ben will have someone to talk tech stuff with and I won’t have to fake acting interested.  I don’t really care that he set up a Linux box with an IMAP/SMTP server running over an 802.11g wireless network with WDS capabilities.

Sometimes daddy likes to play blocks with Mikayla, but we decided that he is not very good at sharing.  Every time Mikayla would take a block or knock his tower over he would get very upset.  Especially when he was trying to make the largest possible tower using all her blocks.

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Pushing Mikayla out of the way while building his tower.

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Look at that tower!  And don’t you just love the "capris" Ben is sporting?  In his defense, it was muddy and he was trying to stay clean.

Mikayla sported a couple of new dresses this week.  Some were hand-me-downs from very special friends and others were remakes of items in the house.  Check her out:

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This dress belonged to a very sweet young lady who lost her battle with cancer in March.  Her mother, Jennifer, gave us this dress just before we were leaving.  We spent a lot of time talking about sweet Bella on the day that Mikayla wore this dress.

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One morning I asked Ben to put a skirt on Mikayla and this is what he came up with.  He was in the kitchen and was feeling lazy so he just grabbed the Dr. Seuss apron that my friend Lara gave me for my birthday last year.  I think it works pretty good as a skirt too!

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Last, but certainly not least, is this fabulous hand crafted dress courtesy of Dacia and Callie!  It is actually the dress I used as a model for Mikayla’s two year old birthday dress (also made by Dacia). Callie has outgrown it, so in an awesome care package from our friends (thanks again everyone) Dacia sent it on to Mikayla.  It is still big, but we love it anyway!  Lots of years of wearing for this dress!

To end the week – who doesn’t love a spoon covered in chocolate icing to lick clean?

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This Week’s Happenings 1/9-1/15

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

We had a pretty quiet week.  Ben worked a a lot and Mikayla and I played a lot!  She did request on several occasions for the twins to come play though. 

In the last week or so Mikayla has learned to gallop.  She thinks it is fun and so everywhere we go she gallops.  It is so cute, but don’t take my word for it.  Watch it for yourself!

In addition to learning to gallop, Mikayla has gained a new cooking obsession in the last week or two.  When I start cooking she pulls her chair over to the counter and gets a measuring cup.  Then she proceeds to "make dessert" with the spices on the counter and any scraps of veggies and what not that are leftover from my cooking.  She will spend the whole time I am cooking doing this and is so serious about it.  She even knows the names for most of the spices.  Most of the time the concoction is inedible, but she always tries it!  Here is her latest concoction.

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This concoction included matches, noodles, water, spices galore, some wild berries found on the mission, onions and I think apple peels.  Yum yum!

Sunday was Sister Barbara’s birthday, so on Monday we cooked her a meal of her choice which just so happened to be one of our favorites…MEXICAN!  We still had some chips and salsa leftover from our Christmas finds so we served those with black beans, rice, guacamole, chicken fajitas and homemade corn tortillas.  The corn tortillas weren’t truly authentic because we didn’t have the right kind of corn flour (it requires a special one), but they still turned out pretty good.  Ben said he liked them better than the flour tortillas I have made in the past.  We topped the meal off with some chocolate covered pretzels made by Mikayla (of course I helped a little).

On Tuesday night we had a big storm come through.  Probably an hour before it started raining we lost power.  And then the rains came!  It was actually so windy and rainy that the wind blew the rain sideways and into our house.  Mikayla’s room was flooded and our room got quite a bit of rain too.  We quickly realized what was happening and shut all the windows and then set to work to clean up the mess!  Lucky for us we didn’t have anything too valuable on the ground.  Mikayla had some books and a couple of toys lying around, but we were able to get them all dried out with only a few wrinkles.  Unlucky for us was that the power didn’t come back on for almost 24 hours!  Humidity + plus heat + no fans = HOT!  Since there was no power all day on Wednesday, Ben decided he would try his hand at cutting our grass with a "slasher" (similar to a machete).  He posted a video on his blog that you can check out if you are so inclined.

Back around Christmas I started reading Harry Potter.  I have put it off for so long for no good reason and finally decided I would give it a go.  And I am so glad I did!  Like my friend Catherine said to me when I started reading them, they are not the most well written books, but I still love them!  Just ask Ben, I couldn’t stop reading them until I had completed the series!  I read all 7 books in just over 2 weeks.  If you haven’t read the series yet you should really give it a shot.  Just a question though for all you HP fans…are the movies worth trying to track down to watch?

Friday morning turned out to be pretty exciting for Ben and not in a good way.  Mcamiso, one of our drivers, stopped by early to pick up our propane tank to get refilled and asked Ben to help.  When they tipped the tank back there was a cobra coiled up underneath it.  Luckily the snake was pretty docile.  Between Ben, Mcomiso, Socks (the dog) and some garden tools, the snake was dealt with swiftly. 

On a more warm and fuzzy note, Friday evening I made cookies for the “Ambassador” for the EU (European Union).  Never thought I would say that when I moved to the bush in Swaziland!

To all you friends out there with little kids, here is a fun cooking activity that your kids can help out with (or make completely on their own)…pudding pops!  Basically you make pudding (which they can practically do without your help) and then pour into a popsicle mold or ice cube trays.  Add a stick of some sort and then freeze.  The best part is that because they are pudding they don’t melt as fast and are way less messy!  Doesn’t mean much to you guys getting snow right now, but for us battling the heat at the moment it makes great sense!  Your kids can feel proud because they can make them on their own (with a little supervision of course)!  And like with any cooking, licking the spoon is the best part…just ask Mikayla!

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This Week’s Happenings 12/5-12/11

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I spent 2.5 days in town this week for an all staff training on Child Protection.  Ben stayed back on the mission to watch Mikayla and hold down the fort at Cabrini.  I got a lot of raised eyebrows when I said that Ben was watching Mikayla while I was at the meeting.  Swazi men are not typically seen as the "caretakers" of the children so for Ben to watch Mikayla for almost three days without me being around was strange for them.  He did a great job keeping up with our almost three year old!  They played games, had school, washed the car and just hung out. 

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Handprint Tree Ben and Mikayla made while I was gone.

Most of the meat of the meetings were things that I already knew, but new information for a lot of our staff.  It was nice to hear their perspective on things and I even learned a lot about the Swazi culture.  For example, when the Gogos (grandmothers) were kids they actually lived in their Gogos huts instead of their mothers so they wouldn’t see things.  Want to hear an interesting fact – Only 20% of the children of Swaziland still have both parents?  No wonder we have such a problem with child abuse and have so many OVC (orphan and vulnerable children).  Another thing that raised my eyebrows was that the school systems still practice corporal punishment!

In other news, mangos and lychees ripened enough to call them into season this week.  In case you aren’t familiar, lychees are small fleshy fruit with a tough skin that peels off and a pit in the middle.  They taste kind of like a green grape without the skin.  Ben and Mikayla are big fans but they aren’t my favorite.  But I am very excited about the mangos.  I can’t wait to try some of the mango recipes people have sent me soon.  Did you know you could get a mango burn?  It is similar to the rash you get with poison ivy.  Ben and Mikayla had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand.  It comes from the sap.

We had some unseasonably cool nights this week so we spent a lot of time hanging out on the porch.  Mikayla loved blowing bubbles and running around.  Ben even had a couple of braais while I was away.

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She is a redneck at heart!  Blowing bubbles barefoot in underwear, a t-shirt and headlamp! 

On Saturday we had some family time by making homemade gingerbread cookies.  I found the recipe here.  They turned out delicious, even if we didn’t have any holiday themed cookie cutters.  We decided to not spend lots of time frosting them (they were that good), but make some cream cheese frosting to dip them in!  This was my first attempt at gingerbread cookies.  I usually make sugar cookies this time of year (and we still might), but I really enjoyed the change of making gingerbread instead.  Mikayla of course had a blast rolling out the dough and using the cookie cutters to make designs.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love my little family?  I missed them so much this week, even if I was only away for 2.5 days. 

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Doesn’t he look handsome in his jewelry?

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Working hard with daddy!

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This kid loves playing with dough!  She took it very seriously and would not let us help her at all.

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Ben cut this Christmas tree out of the dough by hand.  He was really proud of it and Mikayla enjoyed eating it!

We spent a lot of Sunday in imaginative play.  Mikayla began by dragging out some of her stuffed animals and had a tea party.  We then made her a car out of a large box and she drove her "family" around all over the place.  Her imagination never ceases to amaze me!  And it is amazing how a few pieces of "trash" can stem an hour or so of play.

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Necklace dance – She spent a good bit of time dancing around with some necklaces on Saturday night.  It was hilarious because she was so serious about it.

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Family tea party

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Pretend car made from old box


This Week’s Happenings 8/22-8/28

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The kids are all getting along well for the most part.  The other day I walked in to see the three of them playing on Mikayla’s bed (which at the moment happens to be a mattress on the floor in our room) with her baby dolls and special pig from her friend Lylah (which she refers to as present).  It was so precious.  They do have their occasional squabbles as any "siblings" would.  Nosipho is quick to grab things from her brother and then crawl off leaving him quite devastated.  Mikayla has done her far share of "picking" at the twins as well. 

Speaking of Mikayla, she has gotten very good at taking messages to people around our house.  Occasionally I will need to tell Ben something or borrow something from the sisters and so I will either tell Mikayla or write a note and send her to the office or house to relay the message.  She will march right along (usually in her rain boots because they are her shoes of choice) and walk up to the door and say "I’m here"!  Eventually she makes it back to the house very proud of herself.  Little Miss Independent!

We have become a family addicted to popcorn.  We have it several times a week!  Ben is perfecting his popcorn varieties.  He has made traditional popcorn, a spicy buttery mix, a kettle corn and a spicy kettle corn so far.  He even joked the other night about making a Popcorn book with recipes for all kinds of different homemade popcorns.  I told him to go for it!  Of course, there is no exact measurements when he is making it so it might be hard to complete.

Ben was gone for three days this week and we all survived!  He worked long days working on a grant and I hung out with the kids back at home.  Another volunteer, Katie, was around on Tuesday and Thursday so she helped out when she could.  Wednesday I was on my own for the whole day and besides one little incident we all did great.  The twins did not nap good on Wednesday and when I walked in to finally get them out of the bed I saw why.  Somehow Simo’s diaper had come off (I am thinking Nosipho had something to do with it since it was laying right next to her) and he had pooped.  He managed to get poop all over him, the blankets and the crib.  Miraculously Nosipho we clean as a whistle.  Needless to say we took baths early and due to the lack of naps we had an early bedtime.  We started letting them cry it out about a week ago and it is working awesome.  Now they only cry for a minute or two and then are sound asleep.  I hope this trend continues for them at the hostel because I know that is one thing they struggled with there.

When Ben got home he had two surprises for us, one for me and one for Mikayla.  Mikayla received her first Swaziland mail, which was actually our first mail at all.  She got a special collage picture from her dear friend Lylah back home (thanks again guys).  She looks at it often and had even started showing Lylah around the house/yard.  We were outside the other day and she grabbed Lylah’s hand and started to walk her around and show her the mango trees, telling her all about them.  So sweet!  Just for reference the mail only took about two weeks to arrive.  I am not sure on packages though.  My special surprise was an electric mixer!  Woo hoo.  I think I jumped and squealed when I saw it in Ben’s bag.  Who knew one could get so excited for a mixer.  But I will tell you that it will make my baking much easier and my arm won’t be as tired from stirring!  It is no Kitchen Aid, but it will work perfectly!

Twin update – Nosipho is well on her way to walking.  She will now stand for minutes at a time without holding onto anything.  She hasn’t braved that first step yet, but is very close.  Simo is still struggling to get his body to maneuver in the right direction.  When you try to put him in the crawling position his legs won’t cooperate, almost like there is something wrong.  He has an appointment on Tuesday to see a physical therapist in town.  Hopefully nothing is wrong and the PT can at least give us some exercises to do to strengthen his leg muscles.  They are chatting up a storm and are making clear sounds like "da" and "ma".  They aren’t saying any real words yet, but do love to scream and bang pots from Mikayla’s kitchen.  It can get really loud in our house sometimes with the banging and screaming bouncing off the concrete walls and tile floors!

I made a delicious made from scratch chocolate cake and icing this week.  I am thinking that I am going to start gaining weight with all the goodies I am making!  I plan on trying some sort of bread this week.  Any suggestions?  I also made some chicken and dumplings that turned out pretty good.  I had to use Mikayla’s play rolling pin from Ikea to roll out the dough which was interesting!  Guess I need to locate a rolling pin, huh?

On Sunday I flooded the house, literally!  I was trying to multi-task and wash clothes while mopping the floor.  The way the washing machine is set up is that it drains into the basin sitting next to it.  I completely forget this when I filled the basin up with water and cleaner to mop the floor.  While mopping the kitchen I heard a large splashing sound and immediately ran into the laundry room to fin water quickly spilling out of the basin.  We had water everywhere and it took us a bit of time to get straightened out.  The kids then proceeded to break two bowls while playing.  Needless to say, Sunday was a bit of a destructive day for the Kickert household. 

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Nosipho likes to crawl right up to you when you get the camera out.

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Playing with babies on Mikayla’s bed.

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As We Danced

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

**Post originally written on Tuesday, July 26, 2011, but published later.

Today Mikayla and I had a little danced party.  We turned on one of my all time favorite children’s musicians, Dr. Jean, and began to dance and sing.  As we sung I couldn’t help but think about our dear friends Lara and Lylah back in the states.  Thinking that they may too be dancing today during their learning time – times during the day to “teach” Lylah basics of learning.  Here are some snapshots of the four of us the day before we set out on our adventure.


The four of us!


The girls


The adults

I am hoping to start up my own “Toddler School” with Mikayla very soon.  I just  need to get my hands on a few essentials like construction paper and glue first!  I decided today that our first letter will be M for Mikayla.  We will do something with monkeys, myself, maps and who knows what else I come up with.  We will also focus on the numbers 1-5 in recognition and value, playing some very basic number games.  Nothing too structured, but she is so much like a sponge right now I hate to pass up the opportunity to teach her these basics!  From the letter M I think we will move on to A and start from the beginning.  I am not sure how long we will “study” each letter, maybe a week, maybe more or maybe less.  I am just going to have some activities in mind and go from there. 

Mikayla has been asking about her kitchen since we got here, so yesterday I took out an empty laundry basket and made her a “stove”.  Then gathered her food and kitchenware to make her a makeshift kitchen. I am hoping to get my hands on some cardboard boxes soon to make a real kitchen, but for now she seems pretty content with what she has!




The first couple of nights we were here we ate pizza we had picked up in town and chicken and potato salad the sisters had arranged for us to have waiting for us when we arrived.  Sunday we ventured into town for the first time to pick up the essentials from the grocery store.  The whole time my head was spinning with conversions and trying to figure out the various ingredients.  After about an hour or so of this my head was spinning and I was ready to hit the road back home.  After a slight panic when I thought our fridge was broken (turns out the switch on the back had been turned off) and putting our groceries away I set out to make our first official dinner in our new home.  We had skillet pork chops with sautéed mushrooms and onions, steamed broccoli and something similar to macaroni and cheese.  I found a powdered cheese sauce at the store that I mixed with noodles.  It definitely wasn’t homemade mac and cheese, but it was edible!  It wasn’t a bad meal and similar to something we would have in the states.



After putting Mikayla to bed I decided to relieve some stress and try my hand at making chocolate chip cookies.  This was a challenge!  First of all, the oven is a gas oven and has no markings to indicate how warm it was.  We had to use our best judgment and finally mastered it after a few batches.  Second of all, the ingredients were slightly different than what I was used to in the states.  I only had baking powder, not soda like I am used to.  I also had a bar of milk chocolate instead of chips (which is similar to how I used to make them with my bars of fair trade chocolate).  The brown sugar was packed, but granules like in white sugar.  There was no all purpose flour at the store, only cake flour, bread flour, and self-rising flour.  I went with cake flour (since I like cakey cookies).  When we started baking the cookies they were burning on the bottom, but raw on top.  After some modifications to the temperature of the oven and sliding the cookie sheet on top of a broiler pan (thanks hubby for the awesome idea and help), we were able to come up with perfect cookies!  They took longer to bake than usual, but we are figuring things out.  Everyone in the office liked them and we even had some westerners over for dinner last night and they ate them up!  So I suppose they tasted okay.  Sorry, but I didn’t think to snap pictures of any of the good ones and only have the extra crisp ones left.

I almost forgot, last night it started raining and has pretty much rained non-stop the whole day.  The temperature has dropped significantly.  All of you suffering with the heat in the states should be jealous because today I wore my long pants, sweatshirt, wool socks and was still cold!  I know I will be jealous of you guys when come December we are burning up and you have all the cold, but for now I will let the jealousy stay on your side!

I will end this long post with a picture of a frog Ben spotted today.  It is white in color with small spots.  He was just hanging out on our windowsill after lunch.


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A Quick Update

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

We haven’t been up to much, just living life!  Here is a recap of the last week or so in pictures!

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Ben made pancakes last week and made this special Mickey Mouse one for Mikayla. 

Cracked Window and stuff 023We went to a former student’s birthday party and Mikayla jumped in the inflatable with the big kids.  She thought she was so cool!

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We made a family dinner.  Doesn’t Mikayla look so cute in her little apron!!  I only had to fold it over like five hundred times so she wouldn’t trip on it!  She is just like her momma though, she likes to snack while she works!

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Ben even got in on the action and helped out!

Cracked Window and stuff 030Mikayla decided it would be more fun to crawl inside her shopping cart than push it!

Cracked Window and stuff 034 I made a special lunch for Mikayla and cut her sandwich in the shape of her initials.  I swear she ate more this way.  We will be doing a lunch like this again soon!

Cracked Window and stuff 036 "Mom, why are you taking pictures of me eating??"

Cracked Window and stuff 037Such a mischievous grin!  She is trouble!

I have been doing a bit of crafting, but haven’t taken very many pictures. I have been busy making some witches hat and spiders clips in preparation for Halloween!  Only 9 more days until my fall break! Hard to believe it is already here, but I am ready!

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