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Friday, November 28, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- Early a.m. Phone Calls

So I'm lying there in bed trying to sleep in late after the Thanksgiving holiday when in walks hubby at 8:30 a.m. (hardly a decent hour for someone who's trying to make a day of it!) who hands me the phone saying, "Someone really needs to talk to you." Mind you, my brain isn't functioning when I hear, "One down, one to go!" It's Julie on the phone telling me they passed court!

Yah-hooo!!! I am sooo excited. There will be no going back to sleep for me. She mentions that now Dustin and I just need to pass so our wish to travel together together can come true.

We are praying for Tuesday!!!

Go catch a glimpse of Wendemagegn and Beza Gumm and congratulate our good friends. We are soooo excited for them!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- Chip In Widget

Hey friends! Our family is teaming up with the Gumm family to raise some more funds for the kids at Hope for the Hopeless (H4H). We plan to buy some items in country needed for the move to their new location, including warm clothes, jackets, blankets, food, medicines, etc. As of right now Dustin and I have to find a way to squeeze our clothes into half a large suitcase. All the rest of our baggage allotments have been filled with donations. Praise the Lord!! We may even need to pay extra bag fees for the items we are collecting if we run out of space (which would be a GREAT problem to have.) Julie has a great list if you'd prefer to send items with us instead of cash. However, If you'd like to contribute cash we've made it easier than ever. Simply click the Chip In button on my side bar or you can follow this link and contribute that way as well. EVERY PENNY given will go to H4H!

We are asking you to consider just $5 to help us reach our goal of $300. We sure wouldn't mind you spreading the word on your blogs about our efforts as well. Every bit helps.

You can check back here or on Julie's blog often to see updates about what your gifts are accomplishing as we use them to minister to the kids at Hope for the Hopeless in Jesus' name.

Thanks! and we wish you a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Where Was This Hiding?

Somehow after following link after link (you know how that goes) I stumbled upon this site. It's awesome. It has all the Black Friday ads in one place.

Thought this might come in handy for you all. Happy Bargain Hunting!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- A Little Help From My Friends

Yesterday was a hard day for me. Right about 11:30 pm a floodgate let loose and the tears came rushing out. You'd think with us being just over 2 weeks away from travel and with all the details coming together with so much to look forward to I would have been rejoicing. But, it wasn't the case.

My sweet travel buddie Anna wrote a great post. In it she expresses so many of the feelings and questions I've been asking myself time and time again. Then my favorite Sassy Granny wrote another post that struck a cord in me. There's a common theme there and it's not lost on me. Praise and Worship. I need to be doing it right now.

Will you please pray for us?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- Progress Has Been Made

Okay guys, since my last post Julie and Mark were able to reserve tickets for the same flights we are on. ALL of them! Isn't that amazing!

We also booked (right Julie!?) our accommodations at the Ethiopia Guest House for the first week we will be in ET. We are sharing a suite that has a common family room area and a common bathroom. That way we can have lots of extra room to sort and organize all our donations, etc. Stays at EGH include breakfast and lunch with the option to purchase dinners very inexpensively ($5).

In other news 3 more families have been added to our tentative travel group. That bring the total to 11 families. That at least 22 adults. WOW we're going to be a large group! I am super excited. Our large size means that we will most likely be staying at the Addis View Hotel for the second portion of our stay in Ethiopia.

Lastly, I am working on taking the curriculum a friend who directs the elementary program at our church loaned me and making it more appropriate for the orphanage setting. I'm simplifying language and reworking stories for the smaller setting. I am super excited. We've got three messages to share. It should be a blast. I can't wait to hang out with the kids!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- Travel?

My friend Julie's panic attack sent me into a spiral yesterday. Her list reminded me of a few things I've yet to do. One important thing was to register for Ethiopian Airlines frequent flyer program. I'm working on that this morning.

Julie and I strategized on the phone last night. We threw out all the things that have been circulating in our brains related to where we're going to stay, what our schedule will be like. All that stuff. Not that we actually came to any real decisions last night. We're still working out the details. She is working to get some tickets for herself and her family on the flights Dustin and I will be taking. Hopefully there will still be some available. I am praying they pass court the first time through. SO MUCH has to happen for us to be able to travel together.

We purchased our tickets yesterday. We decided it had to be done. Again. The net cost increase was only $152.00. ($50 of that was the change fee) We feel good about getting our seats reserved before fare increases went up significantly especially in light of only having a few days notice before potential travel. Now, we just need to pass. I have a small amount of confidence because Duni our ET program director will be moving back to Addis Ababa before our court date. I don't know if it will be so, but part of me believes she'll do whatever it takes to get those letters from MOWA over to the courts for us in time.

My packing has been coming along. I've got one large suitcase and two 18 gal containers filled with donations so far. My Christmas shopping hasn't been progressing. I'm in a crunch. We've been scrimping and saving for in country expenses so I haven't really gotten anything accomplished on that front. It's down to the wire. It may be that we are doing shopping on Christmas eve. Ugh, the thought of that makes me feel very tired.

So that's where we are. 2 weeks and 5 days from potential travel.

Friday, November 14, 2008

For Mel (and anyone else looking for pointers)

You asked for some pointers. I don't know that I am the lady for the job but I'll give it a whirl since yesterday I was a novice and today I seem to think I am some kind of pro or something :)

Here's a list of the recipes I am trying. Once you get to the websites you can search their selection for some more meals that appeal to you. I just did a simple google search and all these recipes and more popped up. I have a few other recipes that aren't online that I will take the time to type up in the coming days.

Chicken Divan
Bacon Wrapped Chicken
Chipotle Macaroni Casserole
Chicken Quesadillas
Mediterranean Tuna Casserole
Ciao Bella Chili
Lasagna Primavera

Other than collect the recipes, all I did to prepare was stock up on freezer bags, foil, plastic wrap and disposable baking pans at our local bulk warehouse store. That was it. Oh, and I had to do a good spring cleaning on the deep freeze.

Soups or Chilis are double bagged and stored flat in the freezer one on top of the other to conserve space.

Dustin says that if I stick with this he'll look into a food sealer thing-y for me. (yes that's the technical word for it ) which might come in handy for long term freezing but I'll have to see if it's worth the cost.

Chile Relleno Casserole

This is one of the recipes I found which is supposed to be good for freezing. I made some major modifications to it and Dustin says it's thumbs up winner destined for many repeats in our household.

There is a Mexican restaurant in our neighbourhood that makes chicken stuffed chile rellenos to die for. I was hoping to make something close enough to satisfy my cravings and did a pretty successful job of it. Here's what I did. I bought 2 27oz cans whole mild Chiles (remember I am making double batches) one can for each casserole pan. I used 1 1/2 lbs Monterey Jack cheese cut a little smaller than the recipe calls for because I planned on stuffing the chiles with chicken as well. I placed four boneless skinless chicken breasts in my pressure cooker along with a can of Mexican style stewed tomatoes, about 1/2 tbs minced garlic and about 1/2 cup chicken broth plus 1/2 cup water and cooked them for 10-15 mins. When the chicken was finished I shredded it and added back in the tomatoes, shredding them as well. Next came some ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste. I softened cream cheese to room temp and mixed it in with the chicken and tomatoes. I proceeded to stuff the chiles with the chicken mixture and a think slice of cheese. The recipe calls for what was in my opinion WAY too much of the milk, egg, flour mixture so I split the amount that is supposed to be used for 6 servings and used it for 12. Next I layered cheddar cheese on top along with some breadcrumbs but next time I think I would crumble some tortilla chips over the top and bake it that way instead. Overall I think it was really good. The kids picked all the stuffing out at ate that leaving their chiles destined for the trash but I didn't expect them to be super jazzed about them. After all, they are green. Served with a side of Mexi-rice this is a delicious meal.

A Meal Machine

For those of you who know me best...... you better take a seat before reading this post. Mom, especially you for I fear that I may have gone against a long standing unwritten family rule. You know the one that cast the women of our family into the category of hopelessly bad cooks by causing us to believe we have a bad cooking gene, or something!?

Well, folks I do believe I have been delivered from the generational curse of bad cooking! hahahahaha It's not just bad cooking that runs in my family. It's lack of vision, preparation, passion, vigor. I come from a long line of women that would rather attend a political march and get tear gassed than spend a prolonged amount of time in the kitchen. It's not that the desire isn't there. It's just that we have some SERIOUS handicaps related to meal preparation to overcome and have never found the zeal to begin the laborious process of jumping the hurdles before us. I think my mom and Grams would agree we're a family with "issues" (said lovingly and jokingly) and cooking has always been the least of our worries.

Many of you have fond memories of childhoods filled with glorious bonding moments revolving around Grandma's freshly baked homemade pie, or perhaps getting special lessons from your mother on how to perfectly prepare the family's famous secret recipe handed down generations. Not. Me. There was NONE of that. That is not to say my mom and Grams aren't wonderful nurturing women. They just preferred to flex their mothering muscles outside the kitchen.

In my grandmother's defence, she not so much a bad cook as much as, maybe, a simplistic one. Her childhood was extremely difficult. She was a child of the depression with a father who, I am told, had a tendency to drink the family's grocery money away. She grew up thankful for each and every meal. She was contented with simplicity. Her husband being older than her by... If I remember correctly 13 years!!!.... (that's another interesting story. I believe I will have to do a whole post on my Grams, Evelyn in the near future) required a bland diet for his health. Grams didn't require as much variety in her diet to be content so often times meals were repeated with frequency and bland in nature, although the preparation wasn't laking.

My mother's issues lie in the preparation. She has some vision with regard to the type of meals she'd like to prepare but it never fails that something happens to throw things off kilter. It could be that whenever we're around (which is when she suddenly feels the spark of inspiration to cook something new) she ends up spending more time investing in her family relationally, being that she's a quality time love language person, than watching over her cooking meal as an acts of service love language person would do. She admits to me that she actually had no clue how to cook a hot dog when she first got married. She tells the story of the first day my father asked her to make him some for lunch. She stood in the kitchen and pondered how long they needed to cook. Best she could figure, thirty minutes boiling should do the trick. When my father finally came in and asked what the hold up was she learned that hot dogs are precooked and just need to be reheated. Ya know, I've got many more stories but the Bible says to honor your mother and father so I'll just stick with the one example ;)

So here I am. Striking out on my own. Entering uncharted territory.

Yesterday I discovered the MOST amazing thing. Now, I am sure this will not be new to you, but to me it was a revelation. Wanna know what it was.... Freezer cooking. Not just making a meal here and there and freezing it but OAMC. (Once A Month Cooking) I have heard little bits and pieces about it on people's blogs but never really payed much attention before, thinking that OAMC freezer cooking was reserved for the top echelon of uber-organized domestic queens. Sure it must require hours of advance planning and a battle tested strategy of attack. Apparently, NOT........ And, I've been missing out all this time!

So I armed myself with 11 fairly straight forward recipes and decided I would start with four this week. I did our usual grocery shopping and purchased all the ingredients for each of the four freezer meals in duplicate so I could make a meal to eat this week and freeze the others for when Dustin and I are away.

Last night I made 2 out of the 4 recipes and had 4 meals total. Two to eat this week and 2 to freeze. It took me an hour and a half to make 4 meals! Wahhoooo. Life will never be the same again! I am in love! And the best part is that our grocery bill didn't increase. It was roughly the same we usually pay because many of the items we needed were two-for deals or we were able to buy super bulk and save more.

I know those of you veteran freezer cooks must be laughing at this point. Seems so simple, and it is. I don't know why I didn't try this before. I'm not sayin' that from this point on our family will subsist on frozen fare alone but I do plan to keep a stock of prepared meals for my convenience from now on.

... I seriously feel like a domestic genius right about now. Just let me have my moment ;-)
(Ahem, I can hear you giggling)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- Places to Go, People to See

I mentioned briefly about the party I went to hosted by Yeshi and others in the local Ethiopian community and how it was a good time. Well, I was able to meet Yeshi's sister Yewbi there. We talked about Kebron Orphanage. Yewbi works here in the US as a nurse and much like Surafel she runs things for the orphanage in Ethiopia from here. Last July, during the heavy rains which came after the severe drought had killed off all the vegitation, the home was flooded and the walls to two bedrooms were completely washed out. I saw the pictures and believe me when I tell you it was something to see. Since that time the kids have been squeezed into two rooms and the home remains in disrepair.

Dustin and I were invited to go and visit the kids when we travel. So, we will. Our schedule seems to be filling up! Now we are officially collecting gifts for 4 orphanages. Kids Care Orphanage ( I can't find a website for KC but here is an article about it. This is where Jonas came from), our agency's Transition Home, Hope for the Hopeless and now Kebron Orphanage. It may be that we can only bring a small amount of items to Kebron (even though I'd love nothing more to lug a WHOLE BUNCH of gifts to them too.)

That sure seems like a lot. The whole trip. I am now actually to the point where I can't fathom what it's going to be like. I used to have some kind of mental picture, a small expectation as to what we could expect. Now, the whole thing has grown much larger than anticipated and ** in a hushed tone** it feels a bit..... scary, no that's not the word. Overwhelming. Yeah that's a better way to put it. It's tempting to wonder how God can use me and Dustin. My wonder could easily turn to fear if I let it, if I didn't keep fighting to remind myself IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU!!!! (can I scream that any louder before it finally soaks in??) We have seemingly so little to give especially in light of so much need but I know better than concern myself much with that. (most of the time) We'll leave with Christ in our hearts and if one child finds the love of Jesus somehow, someway, by our actions during the time we are there then the trip will have been a GREAT success. I keep reminding myself that this is what we've been praying for!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

God Bless Our Troops

"Uncle Jimmy is a hero," my oldest daughter loves to say whenever we mention his name.

"He's in Iwack" the youngest one chimes in while her middle sister smiles ear to ear.

You just ask our girls and they'll tell you all about their soldier uncle.

Ask me and Dustin and we'd tell you about him, and other wonderful people we've been blessed to know who have served or are serving our country faithfully. Today we celebrate and honor them. Today our prayer is simple. Lord, thank you for our freedom and the people who have sacrificed to make sure we have it. Bless and protect our troops. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Got Pics!

Thanks to the wonderful Laughner family we now have SIX new photos of Jonas. With every new picture, every new angle from which we are able to view his handsome face we feel such satisfaction and joy in our hearts. Satisfaction that he is being well taken care of and joy at the sight of our beautiful child. Every picture is a gift and a treasure. The Laughners went out of their way to get these snap shots for us. Laughners we can't thank you enough!! I know I keep repeating myself but THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

The newest photos of Jonas are of him fresh out of a bath and he looks a little bit chilly ;-) He's wrapped in a towel. It was great to see his chest and arms to get a feel for his size. He looks very healthy but he's slender. I know that is to be expected. It's just that all three of our children by birth were chubsters. I am used to seeing "rubberband" lines at chubby wrists, forearms and biceps by his age. All Jonas' sisters had multiple butt cheeks by 8 months of age :)))) I've yet to receive an official TH update with Jonas' weight & height. I am anxious to get one before we travel. I'd like to know if he's going to fit the clothes appropriate for his age.

I've been working on a video for... gosh, well, I guess it's been about a year now. A visual chronicle of our journey. Finally the project has been amounting to something substantial lately. More and more photos of our boy are filling it up. The video will be available for your viewing pleasure once we pass court. Come on December 2nd!!! (we think, hope)

We can't wait for you to see him!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Shoemaker's Children...

You know that saying? Well, in this house it's the hairstylist's children who wait the longest to get proper haircare. It's been a while since they've had their hair trimmed. Rory is by far the most opinionated of the bunch. She really loves her hair short. There's no arguing with her. So that's what she got. The other two just had trims.

Monday, November 3, 2008


It was busy over here this weekend. We ended with a bang. We hosted a pre-travel party with 65 or so of our friends and family. It was a great time. We wanted to thank our loved ones for their support and what better way to do it than with a big gathering. Since we decided we won't be having a large welcome home gathering we had to get the partying out of our system somehow.

Guests enjoyed catered Ethiopian food which included Beef Alecha, Doro Wat, Lentil Wat,
Cabbage with Potatoes and of course Injera with a smattering of American fare. We also enjoyed the yummiest cupcakes made by a woman at our church who should really own her own bakery. She's absolutely the BEST. She made miniature Ethiopian flags for each of the cupcakes. They were so wonderful.

It felt much like a wedding reception in that I fluttered around from person to person trying to get in some quality time with everyone (can you tell my love language?haha) but as events like this usually go I regretted that I didn't have as much time as I would've liked to catch up.

Last week I had gone to a party hosted by the Ethiopian friends and they served chicken nuggets for the kids. I thought it was so funny. We served some too. To which every kids there breathed a deep sigh of relief. Although some kids really liked the injera. Our kids really like it.

I told you I'm really expressive when I talk. The next few pictures are proof. Here I am trying to give a demonstration of how to serve and eat the food. By the looks of my face you'd think I just found a bug in the food or something. But no. That's just me talking. Ridiculous, I tell you!

My dad and Jan are some of the first to experience the new flavors.

Again, I have no clue what's wrong with my face in this picture. I was really happy, I swear!

My mom aka Mimi eater he food like a good grandma. Although her technique was lacking. She gave up bite size pieces and decided to roll her injera up like a burrito. I think she referred to it as Southwest/Ethio fusion. Whatever floats your boat mom.... just don't take that freak show to a restaurant in Ethiopia.