Friday, September 30

The Crock-Pot Culture

The 'crock-pot' has been a bit of a revelation to me! Back in the UK I would associate slow cookers with the older generation and stinky stews ... but here in small-town America where we're living they are an every day occurrence, can be bought very cheaply in a variety of sizes and colours along with various different travel/carry bag accessories and at a pot-luck event you see them lined up along the table as it seems everyone is using them!

We moved to America as another family had graduated from the MMS programme and we were able to buy the majority of their furniture and kitchen appliances to use while we live here ... including a crock-pot. For the first year it remained in a cupboard untouched but the longer we lived here the more I saw my friends using them I thought I would actually dust it off and give it a go! Needless to say I am a convert and slowly building up my crock-pot recipe collection (avoiding the stinky stews!) ... and last weekend I even bit-the-bullet and bought myself a brand new one because the one we had was missing the on/off dial making it difficult to turn when hot!! I find the convenience of being able to prepare everything earlier on in the day when the girls are less cranky, brilliant and when it was too hot and humid in the summer to use the stove, this was a great alternative to the BBQ when we'd had one too many burgers or steaks!

The stuffed peppers above were our dinner last night and one of our new favourite recipes ... yummy when served with sour cream and nachos. It's SO easy and my 3 year old daughter loves helping both mix up the ingredients and stuff the peppers ... so it's a win win meal ... fun to make and delicious to eat. (The recipe is below). Another new thing for us is growing some of our own veggies while we're been here, again fun but also great to save some pennies ... just waiting for some more of these peppers to ripen so we can stuff these too!

  • 4 bell peppers (preferably flat bottomed ones if you can!)
  • 1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup (4oz) shredded cheese (you can use pepper-jack for a kick!)
  • 3/4 cup salsa (however hot you can handle!)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup chopped spring onions
  • 1/3 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Cut off the top of the peppers and remove core and seeds (chop up the tops to include in the mix)
  2. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl
  3. Fill each pepper and place in the Crock-pot
  4. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours

Wednesday, September 28

Life is Precious

The photo below shows a class of girls with all their hopes and dreams in front of them ... they all celebrated their 16th birthday in that academic year. Scary to think that it was taken almost 20 years ago ... and some of those aspirations have become a reality! (Even more scary to admit I was in that class and it's been that long since the photo was taken!)

Yes ... I'm there ... middle row, second from the right!!

I am only really in touch with one of my ex-classmates properly now but follow the news of others on Facebook and from mutual friends. Some of them have gone on to achieve the goals they set for themselves, others have had a complete change of heart, many like me no longer live in the UK and many have families of their own as well. It's strange to think of a class that were together for 5 years and in many cases formed the people who we have become 20 years later ... are now so scattered throughout the world.

One of these girls died tragically not long after we left school, just a couple of years after this photo was taken. She was hit by a police car on an emergency call. Last week I learnt that another one of my ex-classmates died after an 18 month battle with untreatable bowel cancer, still so young. Even when we're in touch with people sporadically ... how much do we really know what's going on in their lives? Who knows what the latest news is for the rest of them.

Hearing sad news of friends who were part of my childhood makes me reflect and appreciate just how blessed I am with our adventure into worldwide mission as a healthy family and all the opportunities that have and will come our way. Some days aren't great ... but life is precious and I hope to make the most of every one while I can.

Monday, September 26

Getting Prepared - Part 1

Our commitment to MAF UK is for an initial 11 years ... yes, really ... 11 years (it was a BIG decision)! The first 3 years are here in the States and then a further 8 years in an MAF programme, usually 2 4-year terms. As I wrote in the last post, MAF are in over 30 countries worldwide so our adventure with MAF could take us anywhere, but most likely our next placement will be in East Africa, possibly Uganda or even back in Tanzania where I taught before! We have one year left here in America and while I can understand the bigger picture I've got the responsibility of preparing the girls for this next move which will be a bigger cultural and language jump than when we moved here to America and possibly quite difficult for them to assimilate.

While we were away on holiday the other week, we found the cutest little bookshop 'The Fine Print' which had a wide range of children's books ... some really unique ones. Abigail loves books as much as us, so I picked out a couple that would help her prepare and understand some of the upcoming changes in our family life. Needless to say she has already really enjoyed both of these lots ... but I thought I'd share them with you as useful resources.

The DK one 'A Life Like Mine' is full of photos and examples of what different areas of life is like for a child all over the world ... from the meanings of names, availability of clean water ... to living with disabilities, exposure to war and many many more subjects ... a great conversation starter when talking about living in another culture and showing that just because someone does something differently doesn't make it wrong.

The other book, 'We All Went on Safari', is a great counting book and introduction to Tanzania ... Masai, African animals and 1-10 in Swahili! Having lived in Tanzania before, I still have quite a good understanding of Swahili but it will be all new to both my girls and my husband, so I thought this would be a good, fun starting point to introduce a little Swahili into the house (as it will most likely be spoken in all of the East African countries we will be in next).

Every page shows the number and the Swahili word ... and at the back of the book there is some more information about Tanzania, the Swahili names for all the animals they use and the meanings of the different character names too, as well as a summary of the numbers (all with pronunciation spellings to help if these new words aren't familiar!)

So ... for those of you who might be interested in the basic numbers ...
  1. moja - mo-jah
  2. mbili - m-bee-lee
  3. tatu - ta-too
  4. nne - n-nay
  5. tano - tah-no
  6. sita - see-tah
  7. saba - sah-bah
  8. nane - nah-nay
  9. tisa - tee-sah
  10. kumi - koo-mee

Friday, September 23

More about MAF

Many of you reading this may have never heard of MAF or Mission Aviation Fellowship ... and as that is who my husband and I are working for, I thought I'd share a little with you. 

As the title suggests it all about flying and aircraft ... none of which I have any experience in ... but my husband has a career in aircraft design so we didn't want to waste his skills when we went into mission. When I lived in Dodoma, Tanzania over 10 years ago I worked alongside the MAF families there and even taught some of their children in my class so have been familiar with MAF for some time. The great thing for me as an MAF wife is that I can get involved with as little or as much MAF or other work as I choose which is great when raising a young family as for now I can concentrate on them and when they're a bit older I can work with MAF or in schools, orphanages, other charities where my skills fit ... but there's no pressure either way. I've appreciated this so much already when friends back in the UK haven't had that choice to stay at home for financial or other reasons ... and while the munchkins can be infuriating at times ... I consider myself really lucky to have the opportunity to be the one bringing them up and looking after them all day every day ... and don't want to miss a second!!

So ... MAF is a worldwide Christian organisation operating over 125 light aircraft in more than 30 countries. Around 280 flights every day transport patients, relief teams, medical supplies and Christian workers in the world's remotest regions and places of deepest human need. Places where flying is not a luxury but a lifeline. Amazingly every 3 minutes, an MAF plane is taking off or landing somewhere in the world!!

Normally, passengers contribute a highly-subsidised fare towards the true cost. The balance comes from people concerned that others should have a better life, spiritually and physically. In the UK, MAF is a registered charity funded by voluntary gifts which help finance MAF's operational work and support services.

We started working with MAF in June 2009. Having spent a short time in the summer of 2006 at their base in Nairobi, Kenya we knew we wanted to commit to them long term. As an MAF family the work we are doing is funded completely by individual supporters and churches. One of the things I get up to is keeping in touch with supporters by writing to them, doing our newsletters (or Blurbs) and keeping our Family Blog up to date.

If you would like more information about MAF UK, take a few minutes to check out the following links ...

Wednesday, September 21

Shower Power!

Is it just me or is having a shower sometimes one of the best parts of the day?!

My morning shower is a priority and even if the munchkins are still fast asleep, I make sure before my hubby leaves for work I have grabbed that little bit of uninterrupted me time so I can start my day in the right frame of mind! Why crawl out of bed when I could have 5 ... 20 ... 45 mins extra shut-eye? Because I know that should the little people awake, they can't bug me as Daddy will still be here to man the defenses around the bathroom door! That sense of total peace and solitude is few and far between for me once the day has got going as I'm sure all mums (and dads!) can relate to ... so I make the most of my little oasis when I can!

I'm sure I'm not the only mum who loves that 10 minute window of me-time that a shower brings ... most days I get completely lost in my thoughts and totally lose track of time, even if I've said I'm just going to be quick ... so it could be 20 mins or longer before I emerge!! I think about conversations I've had in the last 24 hours, things I need to do, people I need to phone, plans for celebrations etc etc ... and from that my mind wanders ALL over the place and suddenly I don't know where I am! (A waterproof notepad and pen might be useful as once the shower is over, my mind blanks and I can't remember all the ideas and things I just had!)

Sadly each day, my wandering mind clicks back into reality at some point and often my first thought is ... uh oh, how long have I been in here this time? ... and then I take a deep breath, climb out ... and the day of madness begins!!

Tuesday, September 20

Dedication Dilemma

Important occasions happen in our life all the time ... births, weddings, deaths ... and everything in between ... the circle of life. One of the sacrifices of living overseas, away from friends and family is that you miss so many of these events in the lives of your nearest and dearest. Just a couple of weeks ago I missed a good friends wedding. Due to the fact that we live in different countries (neither being our home country of England!) I haven't even met her husband yet! That was one of several weddings in the last 12 months I've missed and I've stopped counting the number of babies that I won't get to meet until they're walking and talking!

The same can be said for other people missing these important events in our lives too. We recently had a dilemma when we wanted to get our youngest little girl dedicated. While the grandparents probably weren't very impressed, we made the decision to have Naomi dedicated right here in Ohio, where she was born, rather than wait until the next time we're in the UK. Two of my good friends here are her godmothers, so they could be with us. We know with the nature of our work, we will live all over the world and so Naomi would be unlikely to live in the same country as her godmothers wherever they were from ... but as she is technically American, she will have the American influence from these two crazy women!

As both myself and my husband have different 'home' sending churches near our parents, there has always been the dilemma as to which church we should do things in from getting married to having our final commissioning service before we headed overseas. When Abigail was dedicated while we were still in the UK, we were living several hours from where our family live but just like this time round, we also felt it was important to have the service in the church near where she was born. Last time most of the important people could make it, although not all, so we don't think we could have done it perfectly even then. We've found it's not always easy to please everyone ... especially when you're moving round the world every couple of years but it is important to feel at peace about the decisions you do make!

So far we haven't had any significant friends or family become seriously ill or die while we've been overseas so that part of the circle of life hasn't directly affected us being away from England. It will be inevitable at some point and I hope we have the wisdom to decide when to return home for the event and when it best to continue where we are ... obviously something that's too difficult to pontificate about until the time comes.

Saturday, September 17

Holiday Time

As a missionary family with a much smaller budget, holidays have to be a little more organised nowadays! We put a little money aside each month so that we don't have to find a larger chunk around holiday time ... and we also make the most of any contacts we have!!

This week we have been enjoying a week on Lake Erie which has cost us very little, thanks to the sister of a really good friend! Last year they bought a holiday cottage in Lakeside, a gated community and when they're not here wanted to use it to bless missionary families like us. I hesitate to write 'cottage', as to a Brit like me this large 5 bedroomed house which is about three times the size of our home, is not the picture conjured up in my mind.

Out of season, we have enjoyed some gorgeous weather and some great trips out in the local area, Marblehead Lighthouse, East Harbor State Park, the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Put-In-Bay Island to name just a few.

With friends and family visiting multiple times in the two years since we've been living in America ... we've been using our holiday time doing things with them so this is our first real break as a family. Our  second daughter arrived in April, so it's been to enjoy time away as a family of four ... and to be a little bit goofy too!

Thursday, September 15

Birthday Cake Creations

No one warns you when you become a mum of all the unwritten qualifications you actually require!! Yes of course you expect to ... need oodles of patience (and then some!), to be able to survive on short bursts of sleep, the ability to change the most disgusting of nappies with two hands when you actually require about five to do it properly and to be able to keep a straight face when your cheeky little munchkin does something naughty with a smile on their face when you're secretly surprised and proud of their ingenuity and all you really want to do is laugh out loud alongside them! The qualifications go WAY beyond all that ... seamstress when things get ripped accidentally, peacekeeper and negotiator between siblings or 'best friends', world encyclopedia (because you're meant to know the answer to everything!) ... to name just a few!

As our eldest daughter got close to her first birthday I suddenly realised that 'cake decorator' was also on that list of unwritten qualifications! Having occasionally watched 'Ace of Cakes' I'd set my sights at something beyond the basic ... this was from someone who didn't even have a recipe to make the cake itself! I soon realised that if you could visualise the end product in your mind and were determined enough, it could become a reality! Before Abigail was born we referred to the bump as 'Monkey' ... so it seemed only fitting that her first cake had a monkey theme ...

When she turned two, she was a big Nemo fan (or Meno, as she called him at the time!!) ...

Yesterday was her third birthday ... and she is currently mad about Toy Story. We had in mind something a bit girlie, like Jessie the cowgirl, but no, Abigail had been telling us every day for weeks that she wanted a Buzz cake ... so Buzz Lightyear it was!!

Since moving to America I have also become a big fan of the TV show 'Cake Boss', which once again inspired me to get more creative when it comes to cake decorating. Having a fun cake is one of the family traditions which we're introducing into our family life. While all the cakes to date have been a joint effort between myself and my husband, we know they're not perfect ... Nemo may well have dodgy eyes and Buzz definitely looks like he's spent a little too long in the sun ... but what's most important is the look of excitement and happiness on our daughter's face when she see's her cakes ... that's the best feeling of them all!

Tuesday, September 13


Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the tragic events in New York (and across America) when the Twin Towers were flown into by hijacked aeroplanes and then collapsed killing thousands of innocent people. 

What has struck me in the last two years since living here in the States, is how well American people celebrate their pride in their nation and heritage ... whether it be commemorating events such as these, remembering those who have fought or who are fighting on behalf of their country or just celebrating the 4th of July! It is not unusual to see the Star Spangled Banner flying high throughout the year on houses and in towns and it isn't done to show superiority but to demonstrate a state of pride.

What a contrast to living in the UK ... flags can be seen during big international sporting events or when the British Royal Family are around but apart from that they seem to be more associated with the BNP (British National Party) a political extreme of nationalism which is not very popular and is extremely racist. There is also such a drive in the UK to be politically correct that certain councils have forbidden people to fly the British or English flags out of their windows for fear of offending anyone who lives nearby from a different culture and some of the men and women serving in the British army are encouraged not to wear their uniforms when walking around certain areas for fear of being targets of violent attacks ... how messed up is that? 

In the UK, displaying a sense of pride in your country or your religion (if it's Christianity, which is the national religion) unless in specific circumstances, seems to be both frowned upon and discouraged and could even cost you your job or land you in prison. Crazy but true!! Until I lived in America, all the patriotism seemed to be a bit 'cheesy' to me, however now I'm here it's endearing and definitely something that we're missing in the UK except during certain special events.

While a perfect world will never exist ... I love this map that we have on the wall in our daughter's bedroom. There are no borders between countries and nothing to divide people and places ... no reason then to celebrate the patriotism of individual countries which I've found so endearing in the USA but also no reason to fear being proud of the world in which we live! As we had one daughter in the UK and one in the USA ... I hope we can value the positive elements of both cultures in our family life ... but 'cheesy' or not the Americans win hands down on this point!

Friday, September 9


When I lived in Tanzania, another lady who had been living and working out there for years served up homemade ice-cream when I was at her home for dinner. Because of the raw egg and re-freezing elements of ice-cream where we were living, we were advised not to eat it when we were out and about ... so this was a real treat and I was really quick to get the recipe!

It was surprisingly simple ... I'd never thought about making ice-cream before. Another missionary on the other side of town had an ice-cream maker ... so I often visited her and her children and made an afternoon out of the ice-cream making session too ... building community! Shortly after returning to the UK (over 10 years ago!) I bought myself a Ben & Jerry's ice-cream and cookie recipe book ... but as ice-cream was so readily available never made any!

Last summer I found a bargain ice-cream maker ... and remembered all those happy times and thought I'd make some ice-cream memories with my family and maybe try my not-so-new recipe book. All excited to introduce my family to the yumminess ... I then found out I was pregnant which while great news, put a stop to my homemade ice-cream making, after all I wasn't going to make it if I couldn't enjoy it too!!

Finally last month ... I made up the original recipe and remembered back to Tanzania ... and have already experimented with a new recipe or two! When I added it as a Facebook status, several friends asked for the recipe ... so here it is below. The 'secret' ingredient is Angel Delight an instant dessert mix from the UK ... so once again I'm having friends and family bring out a supply for me ... while all flavours work my favourite one is butterscotch!! The other ingredients were basic and so I could get them where I was living quite easily! Enjoy!

Angel Delight Ice-Cream ...
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 packet of Angel Delight

  1. Beat eggs & sugar until fluffy (the lighter they feel the lighter your ice-cream will be!)
  2. Add cream ... beat some more
  3. Add milk & Angel Delight ... beat some more
  4. Freeze or use ice-cream maker (if freezing ... maybe go in every 30 mins for the first couple of hours and mix it a little more!!)

Thursday, September 8

Saying 'Goodbye'

One of the sacrifices of committing to life overseas, is being away from family and good friends back at 'home'. When you talk to the grandparents ... the sacrifice goes both ways ... as we have the only two grandchildren on both sides of the family, that we've 'taken' with us! There have also been times when we've missed having the opportunity to send the girls to the grandparents for the day or the weekend so that we can get some things done too.

We've been lucky enough that a lot of our family have been out to visit us, more than once and that with MAF we get to go home every year, whether it be to renew visas or catch up with supporters and churches. Last year when we were in the UK for a few weeks our timetable was pretty hectic, seeing people, saying goodbye and then seeing some more people before saying goodbye again. About halfway though our trip our eldest daughter (then 2) stopped liking the goodbye bit ... and ever since has always avoided goodbyes when possible.

With all the visitors coming and staying with us, each for a few weeks at a time, there are inevitable goodbyes on a regular basis, from people that have invested lots of time into the girls while they've been here. Until recently Abigail didn't seem to put two-and-two together ... that they were going going, not to return to our house with us ... but the last two trips to the airport (just this week to say goodbye to my mum, above) have been a lot more sad for her as now she's nearly 3, she really gets it.

While saying goodbye for myself and my husband isn't always easy either, we can appreciate that it's just until we see them again ... but trying to explain that to 'little people' isn't as straight forward. It's the norm for us now ... so one way or another the girls will get used to it over time. Thankfully with the wonderful invention of Skype ... we can be in touch a lot more in a tangible way for all of us while we live so far apart ... but we do find ourselves wondering from time-to-time if it's in the best interests of us all to be doing what we're doing (even though a split second later we know it is!)  

We're back in the UK again in November ... we'll see how the constant goodbye's go this time round ... for all of us!

Tuesday, September 6

Say it with ... Pictures!!

Part of the preparation before leaving for the 'mission field', whether it be at home or abroad is support raising. It doesn't stop there either ... maintaining the support is ongoing and without the support, both in prayer and financially a lot of us working in mission would be struggling or not able to continue at all. I know as a family we really value all those friends and family who make it possible for us to be here doing what we do.

Here at MMS we are awaiting the arrival of a least three other families who are at various stages in their support raising journey (in fact one of those families will be joining us to start next week!!). Recently another family, the Heath's wrote a great blog entry all about it ... in pictures rather than words!! (It's definitely worth a look!)

Saturday, September 3

The Cultural Norm

Without consciously realising it, we all live by our own set of perspectives and do things in a way that we think are 'normal'! It isn't until you live out of your 'home' culture that you experience the feeling that ... perhaps there are whole loads of different possibilities out there!!

Take for example drinking alcohol ... amongst friends both Christian and non-Christian in the UK, it wouldn't be unusual to have a bottle or two of wine with a meal and to go out to the pub for a drink fairly regularly. Where we live now in small town America ... that would be quite a shocking thing to suggest to many of our friends here!!

Guns on the other hand ... are something that everyone owns here in the US ... and usually not just the one! This would be completely unheard of back home and 'shocking' wouldn't even come close to describing how our friends feel when we've mentioned it to them!! We find it highly amusing when visiting local gun and crossbow shops ... that everything is offered in pink for the ladies ... or you can purchase 'my first crossbow' gifts for your little ones! It's so cultural out here that for the first day of the hunting season, all the kids have the day off school ... because so many would skip school to take part anyway!

We have good friends living and working in Spain ... they faced a dilemma of their own. When expecting a baby they knew that if it was a girl she would be expected to have her ears pierced in the first few weeks of her life, otherwise throughout her entire childhood everyone would think she was a boy ... but it wasn't something they felt comfortable with at all. When they had their little bundle of joy, he was a boy and so for the time being they didn't have to make the decision.

With these and numerous other situations, when you're trying to fit into another culture and be accepted in order to be able to impact your new friends, there are always decisions that have to be made as to how much you are willing to adjust and/or compromise what your idea of normal is.

Thursday, September 1

Common Language?

While the general assumption may be that because we all live in the western world, life in the UK and the US are similar ... having been living in Ohio for the last two years, I can assure you in many ways it's not!! The cultural adjustment can almost seem greater when you're not expecting it!!

Although we supposedly both speak 'English' ... since living in the US we have found the quote ... 

'Two countries divided by a common language'

... to be very true and amusing, pretty much on a daily basis! It seems no-one can be completely sure who this quote is from when you look it up ... but whoever originally said it was very wise indeed!

Take for instance ...
In England you would ...
'Go to the shop to hire a film and maybe buy some crisps and sweets to eat'
But in America you would ...
'Go to the store to rent a movie and maybe buy some chips and candy to eat'

We find it really funny that making the switch to 'American' English seems to be easier for us than for our American friends to switch to 'English' English ... maybe we watch too much American TV ... but we often get a lot of blank expressions when say things in 'English' English!

Check out how just a few items on a shopping list can differ ...

'English' English     'American' English
plasters     bandages
crisps     chips
chips     fries
nappy     diaper
coriander     cilantro
fizzy drinks     sodas
aubergine     eggplant
courgette     zucchini
wieners     hot dogs
prawns     shrimps
biscuits     cookies
jelly     jello
jam     jelly
porridge   oatmeal

This is just a snapshot of the vast 'translations' we find ourselves doing on a regular basis. What amuses me is that our two little girls are growing up and learning to talk with both versions ... and then in about a years time we'll be off to another culture, language and yet another variety of English!!