Maggie's Favorite Book

Over the past year, Maggie has had several books as her favorite. In fact, her normal mode seems to be that she has a favorite book (or 2 or 3), and that is the only one that she wants to read. This changes roughly every 2 weeks.

Past favorites have included "Go, Dog, Go", "A House is a House for me", "First Signs", "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?", and others.

Yet her current favorite is lasting longer than any of the predecessors. It is "Jonathan Scott's Safari Guide to East Africa Birds." There are some great birds around here, and we didn't know anything about them, so we picked up a colorful bird guide in Nairobi. We've learned a lot, and are learning more every time Maggie wants to read the bird book. Which is all the time. She lets us know this by pointing to the upper shelf and saying "Caw! Caw!" Apparently to Maggie, all birds sound like crows. She just can't seem to get enough of the birds, either in the book, or when we see some outside. Her favorites are the hornbills, the owls, and the cranes.


Bling and Praise

Last Monday I traveled a few hours away to attend a faculty meeting for the small department of Family Medicine at Moi University School of Medicine. This being Kenya, 10 o'clock meant chai break, and as is invariable, the chai milk/water mix came in the obligatory thermoses. You aren't really Kenyan if you don't have a thermos.

But I particularly enjoyed the logos on these thermoses, especially when you saw them both next to each other. That's right: A million dollar bill and then Praise the Lord.



Elated by the success of our Chinese dumplings, we decided to try another "ethnic dumpling" type of recipe: samosas. Now, samosas are MUCH more accessible here in Kenya, due to the high percentage of ethnic Indians in Kenya, and we have actually had a number that were quite tasty. Even so, we thought it would be fun to try our own.

The process was similar to the Chinese dumplings. We made a veggie filling with potatos, carrots, peas, onions, and spices. While it was cooking, we made the dough (notable differences include salt and oil in addition to the flour and water). Then we filled each samosa. I think the next step was the key difference: deep frying.
We have never tried deep frying anything (other than sopapillas once, but the oil wasn't hot enough so it didn't really work) but it is amazing how good deep frying makes something. Guess McDonalds has it figured out after all. :) The samosas got nice and crispy and bubbly.
Maggie very much enjoyed her samosas. We were going to make a dipping sauce out of some dried mint leaves we had on hand, but in the end just went without.
The finished product. Mmmmmmm! Since we now know the "complicated" techniques of deep frying, we are considering Navajo fry bread next. Such healthy eating we're experiencing.



Our friends and fellow missionaries, John and Vera, came into town for some meetings. They live out in Maasai Land. Apparently, way out there. We've never been there. But they have a pet. The kind of pet that you get when you live way out there in Maasai Land. It was given to them by a village kid, who had heard they were looking for one.

Their pet is a Bushbaby, which I think is the smallest of all primates, though Wikipedia couldn't verify that for me (to the extent that it ever verifies anything). They are nocturnal, and we woke this one up in the middle of the day, so it looked a trifle terrified. Or maybe that's how you always look when you have huge eyes and huge bat-like ears, and in almost every other way resemble Harry Potter's Dobby.

Both of us thought it would have little claws, which it apparently does, but instead it felt like nice pad-like hands. As I learned from experience, these little guys can apparently jump 6 ft vertically, despite being minute, and when my grip relaxed a bit and she was a couple feet from her little cage, she burst out of my hand and covered the distance in a split second.

Very fun and very "Oh yeah, I'm in Africa" moment. Thanks, Steurys!


Making the Dumplings

I was commenting to Eric a few weeks ago that one of the foods I miss the most from the US would have to be Chinese dumplings (potstickers). Back in Ann Arbor, we joined a small group at our church that was about 50% Asian in the beginning, and once in awhile they would have dumpling cookoffs. Ah, heavenly. Then we found out that instead of making their own, many "authentic" Asians bought their dumplings in frozen packages. Wow! We would routinely keep 3-4 bags in our freezer for an awesome go-to meal. Here in Kenya, I must admit, I was missing the potstickers, and the sesame oil/soy sauce dipping sauce almost as much.

So, what to do? We toyed with the idea of making our own, but were always a little daunted by the wrappers. Several years ago we did make our own dumplings, which turned out great, but had purchased the wrappers at a Chinese grocery store. Well, last week, we did a little research and finally took the plunge into the world of Dumpling Making.

First step: dough. Just flour and water, surprisingly. Eric made all sorts of little marshmallow-looking blobs and rolled them into circles.
Step two: filling. I mixed ground pork with cabbage, green onions, corn starch, soy sauce, and sesame oil to get this (doesn't it look appetizing?!):
Step three: filling the wrappers. This was not terribly difficult, probably because I didn't do it the "fancy" way. But it was functional.

Step four: I pan-fried each dumpling (used a lot of oil to prevent sticking) then steamed them for another 4-5minutes. Meanwhile, Eric whipped up a batch of dipping sauce. Like riding a bike.
Step five: Ah. Eat the dumplings. With chopsticks, of course. Maggie had one or two, and Eric and I each polished off a good dozen or so.
Culinary success! We will try this again, hopefully soon. Apparently you can freeze them easily, prior to cooking, so we may try that as well.


Reading the Psalms in ESV

A few years ago, my parents gifted me a pocket-size English Standard Version bible, which has traveled far with me since then. It usually matters little to me what version I read, but I had enjoyed the ESV a bit and so had requested it.

I'm sure I've read at least a good number of psalms in this version, but over the past couple months, I've been reading through all of them, and have really enjoyed it, for one particular reason. For some reason, the ESV rendering makes it easier to grasp the entire theme of a psalm.

This is in contrast to a common pitfall of only internalizing a given verse. This can still, of course, be of benefit to the reader. However, I'm a songwriter, and thus understand that there is usually an overall theme to be communicated. Sometimes, it can be tough in the psalms, and you end up wondering why the psalmist would follow this cluster of verses with that cluster of verses. But now, I'm catching more and more of the themes, and I'm attributing this to the ESV. An example:

I've always more or less passed over Psalm 85, with the exception of passing notice to the part about "righteousness and peace kissing each other", but this was only noted as a poetic curiosity. But this time, the theme jumps out.

God, you had so greatly blessed us.
How long, then, will you be angry with us?
Show us your love.

And then, out of this contrast of God's great love and the people's great trouble, God's love overwhelms:

He will speak peace to his people.
His salvation is near, that his glory may be manifest.

And then follows the psalmist's poetic outburst of the amazing love, faithfulness, righteousness, and peace of God.

And in the theme is the meaning: Even when we can't make sense of present suffering, the overwhelming goodness of God's character is to remind us that we can trust him to revive us as we need. Look to his character. He will speak peace to his people. His salvation is near to those who fear him.

Thus, my endorsement of the ESV rendering of the Psalms.


Ferocious Freckles

Last June, when Rachel's family came to visit, they brought lots of beanie babies and stuffed animals, so many that they weren't able to distribute them all to the kids in the hospital, and so when my parents were just here, they raided the stash, and made another distribution, which was enjoyed immensely, just as before.

One interesting feature this time, though. There was a consistent aversion to one stuffed toy, namely the above pictured leopard, a beanie baby whose name is "Freckles" based on the tag. It was the source of a lot of fear. This puzzled us, since he looks rather adorable.

We asked the staff why Freckles was not so popular: "It's considered an evil omen."

We asked Rose, Maggie's nanny: "It's because it looks like a snake."

We asked one of the Kenyan docs: "It's because it's a ferocious animal. They would be scared of lions, except that they are often used as logos for marketing different products."

Who knows? At any rate, Maggie has no fear, since she's never seen one in the wild. (Ever elusive) So she now takes Freckles to bed with her, the lonely leopard that none of the Kenyan kids wanted.


Eighteen Months!

I can't believe Maggie has already hit the 1 1/2 year mark! She still seems so small in some ways, but is obviously growing and changing every day. And when we think of a new baby in just a few more months, she seems ESPECIALLY old! :) She now has 10 teeth, enjoys eating most things that we eat, and recently savored her first Tootsie Roll pop on Halloween (where she dressed up as Little Bo Peep, shown below).

She loves playing outside, going to visit the neighbor's turtles, and our friends' kiddie pool, shown here. It was about 50 degrees but that didn't faze her from getting in and splashing for 15-20 minutes! And she loves to play with her buddy Abi.
Maggie has recently started running, and can almost climb onto the couch, and likes to sit on just about anything. Since we don't keep her carseat in the car (we share it with 2 other families and don't drive very much), it sits next to the fireplace. She likes to sit in "her" chair. In this picture, she is actually saying "cheese!" to the camera. Mags has about 25-30 words that we can recognize, and many more that we don't. :)
So cute!

The Week of Salt

It was great having Eric's parents with us for three weeks, and they made it safely home last Saturday...exhausted, but safe. One interesting thing about their visit was that Eric's dad, Tim, has something called Meniere's disease. It's an inner ear problem resulting in vertigo, tinnitus (ringing), and hearing loss. This comes and goes in the form of attacks, and he has found that if he adheres to a low salt diet, the attacks don't come as frequently.

So, we adjusted our diet for the three weeks he was here, and tried to cook low salt style. Have you ever tried it? It would be an interesting experiment to see if you could. There is salt in EVERYTHING these days...canned foods, cheese, processed meats, soups, condiments, etc. Our normal go-to meals (quick and easy) are all very salty. Our Kenyan staple foods are all prepared with a lot of salt. And the soups and stews we make frequently? FULL of salt.

I ended up making more meat, using more fresh veggies (when we could get them), and making homemade salt-free chicken broth to use in soups and such. I'm sure we were all much healthier at the end of the 3 wks. However....

When we returned home after dropping Eric's parents off, the first thing we made was tuna melts. The next day we had grilled cheese and tomato soup. Then pepperoni pizza. And Mexican beef stew. Yesterday we capped off the week by making Chinese dumplings (post to follow)...dipped in large quantities of soy sauce. Eric and I had to stop eating because we were feeling rather salt-saturated. So we deemed it the week of salt. Maybe it will actually become the month of salt...or the year...or the....


Random photos

I just got through sorting through our digital photos for the last 4 months, which were many, and I thought I'd share some random ones that somehow escaped blog fame.

(click to enlarge if you can't read the shirt)