Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Mayhem

Why O looks so shell-shocked I'm not sure...This was the first holiday (counting birthdays, easter, anything) in forever that he actually slept past 6. Usually he's up at 4 and is a wreck all day.  Don't you love our rad tree? This is the cut-out/flat pack tree's second christmas....and maybe the last, it's looking so sad and is nearly broken.   The kids cut it out of backerboard with a leatherman and put ornament hanging holes in with a crooked hand drill.  We saw and ad for a 2-meter tall fake palm tree and we wanted it BAD.  But it was expensive (2M kwacha./$400) and when we saw it in person it was really lame.  I mean really really lame.  If it goes on sale after Christmas.....I might have to spring for it.
The kids had a few scavenger hunts to find christmas presents...the first was almost eaten -- two clues were hidden inside two crepes!

...and the kids sorting out more clues.

Santa completed the TINTIN collection this year!  (Caveat... we're taking a pass on 'tintin in the congo' -- one that most publishers agree was from another era and could be left out of the reprints.)  Most interesting is the 'last' book -- a collection of papers from Herge's notebook, his unfinished notes for the book he was working on when he died

Can they EVER have enough legos?? (Thanks Santa Anna!)
Daddy-O modeling the most hideous awesome shirt ever.  Thing 2 INSISTED on sewing something christmas eve...all the shops were closed and the traffic was too thick to go out anyway, and so he picked THIS out of the fabric box.  It happens to be the lining of our couch (under the cushions) so if he ever is looking for a good hiding place, he'll be perfectly camouflaged.  

Enjoying the first episode of the "Barefoot Detectives"
 (Note:  TJ's wearing the shirt that Thing 2 used as the pattern for his elephant tunic creation)

TJ's missing present was on the roof.  Here is Thing 2 deciding AGAINST climbing along the open balcony railing.

"What?"  Approach attempt #2 -- send the kid up a rotten wooden ladder to retrieve your present!

an afternoon with the new toys:  underwater camcorder and the body board.  (happy that the sun decided to make an appearance)

Future Jaques Cousteau.  Filming his shadow at the bottom of the swimming pool.

SHARK ATTACK! Swim for your lives!!

I got so excited about this I forgot to put them in TJ's stocking.  Just imagine dancing rings around your tastebuds with juicy hot dog flavoured chips.  Mmmmmmm, DISCOS! Let's snack?  (ooof, let's not!)
"Dear Leader, Your breath is so fresh!"  This was the bestest stocking stuffer from last year.  So good, in fact that I really couldn't think of anything (excepting the Hot Dog Discos) to top it.  

snow-globes for dessert.  oh how I love from-scratch chocolate pudding.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The thing I like best about portraits is not so much getting a good picture, it's getting the picture where you can SEE the personalities.  With this set of photos I think you can also start confidently putting bets on where they'll be in 15 years. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reclaimed land

A few months back I was lamenting the appearance of a bull-dozer (yes, an ACTUAL BULLDOZER!) in the marsh behind our house.  Since we moved in there was this amazing greenbelt of sorts between our house in Jesmondine and the next street of houses over in Roma.  The bull dozers took out EVERYTHING: mango trees, sugar cane, huge clumps of banana palms...everything.  Then they burned anything remaining.  They cleared the land right up to our wall-fence* and left a swath of charred dry brown earth.  A few structures were completed and I'm sure there are plans for more.  Construction was fast and furious as the Rainy Season deadline approached.

Now that the rain has finally come (sort of), the marsh is back to it's green lush self again.  The bananas and cane are back and the grass is shoulder high most everywhere.  The birds are so happy but are missing the trees for sure.  There are a few new paths which bring a steady stream of people by our place.  It's a shame it's not preserved but we're happy for now at least to have the marsh back, even if it's only temporary.

*A wall-fence is an actual thing.  In most cases it's a big, tall concrete block wall topped with glass shards and electrified wire. I think it's probably one word even:  wallfence.

little chefs and foodie potlucks

We had a party a bit ago...having only Americans over  for a meal wasn't snobby enough for us so we narrowed the invite list to from just people from Seattle.  The little chefs made Jamie Oliver's Fish Cakes.  In Jamie's early days as the young phenom Naked Chef he was too cool for me and I resisted his siren call.  No I'm a total convert and have 4 of his cookbooks that I use regularly. Maybe Santa will bring me another?   For the fishcake recipe I just told them what to do -- they did everything but the frying. THIS recipe is easy in that there are no fancy steps but there are many ingredients and a LOT of steps -- cook the fish, boil and mash the potatoes, cut up the spices, zest and squeeze the lemons, mix the 'cake,s' form the cakes, (fry the cakes), plate them....make the dip/dressing (essential) and then EAT THEM.  Thing 2 did it all but didn't even eat a single fishcake.  The food everyone brought was incredible, including the goat cheese stuff dates wrapped in proscuttio with a warm brown sugar and butter glaze.  God Bless Sub-Saharan-Seattlites and their fancy potlucks. You guys ROCK.

For the christmas season, we can't stop making this easy, delish Pumpkin bread:


3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin (we usually use 3/4 of the big can -- because MORE is better, right? I think it makes and already moist bread SUPER moist)
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (we leave these out - we only have cloves from Zanzibar and they are WICKED fragrant...really too strong to use in most baking dishes)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (who has allspice?  we don't!)
1/2 cup water
In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil and eggs. Add pumpkin and mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, cloves and allspice; add to the pumpkin mixture alternately with water, beating well after each addition.
Pour into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 2 loaves.
Today we made a glaze, too -- powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon...kinda noggy and festive and maybe a bit over the top.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Are we having fun yet?

Starry Night

Hello, Orion!

Hello, House!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The sweetest things

Some darkroom days are more exciting than others.  This darkroom day was awesome.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Again, THREE BIG CHEERS for another amazing adventure into unknown culinary territory for our polucky Thanksgiving menu.  So far we've had 2 'traditional' (if unconventional) Thanksgiving holidays here in the Southern Hemisphere which at the time, we welcomed.  The first year was great to have familiar food for once.  The next year we hosted a house-full of foreigners and it was fun to show them share with them some new things.  But since deciding to branch out, covered the middle-east (amazing), Cuba (holy smokes), and tonight, we went back to America but....travelled deep into the bayou with a full-on Creole menu.  Three American families and 5 chefs with ZERO Creole cooking or even TASTING experience put an unbelievable spread.  Who knows what jambalaya is supposed to taste like?  If we even came close I'll say I"m ready for the 'real' thing if anyone wants to show me b/c what came to our table was so amazing.

Our Kariba/Kafue crawfish did not come through, but in the end this was fine.  I am half glad it didn't b/c as much as I wanted to EAT crawfish I really did not want to FIX the crawfish. Here it really is louisiana crawfish --it's an invasive species and there is no market for it... the crawfish are having the time of their lives on a never-ending zambian safari.  I am assuming the crawfish originally came as part of a fisheries development project?  Officially sanctioned or not, I'd say it was a total bust. I'll see if I can find out more.

Instead we enjoyed: Joburg Jambalaya (w/ chicken, haddock and boerwors), creole-rubbed-village-chicken, and cajun calamari poppers...the kids had what I thought was a gigantic platter of panko-friend chicken (it looked giant but 6 kids scarfed it down in about 3 mintues), an anaemic watermelon, a bag of granny smith apples, green herb salad, sweet tea...and dessert - a pear pumpkin tarte, a Chipata sweet potato pie and creme caramel.

Next year?  Mediterranian? Chinese? Hawaiian? I already can't wait. 

Sadly, so very sadly, we are soon saying goodbye to our bestest LSK friends and the bestest family who have been with us for these Thanksgiving cooking adventures -  maybe we'll have to have Thanksgiving in Uganda and share our Thanksgiving feast on the shores of LakeVictoria next year.

Road Trip!

PS Thanksgiving Thursdays mean...strangely the kids have school and their normal school day.... the kids finished their homework and swam for an hour before dinner.... and will be up and off to school at 7.....but the best part....Someone will sneak into the kitchen at 8am and finish up ALL THE DISHES.  Sweeeeeet.

This has nothing to do with our thanksgiving dinner.  But I suppose it does have everything to do with being thankful, living life and just accepting that sometimes things happen for just no reason.  Good things, bad things, good reasons, bad reasons, and no reason at all.  Sometimes we ask WHY -- like: why in the WORLD are there 4 men on 4 horses coming down the walk on Independence Avenue?!? Sometimes we get answers. Sometimes we just should sit back see what comes our way.

Howdy, Madam.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ma, we're 'a going on a hunt

The kids have by now gotten into the idea of giving and getting ‘experiences’ for presents -- they love their gigantic stash of legos, toys, sports equipment, and books but when it comes to buying presents, it’s tricky anywhere but especially here.  And so...we introduced “the voucher.”

Our friends approached us first with an idea of giving a Bow Hunting voucher to FPFJ for his birthday and I think he was surprised at how quickly we agreed!  And so....Uncle Benjo and Thing got up at 4:30 the other Saturday morning and the two went off bow-hunting for impala.  The grown ups weren’t sure how it would go, neither did the little guy and so I went along as a chaperone/photographer.  FPFJ was totally awesome and cool as a cucumber and once I had the ‘lay of the land’ I was able to hang back and let the boys be boys. My concern was what kind of things they could encounter while tracking...since most of hunting is creeping around and trying to get close to one of the most skittish animals on the planet.  Creeping thru the tall grass in the bush is not high on my list of things I want the kids doing here in the land of fire ants, puff adders and black mambas.  Thankfully, the kid-friendly plan for the morning involved mostly creeping along open sandy paths with minimal stalking.  The grass and everything else is dry and crunchy and there is no step that could be taken thru the grass by clumsy humanoids, no matter how sneaky, that can possibly escape notice. ....CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH, CRACK, (swearing), CRUNCH... is kinda how 'sneaking' goes this time of year.  This was great from a mother's perspective and I was happy to have some time as the sun came up to again disappear into the little tiny creative space I have carved out for myself and play with the new camera -- again confirming my complete lack of natural ability to photograph animals or, as you’ll soon understand the above photo, predict animal behaviour. 

The best part of any adventure is the clothes and the gear.  This adventure was no excpetion.


After a few frustrating exchanges "Can you see...?  Do you notice...?" Ben realizes that his hunting companion actually cannot see a thing! The grass is taller than him. he could be a foot away from a zebra and not notice until he got a hoof in the face. (he didn't, by the way!)   (It was amazing to see that the camouflage strategy for zebra actually is VERY effective in this setting.

On the right 'track' 

Off they go.....sneaking.....

This was when I had my close encounter with the sable.  The boys went off and I thought to myself.  "Let's see how close I can get to these Sable." Uh, crap.  I did NOT know that there was in this herd one semi-domestic sable: "Natalie."  this is the sequence I shot while I looked for something, ANYTHING to put between me and the sable.  And the photos I took before wondering where was ole Uncle Ben anyway? How loud would I have to yell for him to come running?  And...was he in fact just on the other side of this herd, peeing his pants while laughing hysterically at me running around a puny 5-inch diameter tree being pursued by an entuhiastic antelope with meter-long horns?  Thankfully after a few turns around the tree she lost interest and returned to her morning grazing.  I got my heart rate back to a reasonable level and backed myself right outta there. Good lesson. This property has on it a fully domesticated young sable, Rachael, and this darling, Natalie.  She is obviously NOT skittish around people but hangs with the herd.  Anyway, I was happy to re-join the boys who were just setting up to take a shot.  The shot missed and they headed over to see if they could find the arrow.  Because it hit a tree branch on the way, the trajectory was deflected, the animal was 'warned' and the arrow was easy to find.  By then, our friend Dan had arrived and they carried on together.  Here they are hatching a plan to head off the trail and into the long grass in hopes of the two hunters being able to flush out one particular animal toward Hunter #3.

The plan worked but not until we had to abandon the hunt and reunite with the the home-team.  This turned out to be a good thing because the shot that got off and that hit the animal was not a good one and the tracking was long and the death and 'dressing' of the impala was a bit gruesome. We escaped the gorey part of the hunting 'experience' and Ben has successfully recruited another young boy to his club. For now we are sticking to home-made stick and rubber-tubing 'gear' but I do anticipate the purchase of something 'proper' in our future.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"There's a lot more work to do!"

A photo from the archives. Taken at Seattle Center Feb 2008 with my mom and 'the baby' who is now  7 and is no longer a baby and who today watched the news sitting on the floor with his breakfast on his lap in his little green and blue school uniform asking again about the electoral college....with big brother sitting next to him (with no breakfast and no shirt on and hair STILL unbrushed) calculating when he will be able to cast his OWN vote for president, 2016.  I can tell that Thing 2 is instead thinking of when he can RUN for president.

That was a damn fine speech.  Where did that come from?  Where has THAT guy been hiding? 


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Residential Field Trip

This morning the kids helped with creating this design, made from the target that was used for Thing One's shooting practice during a school field trip in October. We're planning to make it into a shirt for the Y6 class. (shhh, it's a surprise!)  By now we have sent out a batch of photos from the camp (the same ones here) but with my explanations.  I thought it would be good for the boy to tell you about the week himself. (I know it's a bit annoying but I kept the kids name out.)

This is the mud slide which is part of the obstacle course. There were more than a dozen obstacles and the race through the course was timed. We had two teams and the fastest team to get their whole team through the course would win. Our team, the LIONS had 12 kids. For this obstacle, Four Lions were at the top of the mud slide and the rest of the team was at the bottom.  At the bottom of the slide there was a bucket with water and some cups. At the top of the slide was an empty bucket.  The goal was to fill the top bucket using the cups and without moving the buckets.  We had to take a cup, fill it with water go to the slide and wait for a Lion at the top to pull us up.  It was very slippery and we needed the help to get to the top.  Once we were at the top we poured the cup of water into the top bucket and go back down the slide to do it again until the top bucket was full.

R's birthday was during camp. The camp cooks made him a cake and we celebrated after lunch!

A section of the Nkanga River was dammed up and there were fishing ponds below the dam.  We fished with bamboo poles and porcupine quill floats.  We hooked live worms for bait and caught bream and yellow bellied somethings.  There was a contest between teams to see who caught the most, the biggest and the smallest.  I got second place for the smallest.  K and J (above) caught the most fish -- 40 and 36.  Most of us caught around 10.  For the final count I had 7 -- 4 fish went missing!  I don't know where I put them! We turned all the fish over to the staff.

MAKING OUR OWN BREAKFAST!  We did this for two mornings. Our group (we spilt up into 6 cooking groups) had bacon and eggs for breakfast. Another morning we made french toast (sort of). Each group was given some matches and a bit of straw.  We collected small sticks and big sticks and lit the fires ourselves. No problem. Bacon is my favourite thing for breakfast. The french toast....was blleeehhhhCHHhhh.  No one really liked it.  I wasn't in charge of the french toast.  We have a recipe at home that I love but we did not have all these ingredients.

The dissection of the puku was really fun.  One of the camp staff shot a puku and hung it up for our lesson. The camp director started by cutting kind of have to start by cutting the testicles to get a starting point, from there you get a tool that looks like a bottle of the girls put this tool in the hole and pulled down so it cut the skin down to the neck. From there we skinned the whole puku.

This is the puku's heart.  F has his finger in the aorta, which brings blood into the heart.  I did not touch the heart.  We got to see and (if we wanted to) touch the different organs -- stomachs, teeth, brain, eyes, lungs, intestines, bladder, etc.  The eyes have a reflective part at the back - if you shine a light at night into the darkness and if there are animals....the eyes shine back because of this. (You can sometimes even tell what kind of animal is hiding in the darkness from the colour of the reflection). The dissection was COOL!  I had never seen a body's insides.  Some things were a bit gross but was AWESOME!

Shooting was by far my favourite activity.  Using an air rifle, we shot at hyena and wildebeest targets, balloons, and tin cans.  Some kids went out shooting animals and shot common birds like guinea aren't allowed to shoot any old animal you see!

Again!  The obstacle course.  There were 4 boats in the camp: the Jacana (it was the tippiest), Kingfisher, Otter, and Nkwazi; each holds 6.

Another obstacle in the course was the tunnel....

Last in the obstacle course was the rope bridge over the river.  Someone in the other team fell off. The Lions' best time was 22 minutes for the whole course, the Puff Adders best time was 37 minutes.  We beat them by a lot!  The canoeing was the worst for them....they just kept going from bank to bank instead of up river.  Plus they thought it would help to have swimmers in the river but that made them go slow.  The canoeing was our fastest obstacle!

AHHHHHHHH!!!! The zip line ends in the river - SPLASH!

The camp has a cattle and sheep ranch. We watched the sheep and cattle go thru the 'dip'....they get treated for tics when they go thru it and THEY DON'T LIKE IT! The baby cattle needed help with swimming.  There were stairs getting out of the dip.  The camps water crazy dog wanted to go into the dip.  At the ranch we got to hold lambs (the lambs didn't go through the dip).  This is NOT how you are supposed to hold a a baby??

A getting his shot gun aim checked before going out shooting.  His finger is OFF the trigger.

The camp has 8 dogs:  Maple, Sydney (the water crazy one), Ciah and Jet (who looks like mini-Ruby and Ruby), Dipstick, Millie and her pup Rufus (who got a porcupine quill in his eye), and my favourite (above) Bobo.

Tug of War!  The Puff Adders won!

Water, water, everywhere! This was an activity separate from the obstacle course.  The winning team was the team whose hole-y blue water can had the most water in it after 5 minutes.  Each team starts with 5 buckets and 50 corks.  You can trade a bucket in for 25 corks.  The Lion team won - our water was about waist-high after 5 minutes.  We traded in FOUR at at time...when we needed more corks, we traded another bucket.  Not all the corks fit properly so even the corked holes leaked.

 Here is one of the camp staff with Sydney - we flipped their canoe for fun during our free time!  We got to do the zipline, swimming, the rope bridge, and canoeing during free time.

We went net fishing AND pole fishing. We are all fish-kissing for this photo!

(back to mom) this was taken straight off the bus.  All the kids were in various states of disarray but this particular child was FILTHY and totally in a daze; he had food and leaves in his hair and dirt and mud all over his face.  The funny thing is that when he packed his toilet kit, he made a point of packing this travel pack of Pond's Hand and Face wipes. At the last minute, he took it OUT of the toilet kit and put it in the outside pocket of his backpack instead so he could get to it easily.  Apparently...not easily enough!  After the hugs, hellos and welcome backs we had this exchange:

MOM: Did you brush your hair at all this week??!
O:  I tried to.  Once.
MOM:  Really.
O: But I washed it every day!

Seeing how my good friend in college met her future husband on a beach in Fiji because of his hair, I'm  this way I am not sure how to respond to this usually messy and annoying fashion statement of my own child.....(which isn't meant as a statement of any sort).  My friend met her future-hubby while she was visiting me; they got to know eachother while she brushed the knots and unintentional dreds from his sunbleached nest of shoulder-length surfer locks. He was at the end of a round-the world surf trip and needed some tidying up before re-entering society and reuniting with his family in London.  Maybe this is why I have a soft spot for O and his own nest/bed-head?  You never know how it could come in handy.

Anyway, one last insight into camp life, a journal entry from day 4:

"Thursday 11th October 2012:  We were ready for inspection at 6 hrs.  We got 9/10.  We were out of the tent in no time at all.  We started to do exersizes.  Next we had the running race again.  This time I came second.  The water balloon game was so hard.  No team did it. 
AAHHH, BACON! Nice cooked bacon for breakfast.
The anatomy lesson was so cool.  They cut up a puku. 
The canoe race was hard.  We got stuck TWICE!
SHOOTING!  It was more fun this time because we shot balloons. 
At last, lunch.  I was SO HUNGRY.
Again, we did the obstacle course.  The mud slide was the hardest. 
Fishing was my 2nd favourite activity.  We had to trap fish in a net.  "HA HA - Got you, Fishes!"