Friday, December 30, 2011

goodbyes and hellos

i was thinking about the new year. how you say goodbye to one year and hello to another in a second.
and then it occurred to me that we've had quite a few of those this past year.
goodbye to diapers and hello to underpants {and a few accidents}.
goodbye to our house and guelph and hello to living with family in toronto.
goodbye to canada, family and everything familiar and hello to a new life in uganda in a new house with a new team {and a new-to-us car}.
lots of goodbyes.
but lots of hellos as well.
and as it stands now, we've only 18 months left here in uganda.
it seems like a long time, but also i know it'll fly by and that makes me a bit sad.
my friend kelly told me about how she asks God for a word for the next year {an idea she got from her} and i thought about that and i really liked it.
so i've been thinking and praying about it.
i think next year's word will be embrace
webster's dictionary defines embrace as to love or cherish and to take or receive gladly and eagerly or to accept willingly.
i want to embrace life here in uganda.
i want to embrace opportunities as they come up.
i want to embrace my calling as a wife and mother.
to embrace is to accept and not resist.
i'm moving forward from 2011 and embracing 2012, whatever it may hold.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a very merry ugandan christmas

christmas was lovely. low-key. laid back. i loved it all.
i did remark to curtis at one point that it felt like we were just pretending it was christmas. he agreed. but i think we all still enjoyed ourselves.
i woke up thinking of all the things i needed to still do so i quietly slipped out and started prepping some breakfast stuff. curtis was already awake {still recovering from jetlag}. the boys and jamie came out shortly after.
we turned on skype and chatted with my sister and brother-in-law {their late christmas eve} and the boys opened their presents from them while on skype.
then it was time for stockings!


i love stockings. growing up my dad would usually do stockings for us and individually wrap each item in our stocking. my sister and i would close our eyes, reach inside and pull something out. then we'd quickly unwrap it, open our eyes and shout for joy at some random item we'd just received. our stockings often held practical things like socks and underwear and then as i got older sometimes i'd have note paper or kitchen items. then there'd be some gold-chocolate coins and a clementine in the toe of the stocking. and some of my favourite things would be the random doo-dads my dad would find at Lee Valley or the dollar store or these days it seems Pier 1 is the choice store for random {but usually handy} little things. 



i had saved up these little battery-powered fan-thingies the boys got from jamie's mom and i put them in the top of their stockings. well, the boys were completely enamored with them and played with them for a good 15-20 minutes when we convinced them to open up some of the other things inside their stockings.


then we read the last of our advent ornament stories {from this book} which told the story of the manger and Jesus' birth.
then we opened presents and our living room soon filled with wrapping paper and toy pieces. and lots of car noises.


we ate our breakfast and the guys {nick & trevor} went to church. i had to get the turkey ready as i really had no idea what i was doing. i recruited curtis to help me cut off the turkey neck {thank you, curt!} and then we stuffed the turkey and put 'er in the oven. and hoped for the best.
the afternoon was chill, playing with toys and games {and snacks} and relaxing in front of the tv.


i remember christmas day as a kid. checking out what everyone else got, trying out new games, toys or sitting around the table munching on leftover brunch foods. or eating my clementine from my stocking. and babybel cheese! i missed that this year. i remember one christmas one of my brothers got some sort of star wars computer game and all of us huddled around the computer, howling with laughter at some sort of storm trooper video. 
sometimes we'd walk down the street to the ice rink and hop the fence if it wasn't open to go skating for a bit while we waited for dinner to be ready.


we spoke with jamie's family at around 5pm in between me chopping up potatoes and checking on the turkey.
then our friends james and ronald came by in their finest clothes {james wore a really cool traditional ugandan dress/suit thing and ronald was looking very "smart" in a sweater vest} and the turkey was finally ready.
i was terrified it was either going to be underdone and we'd all end up with samonella poisoning or overdone a la National Lampoon's Christmas vacation.


while the skin was a bit crispy, the turkey meat was tender and delicious. i was so proud of myself. my very first turkey - and then jamie carved it for his very first time too! i think we are officially parents.

i didn't take any pictures during the meal or after as i was so exhausted i could bring myself to sit at the table and soak in the good and funny conversation, but i do remember sitting there, smiling. quite pleased with the day and how it had all turned out.
while we have missed our families and some of the more "wintery" things about christmas time in canada {not that it was really wintery in toronto this year...} i've thoroughly enjoyed spending christmas with just my husband and kids {and brother and nick and trevor...but you know what i mean.} it's been so good to just be us. to not have to rush around and do this, go there, get that, and be rushing, rushing, rushing. it's been chill and it's given us a chance to figure out how we as a family are going to celebrate christmas and to solidify those traditions as uniquely ours. 
i know that these traditions won't always be able to be kept and especially as my kids get older and one day will form their own family units, i'll be given another opportunity to start new traditions that fit with my stage in life. but for now? i'm loving where we're at.

hope you had a wonderful christmas, no matter who you were with or where you spent it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

rosemary strawberry scones

i made these scones for christmas morning breakfast.
they.were.amazing.
i am in love with them.
you need to make them. 
the original recipe called for a lemon glaze, but i was too lazy and it turned out these were simply perfect without the glaze {and significantly less sugary!}.
so here ya go. you're welcome.


*slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentis
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup strawberry jam

place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. preheat oven to 375 degrees F. line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary leaves, salt and butter in a food processor {if you are lucky enough to own a food processor - but if you're like me, you can just mixe it all up with your hands} until it is crumbly. transfer to a medium bowl and gradually stir in the heavy cream.
transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. knead gently to bring the dough together, then you can either roll it out and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter or pull of plum-sized chunks and roll and then pat into flat-ish circles.
make an indentation in the middle of each scone with your finger or a small, round spoon and fill it with about a 1/2 tsp of strawberry jam.
bake scones for 15-20 minutes {depending on your oven} or until slightly golden brown around the edges. transfer to a wire cooling rack and then enjoy when they are cool enough to touch.

around 2pm {when the turkey was finally cooking away in the oven} i enjoyed another with a cup of real coffee with my new french press i got for christmas and the starbucks christmas blend some sweet person sent over from canada.
perfection.


my christmas morning breakfast menu:
monkey bread {sweet and delicious!}
cheesy bacon apple bake {savoury and bacon. what more is there to say?}
rosemary strawberry scones
coffee
bananas

Saturday, December 24, 2011

the paradox of christmas

wishing you a very merry christmas.




prayer as a last resort

i know it shouldn't be like that, but sometimes {often} my attitude is exactly that.
prayer is a last resort.
when i can't help in my own strength, i guess i have to pray.
being miles and miles away from family and friends has been challenging me on this front.
when i read emails from close friends telling me of tragedy or illness or hard times i feel frustrated.
frustrated that i can't be there to bring a meal or babysit or take them out for coffee.
why is it that i feel that these things are more valuable than praying for them?
i have access to the Creator of the Universe who loves me and cares for me and my friends in a way i never could, and instead of talking to Him i want to bake some food?
this is so messed up.
i am not doing so great on the whole ephesians 6:18 front.
and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. with this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.
and so God has removed me from being able to help people physically - on my on strength - and is causing me to rely on Him to meet the needs of the people i love. instead of me meeting their needs.

God, 
You are the Wonderful Counselor. You have a better listening ear than I. Your words are infinitely wise.
You are the Mighty God. You are all-powerful. Kings and Rulers are only in positions of power because YOU have put them there. There is no situation that surprises you or catches you off-guard.
You are the Everlasting Father. Like an earthly father comforts a hurt child, you bring comfort to Your hurting and broken children. 
You are the Prince of Peace. You calm the unsettled spirit and restore Hope.
Thank you for sending Jesus. The rescuer. Thank you for sending Him to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and to release the prisoners from darkness.
And thank you that when I am weak, when I am forced to rely on YOU instead of ME, only then am I strong. 
This Christmas would you be all that you promised to be for those who are grieving, hurting, sick and vulnerable? 
Thank you for Jesus.
Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

blue christmas

...actually, more like a green christmas. and i don't mean in a "save the world" kinda way.
i mean with palm trees and sunshine, shorts and t-shirts, flip flops and bathing suits.
it does feel a bit surreal, but i am so happy to be here. so thankful. 
and
my brother flies in tonight {Lord willing he catches his 3rd connecting flight!}and i'm so super excited to see him and have him experience our little ugandan life and christmas and get a great big bear-hug from him!
noah is watching a christmas cartoon and jude is wearing his bunny as a cape shouting "merry christmas!", the stereo is playing folk angel and sufjan stevens and sarah mclaughlin and michael buble and jamie just left on a boda boda to pick up some last minute food items {it's just not worth the insanity to drive our car this close to christmas!} and i'm off to shower and then make lunch and then do some christmas baking with noah.
so a very merry christmas to you from us in uganda!



the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.
isaiah 9:2

good news of great joy!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the one with the christmas baking

it's surprising what you can and can't find here in terms of cooking/baking.
to be honest, i can find most things i need for baking/cooking. but when it comes to specialty baking items, sometimes i have to scour a little harder.
so do ya wanna know what i'm baking up for christmas this year?
of course you do.

i've blogged about my cheese stars that i've made every year since jamie and i were married. i'm still planning on making them this year {i can't bear to break with tradition, even though cheese costs a fortune here} and i did go for the less expensive cheese so hopefully they turn out.

i've also already made gingerbread house-cookies and they turned out quite nicely. the one thing i really miss? my big fridge/freezer and my deep freezer to store baked goods. so we just eat 'em. not such a shabby deal, after all.

i tried a new recipe this year - jam butterballs. they turned out nice enough. not sure if they're a keeper for next year, but yummy.

the amazing 3 pepper spiced cookies i made last year are also on the dock for this week. they were amazing. i'm making them again. even if i haven't found dark chocolate yet.

martha stewart's chewy molasses-spice cookies are also a must. so simple. so delicious.

then i'll probably throw in some of this delicious-looking buckeye bark, chocolate raspberry almond rugelach, lemon shortbread squares and maybe some christmas caramel popcorn.

i made candy cane cookies with the boys. it was fun and also gave me an opportunity to share the gospel with them through the telling of the story of the candy cane. these we also ate right away. they were also gigantic. good times. lots of sugar. that should be our family motto.


yesterday the boys' advent activity was to pick out something from the world vision catalogue to give to a family in need. noah thought we would get to pick out the piglets and chicks ourselves and deliver them like we did the gifts to the babies' home. i think it was slightly less exciting than he had envisioned. but still...

today's activity is to make some hot chocolate and watch the polar express! noah's really excited to watch it. and drink hot chocolate. jude might just be excited for the hot chocolate. but either way...fun!

1 week 'til christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God With Us

about a month ago {maybe more?} i read on twitter about a band called folk angel and so i decided to check them out. 
they had a couple christmas albums.
and they were good!
they would be releasing a new christmas album this month and i knew that when i got my hands on some iTunes credit, i'd be purchasing that album.
and then they tweeted that they were giving away the entire album for free to the first howevermany people used the special code. and i got it for free!
and it.is.incredible.
but i think my favourite song is not actually a song at all. 
it's something called spoken word. it's not rapping. it's sorta like reading a poem. sometimes with music. and it's extremely powerful. 
anyway, the last song on the album is called God With Us and it blew my mind. every time i listen to it, i break. i want to fist pump. i want to learn it all and perform it someday. i want to let it sink down deep and permeate my entire being.
and i've been trying to figure out how to share it with you guys and today i found it. 
please, if you watch anything this christmas season, watch this video. 
this is what it's all about.
jesus. 
coming down from heaven. the rescuer. the saviour. pure and blameless lamb of God.
taking the penalty for our sin.
THIS is the good news. THIS is what makes Christmas so amazing, wonderful, joyful, incredible. THIS is why we celebrate on christmas day.


GOD WITH US
Poem by Isaac Wimberley

The people had read of this rescue that was coming through the bloodline of Abraham
They had seen where Micah proclaimed about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem
Daniel prophesy about the restoration of Jerusalem
Isaiah’s cry about the Son of God coming to them
So for them—it was anticipation
This groaning was growing, generation after generation
Knowing He was holy, no matter what the situation
But they longed for Him
They yearned for Him
They waited for Him on the edge of their seat
On the edge of where excitement and containment meet
They waited
Like a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waited
Like a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited
And in their waiting, they had hope
Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen
To a God who had promised a King
A King who would reign over the enemy
Over Satan’s tyranny
They waited
So it was
Centuries of expectations, with various combinations of differing schools of thought
Some people expecting a political king who would rise to the throne through the wars that he fought
While others expecting a priest who would restore peace through the penetration of the Pharisee’s fa├žade
Yet a baby—100% human, 100% God
So the Word became flesh and was here to dwell among us
In His fullness, grace upon grace, Jesus
Through Him and for Him, all things were created
And in Him all things are sustained
God had made Himself known for the glory of His name
And this child would one day rise as King
But it would not be by the sword or an insurgent regime
It would be by His life
A life that would revolutionize everything the world knew
He would endure temptation and persecution, all while staying true
Humbly healing the broken, the sick and hurting too
Ministering reconciliation, turning the old to new
A life that would be the very definition of what life really costs
Saying—if you desire life, then your current one must be lost
And He would portray that with His own life as His Father would pour out and exhaust
And Jesus would be obedient to the point of death, even death upon the cross
So just 33 years after the day that He laid swaddled in the hay
He hung on a tree suffocating, dying in our place
Absorbing wrath that is rightly ours, but we could never bear the weight
So He took that punishment and he put it in the grave
And He died
And when I say that He died, what I mean is that He died
No breath, noheartbeat, no sign of life
God is a God of justice, and the penalty for our sin equals death
That’s what Christ did on that cross
Then… On the third day, in accordance with scriptures, He was raised from the grave
And when I say that He was raised, what I mean is that He was raised
Lungs breathing, heart pumping, blood pulsing through His veins
The things that He promised were true
He is the risen Son of God, offering life to me and you
Turning our mourning into dancing
Our weeping into laughing
Our sadness into joy
By His mercy, we are called His own
By His grace, we will never be left alone
By His love, He is preparing our home
By His blood, we can sing before His throne
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
So now we, as His bride, are the ones waiting
Like the saints that came before, we’re anticipating
He has shown us that this world is fading
And He has caused our desire to be for Him
So church, stay ready
Keep your heart focused and your eyes steady
Worship Him freely, never forgetting
His great love for you
Immanuel, God with us

Friday, December 16, 2011

just another friday morning

so, we have this mouse problem in our house.
we've tried poison but that gives me the heebie jeebies what with us having young kids and all.
we've tried traps. no dice. these african mice are smart, i tell ya.
and finally our friend james set up these little piles of bait (i have no idea what's in them, except that he crushes up some drug that totally makes the mice chill and immobile. yeah, so now i'm not sure if that's any better than poison.) and this morning jude walked into the dining room and went straight for the corner of the room and said,

Lookit Mom! Lookit!

and i thought he was pointing to the open cupboard doors.
but he wasn't.
it was this teeny tiny mouse.
with wide open, beady, little eyes.
just sitting there.
totally drugged up.
i called my hero {that'd be the hubs} to come and dispose of it.
he did.
so who knows if there are any more mice, but thank God for jude noticing it. i would NEVER have noticed it sitting in that corner.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

lesson {re}learned

i thought i had blogged about it before but i checked. i haven't.
so we took family pictures for our christmas card back in october.
for the most part, they were a massive fail.
i mean, in the end i did put together a decent christmas card {reveal to come soon!} but i did have to use multiple pictures due to...well...this:


or this:


or this:


and get a look at this fantastic shot:

i believe this picture really does say a thousand words. this one's going down in the family yearbook for sure.

the aftermath/bribing with the promise of lollipops if we got smiles:


oh family pictures. the lesson {re}learned? lower your expectations.


jude's face says what mine wanted to at the end of this photo sesh.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

two weeks

i saved the m&ms my mom sent me from canada especially for this.


not gonna lie, it was total sugar overload. but so much fun!
both the boys decided to "save the rest of theirs for tomorrow" after picking off 90% of the candies after dinner tonight.



we don't have snow to go sledding on. {or shovel.}
we don't need down-filled winter coats or cozy ugg-boots.
in fact, it would seem that practically over night we've entered the dry/hot season.
i didn't expect it to happen so quickly!

we've stayed faithful to doing our weekly family advent devotional, but most weeks {every week} it looks like {from all outward appearances} a bust. this morning when we did this week's devotional, noah ended up in a timeout for sassing and being rude. there were tears. and screaming. and anger.
we are not a perfect family.
we never will be.
but our job as parents is to teach and instruct our children and tell them of God's love for them. for us.
so we keep on keepin' on.
and we trust in His word.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

immanuel


we've been opening our advent envelopes and have done things like going on a nile cruise, made paper snowflakes, done other crafts, read the story of Jesus' birth by candlelight, but yesterday our activity was to go and buy some things for the sanyu babies home and today's activity was to go and deliver them.
so this afternoon {after we went to a christmas party at kelly's house}we went back to our side of town and visited the sanyu babies home to complete our advent activity for the day; dropping off some diapers, wipes, rice, formula and other needs they had.
remember my 1/2 birthday party that my amazing friends threw for me back in april? well, half of the money that was given to me was to go toward a charity/cause of my choice. this is one of the things my money went to!


i was excited to involve the boys and give them this chance to help other kids.
i'm not sure what i was expecting to see, but for some reason i was not expecting to see all 49 children running around without shoes on. i was not expecting to see one of the little toddlers with completely soaked pants {from pee}. i was not expecting to see one of the staff crying as she said good-bye to a newly adopted baby {we had just arrived at the end of their farewell party}. i was not expecting to be offered to share a lollipop with one of the kids.
i believe these children are given what the staff can give them {be it love/attention/physical needs} and that it is one of the better run and maintained orphanages in kampala, but still my heart aches.
i watched my children walk into the playground area in their crocs and sandals with fresh diapers and clean clothes on, still smelling like the shampoo from the night before. they played on the swings and slide with the other kids, oblivious to the fact that at the end of the day, these children would likely sleep in a room with a lot of other children with no parent at the end of the hall to come in and lie down with them when they wake up during the night. when jude fell off the swing he knew he had me to comfort him. and even though he screamed as we left {he wanted to stay longer and play}, i thought of all the other children who had no choice but to stay there.
we will definitely go back to sanyu many times over the next year and a half that we are here. i will hold children and give them love and attention.

 and my heart will still ache when i leave.

tonight i prayed with the boys that God would send more parents to sanyu and all the other orphanages in uganda and the world to bring home their babies {no matter if they're 9 months old or 9 years old} and bring them into a new family just like God brought us into His family.
it all comes back to Jesus.
and that is what christmas is all about.
i was adopted into God's family because Jesus gave up everything to become a baby and be the rescuer of mankind.
immanuel. God with us.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cappuccino Muffins

is it just me or does anyone else consistently forget how to spell "cappuccino"?
anyway, my friend kelly gave me this recipe and oh! they are delicious!
they have all kinds of different flavours of milk here in uganda - banana, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and...coffee! so of course when i saw this coffee-flavoured milk i had to buy it. whether i would drink it as is, or make something with it, i did not know, but somehow, i would ingest said coffee milk.
so {after the tail end of my migraine faded into oblivion} i made the muffins this afternoon with noah.
the recipe doesn't call for coffee-flavoured milk, but i used it and they.were.amazing.


cappuccino muffins

combine
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar {i know. it's a lot. but dang, these are good.}
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp instant coffee {every baker should have a small tin of instant coffee for baking needs. just a personal opinion.}
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

in a separate bowl combine
1 cup {coffee flavoured} milk
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

you can even add 3/4 cup chocolate chips for an extra special treat {sadly, chocolate chips do not exist in uganda.}

combine the dry and wet ingredients. stir until just combined.
bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes in greased or paper-lined tins.
makes 18 muffins exactly.

whatever you do, do not drink a cup of tea with these muffins. coffee, milk , water or even juice, but not tea. it is forbidden.


you're welcome.

Monday, December 5, 2011

a great Christmas video


Why Do We Call It Christmas?

so i found the perfect christmas video.

have you heard of this incredible program called Jelly Telly? it's all kinds of awesome.
so they have a christmas video {you can watch trailers for it here.} and i bought it and then downloaded it {over the course of many hours overnight - yep. our internet is slow-ish.}. we watched it this morning after working on paper snowflakes {one of our advent envelope activities} and building a fort in the living room.
anyway, this video is great. it is entertaining for the littles who may be on the young side to understand everything in the video, but it also explains everything from why we call it "christmas" to christmas trees to st. nicholas and how they all point to the birth of Jesus.
most importantly, the gospel is shared clearly. i love it.
it is exactly what i was looking for.
noah did throw an incredibly large tantrum after it was over when i said he couldn't watch it again {right away}, but i'm taking that as a sign that he liked it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

jinja

we've been in jinja since thursday on a little getaway with our friend & coworker archie, who's joined us from canada.
jinja is located on the nile river and some of the places we've been to are absolutely gorgeous.


we went on a sunset cruise of the nile and we were the only ones on it! there were snacks a-plenty and even a barbecue on board for us all to enjoy to some eclectic tunes {kid rock, bob marley, coldplay, garth brooks...yeah. it was epic.}. 
we sat back and enjoyed the ride.
and then jude threw his nalgene bottle into the nile.


awesome.
and our captain even turned around and fished it out of the water!


we've done lots of swimming and watched some christmas cartoons. we've eaten some yummy food {tonight we tried banana fritters - so good.} and there have been been some kids for the boys to play with here.
i am looking forward to getting back "home" and wonder at this homebody i've become.
homebody and yet...traveller still. it's interesting.

we've been reading our christmas story books and opening our advent envelopes {although today's was "Do a craft with Mom." and that was a bit of a fail as i didn't properly read the instructions. oh well.} and can't wait to get back to our house to go through all the goodies that archie brought from home for us.
so very thankful.


oh! also, our boys have slept in the same bed for the last couple nights here. the nights have not been super smooth, but they could have been worse. needless to say, both boys took 2+ hour naps today.
it's so good for all of us to continue to learn to be flexible. i'm just thankful they are used to sharing a room {which i 100% recommend}. 

happy saturday!
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