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Monday, March 31, 2014

March in Pictures

Dear friends,

I hope you are all doing well. I have had a slow March in many ways compared to the norm. I've needed to get caught up on my rest this month.

But alas it is that time of year when major bills must be paid and taxes must be prepared so that wakes me up a bit, lol.

This month I tried a few new bread, soup and banana bread recipes. I had good success.

It has been raining a lot here and still a bit chilly. But the sunshine is starting to return at long last.

These mosaics give a hint of the month of March around these parts.  I hope you like them.  

We had a lot of rain this month and snow on the mountains but the sunshine is returning.

 Have a wonderful week.

By the way I invite you to read my sidebar "Go Fund Me" project to help Elvis in Kenya. Would you keep him in prayer? Thanks so much!

Joining in with

My World Tuesday

 Mosaic Monday


this week.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cross in the Night Sky



On a recent walk to the local library I captured these photos of a church cross.

These were the best night photos I could capture on a cell phone. One day I might have a good camera to capture the illuminated cross at night much better. For now these will have to do.
The cross reminds me of the price God paid for my soul. It also reminds me of the two greatest commandments set out in Matthew 22: 37-40

37 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These form the basis of my love for helping people in general and my love for missions in Africa.
It explains why I help people like Elvis who is hoping to finish medical studies in Kenya this summer. There has been a hiccup in his studies due to recent striking and rioting at universities in Kenya but with God it may still be possible to finish university. It has been a long road for Elvis.

Although I do help Elvis and write about him and others in Africa, from time to time on my blog, sometimes others think the ministry is for me alone.  The good news is that anyone can help if they would like to help.

Please know the Kenyan mission is for anyone and everyone.  That is, anyone that wants to help.

If you feel so inclined please contact me and I can let you know how to send funds to Kenya. If you don't want to help or cannot help, that is fine too. I'm not here to try and pressure anyone. The decision is yours alone. If you are a believer, you can always pray. That would be awesome.

I am here to help raise awareness for those that wish to help on the mission field to Kenya. Once trained Elvis will have a much better opportunity to help himself and his family as well as bring health and healing to those who need medical care.


If you wish to learn more, please read about Elvis at the sidebar (top right of my blog).

Have a wonderful weekend.

Skywatch Friday

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Frugal Shopping - What Would You Buy ?

What would you buy if you had a "free" money to spend at a pharmacy to the tune of $60 (Canadian, 582 SA Rand, $58 Australian, 32 pounds sterling, 38 euros, $53 American dollars, 124 Brazilian Reals)?



I shop at a pharmacy where you get points for buying certain items. The points accumulate each time you shop and sometimes the store promotes specific items giving you more points to get to certain spend levels more quickly. This money is like "free money" (of course the store is not losing money but they ensure some of their profits goes to these rewards programs to build customer loyalty).  As a consumer, this kind of thing only works like free money if you are careful not to purchase things you don't need just to get points. Sometimes you get lucky and are able to get 20x the points on something you really need. This is the only way to build up points quickly.  Otherwise it can take some time.

I don't like my point levels to get too high because then I have a hard time spending it all at once.  I also would have a hard time carrying my purchases home from the pharmacy which is about a 10 minutes walk away.  I've learned that it doesn't "pay" to spend only part of your points.  You lose out on the full value when you do that.

Since it is close to the end of the month and I intend to spend my all my points and stock up on things I don't usually buy unless I'm spending point dollars.

I looked at the sales flyer and made a list. I came up with the following items

  • ketchup (used mainly in barbeque sauces for marinating meats).
  • creamo (sometimes used in my coffee or cereal though I use it less and less due to fat content).
  • bacon  (again, something I seldom buy but stock up on when the price is right. It's good for breakfast now and with eggs or waffles. It reminds me of holidays with the family or university days when I had an English breakfast once a week on weekends.
  • eggs (I seldom eat eggs for breakfast but use them in baking).
  • bags of frozen fruit (I use these in smoothies mixed with greens and in muffins).
  • butter (I use butter in baking and on the rare occasions I eat toast).
  • coffee (I stock up on cans of coffee when it is on sale. I always have enough. When the price gets too high and sales are no longer good I've decided I will stop drinking coffee).
  • plastic cling wrap (It is used for so many things).
  • dish soap (I have a dishwasher but also do a lot of dishes by hand).
  • dry cereal (sometimes I like to have a few boxes of cereal on hand for when I don't want porridge).
  • ice cream (An item I've thankfully cut down on. A treat now and then is okay).

It is clear that there is very little on this list that you would associate with a pharmacy. I don't actually need paper products, make up, over the counter medicines or much in the way of household cleaning products right now. In the end I eliminated the creamo and bought some toothpaste and household cleanser for my bathtub. I also spent a few extra dollars and purchased a very large bottle of shampoo. It was on sale and I had a dollar off coupon. This will last me about 2 years as I use so little at a time.

This is my receipt after the shop. I spent $5.27 of my own funds & saved an additional $45. and change off the original sticker price plus my $60. "free" money for a total of $145.27 savings.


In addition to all the things you might associate with a pharmacy in North America, the pharmacy also carries lots of snack foods, frozen fish and convenience foods, pops, breads, pastas, spices, specialty food items, sauces and paper products (toilet paper, tissue paper, paper towels).  I am allowed to spend my points dollars on any of these items but I cannot spend them on medications which I do not need at the moment in any case.

Saving funds this way really helps me stretch my dollars so I can send funds to my sponsored children through Compassion International and help people like medical student Elvis.  I also try to help Jonah in Kenya who still assists elders and others with medical costs, food, etc.

Kenyan women I was able to bless one Christmas.

 Elvis will be graduating in August and is getting close to the finish line. We have one more semester to go.

I would appreciate your prayers for both of these men.  
If you feel able to help financially I'd be happy to hear from you.
I hope to say a little more about Elvis next time since I really need to try and help him finish the year


What would you spend on if you had a free $60.00 (sixty dollars)?

I'm looking forward to reading your replies.
Have a wonderful rest of your weekend. x




Weekend Bake: Banana Loaf

Hi friends,

There are certain recipes I continue to search for and refine. One of them is Banana Bread. For something so seemingly simple, I still haven't found a Banana Bread recipe I really like.
Most of them seem to be too moist. I want a dense loaf that is more like a bread but with banana taste.  I don't want a loaf so moist that it is like pudding.  I also don't like big chunks of banana in my loaf though I do like to see the seeds. I'm also looking for a recipe that doesn't use such a lot of sugar and oil.

I tried this recipe tonight.




BANANA BREAD
Ingredients

¼ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream (I use Greek style plain yogurt instead)
1 cup mashed fully ripe bananas (I used 2 bananas because that is all I had today)
2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (I meant to add the walnuts but forgot)

Instructions

HEAT oven to 350ºF.
BEAT butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until blended. Add eggs and sour cream; mix well. Add bananas and combined dry ingredients; mix just until moistened. Stir in nuts.
POUR into greased and floured 9x5-inch loaf pan.
BAKE 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 min.; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely before slicing. Refrigerate leftovers. 

When I transferred the batter to the loaf pan I was immediately pleased.  The batter is much thicker than the previous recipes I've used. However I could tell it was also going to be very dense.  I also could have used slightly more banana in the mix but I only had 2.  It was enough for a pleasant banana flavour.

Sorry for the shadow on the banana loaf.  It was late and the lighting was poor.

Taste test:  Good but rather rubbery. I over mixed the batter.  You are only supposed to mix until moistened not beat it together well. It was getting late and I wasn't paying good attention  I will be more careful next time.  I used my tin loaf pans rather than the silicone pans. I find silicon bread pans are terrific for bread but give my muffins and quick breads a "jelly like" consistency at the bottom. Good for certain types of muffins like strawberry or raspberry but not so good for things like banana bread, IMHO.

I like this recipe much better than the other recipes I've tried so far. I'm going to enjoy tonight with a cup of rooibos tea before bed.

In weather news, we've been having a lot of high winds.  It is helping to chase away the clouds and bring out blue skies and sunshine for several hours a day though there is still an unseasonal chill in the air.  Several of my friends have been battling with the flu bug or bronchitis. I myself have not been feeling that great for about a week but have managed to thwart getting a bug. I am trying to get more rest and drink plenty of fluids.

 I hope your weather is cooperating wherever you are and that you have a wonderful weekend. Hugs. xx


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Not Quite Spring; Soups Make Me Sing!

It's trying hard to be Spring here but it isn't quite coming together yet. Every other day it is raining heavily, alternating with days that are very gray and then windy and sunny.  I see some of the trees are blossoming. That means the weather has warmed up quite a bit though at night it is still quite chilly.


The best thing for me when the weather is so unsettled is to have home baked bread and made from scratch soups.  This week I've had more home made soups than usual.

Sunday I made hamburger (minced meat) soup.  I usually make it like my mom used to make it but from time to time, I like to mix it up.  For the first time I made it with eggplant, butternut squash and chickpeas all added to the usual base of cooked hamburger pieces, celery, onion, carrots and seasonings. It was quite yummy.

Monday I skipped the soup making because I went to my cooking session where we made sushi with celery, avocado and mango. It was quite good but I confess I will need a lot more practise with the rolling aspect. We also had Teriyaki Drumsticks which were quite tasty.

Tuesday I made potato leek soup. I've made this before in case you'd like the recipe.  Yesterday I decided I wanted to eat it with all the vegetables intact, rather than all blended together. Perfect for an overcast day.


Today is Wednesday and we've had all kinds of interesting weather.  When I awoke there was blanket of cloud over the whole sky.  Then the wind came up and blew away the cloud cover. I was able to see that there is fresh snow (again) on the mountain tops.  Right now there is still some blue sky but it is quite windy.

Bubbling away on the stove top right now is some fresh tomato soup. It is my first time making it. It smells delicious and I plan to have it with some home made bread.

Here is a quick recipe for the soup.

Fresh out of the blender and piping hot!


Tomato Soup

Ingredients

- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, choppped
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic to taste
- 6-8 large tomatos
- 6 cups of chicken stock (or use buillion cubes with appropriate amount of water).
- a bit of oil

Method:

Saute the onions, celery, carrot and garlic together in a bit of oil in a large saucepan.
Once these are a bit softened (10 minutes or so) add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatos start to break down. Add the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer together another 10-15 minutes.

If you want to eat the soup without blending it smooth, take care to chop your vegetables up nicely and uniformly. I'm blending my soup today.

As always, when you blend the soup in a blender be very careful to place a tea towel over the blender top and hold it down so it doesn't splash out and burn you once you turn the blender on.

Before serving garnish with some fresh cilantro. Makes 2 gigantic servings or 4 med-large servings.

Eat and enjoy.

Frugal Notes:  Some people make tomato soup with a combination of canned tomatos and fresh tomatoes.  I do use canned tomatos but given they are quite expensive now I save them for things like chili or soups I make with hamburger.  In order to save money on making vegetable soups, I purchase the vegetables at a store where they only sell produce. The prices are usually much cheaper than the supermarket.  I often buy bags of vegetables that are starting to go bad. I get them at a produce store down the street. The nice thing about it is even if there is one vegetable that has gone bad, the rest are usually good. Also the store peels them and cuts out the bad parts before they put them in a bag for $1.00.  These are great for making soups but you have to use them up right away,

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hello Tuesday!

The church steeple has been under construction for a very long time; at least a year or more. They moved the steeple from one corner to the other, raised it by several feet and added light to the cross so that it shines in the night.



The cross has not been lit up all week and I was wondering why.
Perhaps it just needed some bulbs or something.


Whatever the case, it is illuminated once again.

I like looking at the cross light up against the night sky.  I also like seeing the lights on the ski slopes.


After what seems like a very long and cold winter, the sun has returned and warmer temperatures are here.
 Spring is definitely in the air this week.

~~~~~~~

I've been keeping busy assessing my mother's transition to the new care home and providing feedback to the facility.  This will be an annual process and our one big opportunity to make important changes if needed so I've been stressed about making sure I give the right messages without seeming like we are complaining.  Today was the day for giving informal feedback and the official meeting will be in another few weeks. The official record becomes a government record so I guess they don't want any surprises.  The feedback seemed well received and I am happy with the outcomes.

Mom is much happier where she is now.  Though of course there is never perfection, things are definitely a lot better than where she used to be.  The care is much better and more consistent. What a relief!

I've also been identifying some of mom's new needs. She is in a smaller space and believe it or not the needs she has are greater as we try to figure out ways to ensure she has access to key things. Other than that I've been busy making her appointments for personal grooming and adapting some of her clothing.

~~~~~~~

On the home front, I'm finally feeling just a wee bit better after weeks of feeling oh so tired. I've been doing a bit of cooking, a lot of laundry, a little reading and a lot of errands. I've also had another appointment with the foot care nurse over the ingrown nails. It will likely take another few months before we conclude whether the nails are going to grow properly or not. I sure hope they do.
 
Outside, it is time for the garden debris to be cleared away.  This is my least favourite job of all time but it must be done.

Inside, it is also time to do some Spring decluttering.

I read a few interesting books in case you are interested.

The Jane Austen Marriage Manual
(A thrift store find).


In Kim Izzo's novel, Kate loses her job and her grandmother at the same time. On top of that she loses the family home due to her mother's gambling debts. It sets her on a course to find a rich husband using the methodology of her favourite author, Jane Austen. This book is light reading and while it isn't the best book in the world, it certainly isn't the worst. I found it a nice distraction from the deeper cares of the week. It isn't too heavy to carry around when you are out and about in case you have time to read when you are running errands.

The other book I read is by an African author who now lives and works as a professor at the University of Kent in the UK.

Paradise
(Another thrift store find).

Paradise is a tale about 12 year old Yusuf, who is sold into slavery in repayment of his father's debt. It is difficult to know the location of the story as it is never made clear.  It might be Tanzania but it could also be Kenya as there are numerous references to Kenyan coastal cities. This poignant story follows the young Yusuf over a period of about 6 years through his various adventures and the twists and turns in his life. It is an interesting look into pre-colonial Africa.

I am now reading a few different books.

The Signature of All Things
I borrowed this book from the library.

and
Radiance of Tomorrow
This one is for my personal library.
Radiance of Tomorrow is the second book by Ishmael Beah.  Ishmael is a young man who overcame the nightmare of being a child soldier in Sierra Leone. He now lives in the USA and is an author.  He also does work with the United Nations to raise the awareness of the plight of child soldiers. 

~~~~~~~

I know the snow is still falling in central Canada and other parts of North America.

I hope there will be relief for you soon.



Our World Tuesday Graphic

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Easy Loaf of Bread


I used this bread recipe for the first time today. The recipe makes only 1 loaf of bread. I decided to make two loaves but mixed them up separately.  I don't want to stress my electric mixer too much.  My mixer handles about 5 cups of flour.


The loaf on the right was mixed first so has been rising longer.

One loaf of bread will be for me and the other loaf for a friend I will be visiting on Tuesday.   This recipe is quite good so am going to make another loaf or two for an elderly friend and her neighbour soon.  I've been promising her that I will do that.

I've been looking for a great bread recipe for a long time and have tried many recipes.  I am usually disappointed by the size of the loaves. I like a more substantial loaf and a good, crusty top as well as a moist interior.  This one delivered on all the above.  The finished loaf has quite a strong taste of yeast. I may experiment with the amount of yeast for the next loaves.  After the loaves cooled I sliced them with my meat slicer and wrapped them in cellophane and tin foil before putting one in a big plastic bag for my friend.
The loaves came out nicely.  This time the first loaf I mixed is on the left.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately. I used 2 cups white flour and 1 cup whole wheat.

Preparation:

  1. Pour the lukewarm water into a large bowl and add the yeast while stirring. Add the sugar, salt, shortening and milk. Stir well.
  2. Add 2 cups of flour and stir until dough is sticky. I mixed mine in an electric mixing bowl until it was well formed, then transferred it to the counter. Sprinkle your counter top with flour before you transfer the ball of dough.  If you need to you can add a few spoonfuls of flour to your dough in the bowl until you get a good consistency before turning it onto the counter.
  3. Knead the flour until it is soft and yet firm. You don't want it too sticky. It should hold together well.
  4. Once you have a good ball of dough, oil it with a few drops of oil and shape it.  Place it into a bowl, cover it and keep it in a warm place for 1 hour to rise.  I placed mine in the oven with the oven light turned on for a bit of warmth. Don't accidentally turn on the temperature if you decide to put your dough in the oven too.
  5. After one hour, punch the dough down and turn it onto a floured counter to knead. Then form it into a loaf for your loaf pan.  Lightly oil the loaf pan and put your dough in the pan to rise for another 30 minutes.
  6. Bake loaf in a preheated oven at 375 F for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  If you like you can make a few slashes at the top of your loaf for decorative effect. Once the loaf is baked I like to brush the top with a bit of butter. 
Note:  You will see that the loaf I mixed first is significantly larger than the second loaf.  I think this is for two reasons:  I let it rise longer and I also added about half a cup more flour. This is called Easy Bread because you just mix your wet ingredients all together and omit the step of letting the yeast "proof" and then you add the flour. However, I always like to prepare my yeast before I mix it with the other ingredients.  I started by adding the yeast to the water and sugar and letting it sit in a covered bowl for 10 minutes. Once it was all "foamy" I added all the other ingredients as per the recipe.  I meant to slash my dough but forgot at the last moment since I was also trying to watch the Oscar ceremonies and throw together some quick hamburger soup for dinner. Kudos to Lupita Nyong'o from Kenya via Mexico, for her stupendous win as supporting actress.
A quick hamburger soup always hits the spot when I am hungry.

African Music & Happenings