Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adoption Update: Not what we'd hoped for

I have not written much about our adoption situation since we returned from Ethiopia in July.  Here's a run down of what has happened over the last few months:
  1. Our agency did investigations on two of the children that we had been able to meet while we were in Ethiopia. 
  2. After receiving the results of the investigations, we accepted a referral for one of the children, an eight mo. old girl.
  3. We had to re-do our dossier. Our first one was about to expire. (Dossiers are good for 2 yrs in Ethiopia.) This took about 6 weeks.
  4. We found out in early September that we had been assigned a court date of Nov. 15th.  In early October, we booked our flights.
  5. We told our parents about our travel plans on 10/30, but those plans were going to unravel 5 days later.
  6. Last Friday while I was at work, James called me and said our social worker wanted to have a conference call with us.  I was tied up and could not talk, so I asked James to talk with her. I expected that the news would not be good, and feared that it had something to do with the birthmom's court appearance, which had taken place earlier that day.
  7. I called James when I was able to, and my fears were correct. The birthmom testified that she wished to parent the child who had been referred to us. Our fourth failed referral.
  8. Yesterday we informed our agency that we want to withdraw from the Ethiopia program. We are considering pursuing domestic adoption, but we have not made any firm decisions in that regard yet.
James and I have been put through an emotional hell this past year. I did not want to go to church on Sunday. It was Orphan Sunday, and I was not up to hearing people sing the praises of adoption. So, we stayed home. I feel like God has been playing a game with us. There have been so many things that have happened along the way that made us feel encouraged to adopt from Ethiopia. Such us:
  • Learning that James and my birthdays both fall on Ethiopian holidays.
  • Our original dossier got hung up at our agency's office and was sent to Ethiopia about a month later than it should have been sent. It was sent on March 5, 2010 - which was the birthdate of the first baby who was referred to us. (She passed away less than three months after we received the referral for her.)
  • Learning that we have a neighbor who does works in Ethiopia and travels there once or twice a year.
I don't know why God put the desire to adopt from Ethiopia in our heart if He knew that He had no plans to fulfill that desire. All I can say about that are that His ways are not our ways.

We learned several things along the way about the adoption process that I wish we'd known before we got heavily involved with the program:
  •  Most of the children available for adoption are not orphans in the way that we think. Most of them have one birth parent living. I know this is not true of every child, but it is true of most. All four children who were referred to us had a living mother, and I know of many families who have been able to meet their child's birthparent while they were in Ethiopia.
  • The birthparent has the right to claim custody of the child up until their appearance in court in Addis.  This is not just a formality, and the judge will honor in the birthparent's wish to parent. The birthparent's court date is typically 1-2 weeks before the adoptive families' court date, so your travel/adoption plans may get thrown out the window a week before you were planning on leaving for court.
  • There is probably no way to know your child's HIV status for sure if they are under the age of 18 months. Yes, the little babies will be tested for HIV, but the tests that are commonly used in Ethiopia for HIV are not 100% accurate in children under the age of 18 months.
  • Children under the age of two year will not be screened for TB. TB is one of the most common causes of death in Ethiopia, and I was baffled to learn that kids under the age of two will not be screened for it. They will be given a chest x-ray, if they exhibit signs of respiratory illness, but in our experience TB is not accurately diagnosed. The first child we were referred died from TB, after she had been treated for pneumonia for several weeks. 
  • Ethiopia does not have a good system in place to keep track of records regarding previous relinquishments by families. Let's say that a mom relinquishes a child for adoption and that child is adopted by a family in the US. Same mom gets pregnant a year later and wants to relinquish that child as well. The family in the US who has the first child has to be contacted to given the option to adopt the new sibling.  This is how we lost our third referral.
 I don't know if we would have changed our minds about adopting from Ethiopia had we known all those things, but it still would have been nice to know these things before we had spent over a year in the program.

Thank you for your prayers, condolences, and encouragement. We are not sure what our next steps will be at this time. We ask that you give us the same courtesy that you'd give someone who had four miscarriages in less than a year's time. We are not up for a lot of questions about adoption/children right now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Google Voice: FAIL

Guess what this message was about:

Hey staff. This is bag. It's Monday afternoon. I wanna know if it's about 530 6 o'clock. But anyway, if you don't need to call me back tonight to Kathy automatic kind of we could set the Spencer's Isaac starting out the on the clock okay about automatic interest not house up to centers are so I just never the. Why so I'd appreciate it if you can work. I know I have. If you have the automatic at. If you lock and if you don't like a block and a half and we'll get some pretty soon. Just put on the networks them a call me when you can. Love you. Bye bye.

That was someone wanting to know what kind of automatic soap dispensers we use.  Google didn't catch the word "soap" even one time, and it was on the voice message several times.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Google Voice: FAIL

Another incoherent transcription from Google Voice:

Hey Stephanie, Indiana, which, I was calling. I know that totally last minute, but we decided that we might have people over. Not my we're having people over. This West card in this afternoon at 3 And I know that your E getting all but I want to tell you also that Madeline we're gonna be there so I thought I might. Sister, I'm for you guys come to you. So, anyway, give me a text or give me a call. Would love to have you guys over, talk to you later. Bye. 

So, what was this missed call about? It was an invitation to go to someone's house and watch the Cardinal's game on TV.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Daisy turned 10 this year.

In August, we celebrated 9 years with our Daisy.  She was about a year old when we brought her home from the Human Society, so we think she is about 10 years old.  She given us a few worries this year, which culminated in her having a liver biopsy early this summer.  Her liver enzymes had been running high for over a year, and we'd done a lot of testing on her.  I wrote about what tests we'd had done and finding out what she did not have here: What's ailing Daisy?

After her liver biopsy, we found out that she has a benign condition called Vacuolar Hepatopathy.  I had never heard of the disorder before.  Basically her liver cells are getting clogged up with fat and metabolic wastes. She's taking two medications for it. One is a liquid that we can squirt on her food and the other is a chewable tablet that she has to be coaxed into taking.  We are really thankful that she doesn't have a life-threatening condition. She's not had any symptoms of illness.

From her behavior, it is hard to believe that she is 10. She is still very active, and she loves to play with Lily. I still catch her dragging Lily across the floor by her tail.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Google Voice: FAIL

 Here's another jumbled up message that was transcribed by Google Voice:

HI This is a call. Call when that we surely miss phone call, from this offer and just want to see if I can answer any questions, you can call our toll free number back. At (888) ***-****. Again, this is better. Call on the the poll college, your college at (888) ***-**** sorry that we missed your call. Looking forward to speaking to you soon and have a great day. 

 I edited the call-back number that was left.  I had to listen to the voice mail to find out what this was about. I was trying to call a culinary school to order a gift-certificate for his birthday. No one aanswered when I called, and that was the message that I got when they tried to call me back.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

I found a recipe for pulled pork on www.food.com and modified it a bit. It came out really well. We had this for dinner last night.

  • 5 lbs pork butt or shoulder
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 and 1/4 cup ginger ale
  • 1/2 bottle of liquid smoke
  • 18 oz of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • Slice one of the onions and place in crock pot.  Put the pork in the crock pot on top of the onion.
  • Slice the other onion and place it on top of the pork.  Pour in the ginger ale and liquid smoke. Cover and cook on LOW for about 9 hours.
  • Remove the meat, strain and save the onions. Discard all of the liquid. Using two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat or bones.
  • Place the shredded meat back in the crock pot and stir in the barbecue sauce. Cook on HIGH for 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve buns or rolls.
We had a lot of leftover meat, so I'm using some of them for dinner tomorrow. We are going to have build-your-own-burritos with it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Day at Yezelalem Minch

This post is a little overdue, but I wanted to share a few more pictures of our trip to Ethiopia.  Our last day there, we visited a ministry called Yezelalem Minch. (YM) It is an organization that facilitates child sponsorships, provides job skill training for widows and helps families with nutritional support.  On Saturdays, they have a feeding program where children and adults who are part of their ministry can receive a free, wholesome meal. Before the meal was served, James and I had some gifts to deliver to a couple of kids that are sponsored by friends of ours.

The meal is served by widows, and this is an source of income for them. They are paid by YM to prepare and serve the food.

The kids loved attention and wanted us to play with them.

I had some candy that I had brought to pass out to the kids. They all lined up after their meal for candy. This was about like starting a riot. The adults who were supervising the chaos had little sticks that they used to keep the kids in line.
All the kids wanted to see their photo after we took it. This was fun.  One perk of digital photography!
This is a wonderful organization that is changing the lives of the children and adults in it's care.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Better Pizza

Several days ago, our local news featured a pizzeria called A Better Pizza. It is close to our house, so we decided to check it out.  The main thing they advertise is their stuffed Chicago style pizza, so that is what we ordered.  The pizza was great, but that is about the only positive thing that I have to say about the experience.

A slice of our stuffed pizza
 The first thing that put me off was the owner's wife sitting at a table trying to peddle her jewelry.  It was one of those things that you host a party at your house and the consultant has displays of jewelry that the guests can order.  After you sat down at your table, she'd walk to you and give you one of her business cards and talk about the jewelry for a minute. These kind of things can be fun, but if my husband owned a restaurant I'd be in there working with him, instead of bothering his customers with a jewelry purchase. There was very little seating inside, and she was taking up one of the largest tables. Her skills could have perhaps been put to better use in trying to decorate the place and help manage the restaurant. The only decorations that were there were posters from the vendor that supplies their cheese.

I was not impressed with the service. I realize that it takes time to make a pizza from scratch, so that is not what I had a problem with. When we got our stuffed pizza, the waitress did not bring anything to our table for us to serve it with.  I asked for a spatula or something, and she said that they don't have serving utensils, and that we would need to scoop the slices up with our forks.  Now realize that this pizza is easily an inch thick, and we were told to scoop it up with our forks. Humph. We only ate half of the pizza while we were there, and we wanted a box for the left overs. They don't seem to carry boxes that are deep enough for their stuffed pizzas. The lid would not shut all the way.

All of the employees at this place need to have a lesson in appropriate work-place attire. The teenage girl who was taking orders was wearing house shoes. The owner came to the front counter to chat with the customers, and he was wearing a ratty old t-shirt that was better suited for yard work or painting.

A Better Pizza is definitely not the kind of place you want to go on a date night.  If you want to try their pizza, I recommend ordering take out or delivery. One pizzeria here that we really enjoy that is date-night worthy is Pi. The atmosphere is nice, but not fancy. They do believe in using serving utensils. There are a lot of drinks on the menu, beers, organic teas, soda, coffee, etc. Their pizza is a little different from what you'd get in Chicago, the main difference being with their crust. Pi uses a corn meal dough to make their crusts, and I really like it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How we spent our weekend

Well we didn't have a fun weekend, but it was very productive. I've been wanting to replace the carpet on our second floor since we moved into this house three years ago.  We are finally able to do it.  I had to work two days last week, so I spent my three days "off" working at home, pulling up the old base boards and painting the new ones. I was happy to go back to work. Sometimes the work that I find for myself to do at home is more physically exhausting than the work that I get paid to do.

That is the mess that was left. The installers will be removing that today.

We are going through Lowe's to have the new carpet installed, and it is going in as I type.  I was not expecting that it could be put in this quickly.  James and I had two days to get the furniture moved, the carpet and pad removed and all the staples pulled out of the floor. We had to pull carpet out of three bedrooms, our walk-in closet, a hallway, and the the stairway. I was so sore last night, I had a hard time sleeping.

 The new carpet is much darker than the old carpet. The old carpet was almost white.  While we were pulling it out, we found a few pieces of what we suppose was the original carpet. It was pink. Our new carpet is a "green" carpet. It is EverStrand Carpet from Mohawk. It is made out of recycled plastic bottles.

I'm really thankful for all the hard work James put into removing the old carpet. He enjoys having leisure time on the weekends, and this weekend did not offer him much of that!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Meeting our Sponsored Child

 Last Friday, we had the opportunity to meet our sponsored child. We began sponsoring Tariku last summer through Compassion International.  He's between 8 and 10 years old. Birthdates are not generally kept up with in Ethiopia, so we don't know for sure. He was wearing a sharp looking suit.  We complemented him on it, and he told us that he got it with the money we sent him for his birthday. (Which was only $30.)  When we began sponsoring him, he was unable to attended school because of the financial strain that his family was under at the time.  In his first letter to us, he asked up to pray for him to be able to go to school. So we did. And he attends school now. He told us that English is his favorite subject, and he likes math too.  He looked so much different from the boy we saw in the first pictures from Compassion last year:
Here he is being instructed on how to operate a hand-crank flashlight that we gave him.
We gave him a backpack full of school supplies and other items.  His favorite gifts were a soccer ball and a calculator.
Tariku was escorted by two Compassion personnel. They brought him to the guest house we were staying at.  After we gave him his gifts, we had to wait for a little while for a car to pick us up and take up to an amusement park. While we waited, I showed Tariku how to play Angry Birds on my phone. He caught on very quickly.

Tariku had a lot of fun at Bora Amusement park. He wanted to play air hockey with both of us.

He won tickets at some of the games.  Here he is counting the tickets with a park employee.
He chose to get a package of colored pencils and a bouncy ball with his tickets.
Next, we rode the swing ride. I was pretty nervous about getting on this dang ride. James has gotten sick on these kinds of rides before. I mean we were in a country that probably doesn't have any sort of safety regulations, and I doubt that this ride had been serviced in the last decade.  But, we rode it & we lived to tell about it.

We had lunch at the amusement park, and this was the only meal I had all week that I did not like. We all ordered hamburgers.  There was a lot of seasonings in the meat that I did not care for at all. I'm not ever sure that they were made out of beef. It could have been goat meat for all I know.  Tariku wanted to pray in English before we ate, and he did a good job!  He fed both James and I a bite of his food. This is an Ethiopian tradition called "gursha." We both returned the gesture.

During lunch Tariku told us a little more about himself. We learned that he plays the drums for the younger children at his church. He told us that this was his first trip to the city and he rode a bus from his village to the city.  It was his first time to ride a bus.

This was by far the best day we had on the trip. I'm really thankful to Compassion for setting this visit up!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back from Ethiopia

We got home Sunday from what should have been our court trip. On Tuesday last week, just before we went to the orphanage to meet Baby M, we were informed that our agency had just learned that Baby M has a half-sister who was adopted to the US two years ago. The half sister was adopted through an different agency. The other family family was informed about our situation, with the two failed referrals and they were informed that we were willing to do what we could to keep the girls in touch. Both agencies were both in favor of us proceeding. We asked if the other family would be given the option to adopt Baby M, but our agency dodged that question. We were told that we should go ahead and meet Baby M. So we did. We held her, played with her, and fed her. She even fell asleep in my arms. We took a bunch of photos and James shot a lot of video.

We were supposed to go to court on Thurs. Three people from our agency came to the guest house to talk to us & we knew that they probably had bad news. They informed us that the other family had chosen to adopt Baby M, and there is nothing we can do. Our agency’s country director is the one who told us, and he wept as he spoke to us. He has worked in social services for many years, and he said that this was the hardest day of his career.

Our agency gave us three different children to consider. Two boys and one girl, all under one year of age. We spoke with a pediatrician on Thurs. and went through all the medical records for all three children. The girl is the healthiest one, although the two boys are in fairly good health too. We got to meet all three children while we were there. Over the weekend, our agency sent a team to the hometowns of two of the children. They conducted investigations over the weekend to see if there are any issues that could cause problems with the adoption. On Monday, they will send another team to do another investigation. Within two weeks we should know if they are any problems. We are not certain that we even want to give this other try, it depends on what the investigations turn up. Our agency's stateside office should have the results of the 1st investigations sometime today. The staff is confident that they can get our case submitted to court before the court closure in August, however it is unlikely that we will get another court date before the end of Sept.

These past two weeks have been extremely difficult. We are not pleased with the way this disaster transpired or with the way James and I were treated by a particular social worker while we were in Ethiopia. Baby M never should have been referred to us.  The staff in Ethiopia found out about the sister early enough in July that we could have canceled our trip if they had told us right away. They decided to sit on the information for a little while and allow us to go ahead and make the trip. Our agency's stateside staff is not pleased about that. There is a lot more to this story that I'd like to share, but I feel that it is not appropriate to share all of the details publicly at this time. I will say that if you are pursuing and Ethiopian adoption through our agency, to proceed with extreme caution. (Unless you know me in some capacity outside of the blog, you don't know what agency we are working with. I have removed their name from all of my posts.) I will be more than happy to give you an earful if you talk to me.
We now have been through three failed referrals, and are wondering what else can go wrong. I'm at a place where I'm tried of investing my time, energy, and heart into adoption. I'm tried of praying about adopting a child & I'm tried of asking others to do the same. I'm tired of printing out photos of little girls that get referred to us and putting them up all over our house, just to throw them in the trash a few months later. I'm tired of mailing photos of another little child off to our parents, just to have to make another difficult phone call to them telling that we won't be bringing that child home either. I'm tired of getting every one's hopes up.

I wish I could rewind the past two years.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Donations and Toys for the Orphanage

 We are taking some toys with us that will we use while we are visiting Baby M at the orphanage.  I got a dozen of those little beach balls from Oriental Trading $6.  They are only 7 inches wide, so they will be good for little hands.  I also the little toy dinosaurs and the little plastic Slinky's at Oriental Trading. The other items in the photo are a package of bubbles and a package of plastic links.
These are donations.  A few outfits, diapers, (cloth and disposable) and a Jenny Jumperoo.  The orphanages seem to be in need of weight bearing toys for the little ones, so I hope they can use this.  We are also taking a bunch of children's underpants that my parents donated. We've had several people give us monetary donations for the orphanages.  We will use that to buy formula while we are in Ethiopia.  Thank you to everyone who has donated!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Photo Book is finally finished!

 We will be able to leave a photo book for Baby M that will be given to her after our case is approved in the Ethiopian court.  I wanted to give her a little photo book that she could play with, and I got this one at Babies-R-Us.  Thanks to my friend Dana for the recommendation.  There is a pocket on the front for a small photo, so I put a photo of Baby M in that so the book could be easily identified as hers.

I just finished this today.  I've had months to get this done, so you'd think that I would have gotten done before now, seeing that we leave the day after tomorrow.  "Last minute" seems to be our modus operandi around here these days.

The book holds only 6 photos, and I had a hard time narrowing it down.  I decided to put photos of people that she will probably see very soon after she comes home.  I have another small photo album that I will take on our second trip that has more photos of our extended family.

One more photo, just you can see the Amharic font on the photo a little better.  Amharic is the national language of Ethiopia.  I was stumped as to how to do this, but James showed me how.  Thank you! I found this website Amharic Dictionary, which was very useful.  You type in an English word, and it will show you the word in Amharic.  I copied that into a Word document and saved it.  Then I pasted the text from the Word document into photoshop.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We're getting to meet our Compassion Child!

James and I sponsor a 10 year old boy in Ethiopia through Compassion International.  We started sponsoring him last summer.  We'd hoped for a long time that we'd get to meet him during one of our upcoming trips to Ethiopia.  As soon as I found out when our court date would be, I emailed Compassion to see if we could arrange a visit with him.  Compassion requests that you give them 8 weeks notice to plan a visit.  We had less than a month's notice for our court date, and I was not really hopeful that it would give Compassion enough time to plan a visit.  We'd only have one day where we could plan a visit, and our sponsored child would have to be driven to Addis Ababa, where we will be staying.  He lives very far away from the city, and for us to travel to see him, we'd have to spend the night in a rural part of Ethiopia. We were also concerned that it would add $$$ to the cost of our trip.  Compassion replied to my email with further instructions regarding what we needed to do to plan a visit.  We'd have to pay $70 for background checks in order to proceed.  It seemed so hopeless, that we felt like it would be a waste of $70. We decided not to bother with it.

Two days later, someone from Compassion called me to see what was going on.  I was impressed!  Compassion is a big organization, and I thought no one would pay us any attention if I didn't respond to their email. I explained my concerns to her, and she assured me that they would do everything that they could to arrange a visit for us.  I went ahead and filled out the necessary paperwork and waited to hear back from them.

We found out last Thursday that we will be able to met our young man!  We will have to pay for his transportation, a translator, and meals. but it's going to be less than $50!  Compassion is going to drive our guy to the city & he will spend the night there with an escort from Compassion.  Our visit will take place at the Compassion field office in Addis Ababa. I'm sure this will be his first trip to the city, and it might even be the first time he's ridden in a car. We are really looking forward to meeting him. I'm really thankful that Compassion was able to arrange this for us!

We were given a list of suggested gifts for him, and I hope he doesn't find it overwhelming.  Here's what we're giving him:

School supplies, a soccer ball (you must deflate these for the airports), toothbrushes, toothpaste, a metal water bottle, a hand crank flashlight, a photo album, a Cardinal's hat, and hand pump for the soccer ball, and a Jansport backpack.

My aunt gave a Jansport backpack when I was a freshman in college, almost 13 years ago.  I've become sentimentally attached to it because my aunt passed away unexpectedly right after I got married.  She loved to travel, and she was a nurse.  I think she would be pleased to know that the gift she gave me has was with me through pharmacy school and in Haiti on a medical mission trip. It has lasted me through college, pharmacy school, and trips to Mexico (twice), St. Thomas, D.C., Florida (twice), NYC, Yellowstone, Haiti, and now I'm taking it to Africa.  My mom did have to sew one of the straps back together once because Daisy chewed it apart, but it had not affected the usefulness of the backpack. I hope he is able to get as many years of use out if his!

My mom and dad sent us a little money to get him something, so I got him two Cardinal's shirts. (Thank you!)
Compassion also recommended taking a gift for his family.  So we are taking towels, serving spoons, and soap for them.  We used some money that James' parents had sent us for our trip to get those items.  (Thank you!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Learn a little Amharic

Amharic is the national language of Ethiopia. Since we are leaving for Ethiopia very soon, I wanted to try to learn a few more words and phrases in Amharic.  I found several YouTube videos that I thought were rather helpful.  You are shown the word in Amharic script, and then transliterated into Roman letters, and the word in English.  The pronunciation is given at two different speeds.  Here are a few of the videos:

There are several more videos like these.  Just go to YouTube and search for Amharic.  I've also been using a smart phone app called "You Talk Amharic," which has been helpful.  The app cost about 10 dollars, and it available for iphones and androids.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Test Post #2

Here's a picture of our Daisy.  She's happy in this photo.  She is not happy right now.  She is ready for these fireworks to be over with!

Preparing to travel

This is a test post.  I'm typing this post from my email account, and hoping that it will post to my blog.  Blogger is not accessible in Ethiopia, and I'd like to be able to blog a little while we are there. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Google Voice: FAIL

James and I got new mobile phone in May, and we began using Google Voice for our voice mail.  Overall, I've been really pleased with it.  It will transcribe your voice mail and email the text to you, and there will also be a link in the email where you can listen to the voice mail.  It is much easier to discreetly check your voice mail by just reading the text, and I really like that.  The transcription has not been 100% accurate for me, but most of the time it is pretty close.  However, we've both gotten a couple of voice mails where the transcription was totally off.  Off so bad that I was not sure what the call was about.  I don't know what it is that makes some of them that bad.  I listened to the audio message, and I could understand it just fine.  Here is the transcription of a voice mail that I got from my mother-in-law:

"Hey, Yeah this is Fay you don't have to call me back and just been getting those chicks in the mail, that I have a color Monday does that. The tomorrow. So, often you check for 30 announcing the check for 25..., you can use that if you wanna bathtubs for the nanny 30 if you wanna be some of the formula. Something, whatever for the main ether. It doesn't matter and that the it. I've got one getting long. Give me a thing in order to get him We're already prayed about the trio will talk to you guys are going and you don't have to return my call affect me. Mom pop all. We're all going out to not stuff. Love you. Bye bye. "

Wow.  The audio message was clear as a bell and made perfect sense.  She was calling to tell me that she had mailed checks to us to purchase some donations for the orphanage.  Some of the words that show up in the transcription are not in the audio message at all - like bathtubs, trio,  and not stuff. Looks like Google Voice has some bugs that need to be fixed!

Monday, June 27, 2011


This is a recipe that I have tweaked a little.  The original recipe was posted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a while back, and it gave instructions on how to bake the jambalaya.  Yes, bake.  I've never heard of any Louisiana native baking jambalaya, so I decided to cook in a pot on the stove top - as it should be done.  We've both tried making homemade Jambalaya several times with different recipes, and this one is our favorite.

Yield: 15 servings (about 20 cups)

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 clove garlic, minced
2 small yellow onion, diced
8 ribs celery, sliced
2 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons Cajun-style seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s)
2 1/2 cups uncooked extra long grain white rice
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon butter
6 dashes Tabasco sauce or to taste
1 pound cooked dark meat chicken, diced
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
Salt, optional
Ground black pepper

1. Combine olive oil, garlic, yellow onion, celery, bell peppers and blackening seasoning in a large pot. Sauté over medium-high heat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. Stir in chicken stock, tomato sauce, Worcestershire and butter; bring to a boil. Stir in Tabasco, chicken and andouille. Return to boil. Stir in rice; reduce heat and cover and walk away.  Do not stir or remove the lid until you think the rice is almost done. Cook for 30 minutes or until rice is tender.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

This makes enough to fed a large crowd.  If you want to cut the recipe in half, remember to reduce the cooking time after the rice is added.  I made a half-recipe of this on Saturday, and it took about 15 minutes -instead of 30 - for the rice to become tender.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A case of bad translating

I recently ordered an item on ebay from a seller in China.  I got an email from the seller with the tracking information and a word of thanks.  It is obvious that English was not his first language.  I got a few laughs out of it, especially when I read "your cognition is our power to make forward." So here it is, unedited except I removed the tracking number:

Dear Friend

thanks for your making purchase and prompt payment for this item.

Today the postman picked up the package from our office, here is shipping information please view.

Shipping Company: EMS fast express
Consignment No: *****************
Delivered address: Same with you confirmed via Paypal
Tracking website: www.ems.com.cn or www.usps.com

Typically it takes 7-12 business days to arrive in your place, same with we promised on Ebay description, please wait patiently.

Also you may logo on this web to check its status, which will be shown updated shipment two days later, thank you.

We warmly hope that it can arrive in your place and you will be satisfied with our total service and let us have chance of servicing you again. Much appreciate that you can leave a positive feedback and all full 5-Star DSR for this transaction, your cognition is our power to make forward.

Any other questions please don't hesitate to contact us.
Kind Regards.

I will say that his English is worlds better than my Mandarin, but I'm not trying to write letters in Mandarin either. Ha!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cake Balls

These are a rather easy dessert, and they look so fancy!  I made these cake balls for James' grandmother's birthday party.  We went to Louisiana on Memorial Day weekend to celebrate. Here's what you need to make them: 
  • 1 cake mix, any flavor
  • 1 jar of icing, any flavor
  • melting chocolates or almond bark.  The melting chocolates are available at Michael's in a lot of different colors and flavors.
  • whatever the directions on the box of cake mix call for. 
Prepare the cake according to the package directions.  Bake it in a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish. Let it cool for at least one hour after it is baked.
After the cake has cooled, crumble it up in a bowl.  Mix the can of icing in.

Place some wax paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Using a small scoop, make little balls out of the cake/icing mixture.  Place the balls on the cookie sheet.
I was able to get about 40 balls out of one cake mix.  Place the cake balls in the freezer for an hour or two so they can harden a little.  You don't want them to be warm and crumbly for the next step, or else your chocolate will end up with tiny pieces of cake in it.
Use a double boiler to melt your almond bark or chocolates.  I just used a glass bowl on top of a pot of simmering water.
I didn't take a photo of dipping the cake balls into the almond bark, but it's done the same way.  I used a spoon to lower the ball into the chocolate. 
Then turned the cake ball over and placed it on a fork. Next, I spooned chocolate over the top of the ball.  Place the dipped cake ball onto a sheet of wax paper to harden.
After they have hardened, you can drizzle a contrasting color on top of them.  I just used a fork, but you can use a piping bag if you want them to look a little cleaner.

The finished product!  These are so yummy!  I had some melted chocolate left over, so I dipped some Vanilla Wafers in it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

10 years ago today

Photo by Kevin Beasley
Ten years ago today, I married my dearest friend.  James, I am thankful that you're my husband.  You have loved me well.  You have loved me when God's love seemed elusive to me. You have stood by me on some very dark days. You have served me and cared for me when I was sick.  You have shared in my joy, suffering, laughter, and grief.  You have prayed for me when I was so spent spiritually that I could not pray myself. You have guided me, encouraged me, lovingly rebuked me, and you've had a hand in my sanctification. You are my husband and my brother in Christ.  You have stirred my affections for my First Love, Love Himself. You have been Christ to me.  May God help me remember that before you were mine, you were Christ's, and one day, we will be united with the rest of the body of Christ to our Bridegroom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Wedding Vows

Photo by Kevin Beasley

Our Marriage Vows

James: I, James, take you Stephanie, to be my wedded wife. With deepest joy I receive you into my life that together we may be one.  As is Christ to his body, the church, so I will be to you a loving and faithful husband. Always will I perform my headship over you even as Christ does over me, knowing that his lordship is one of the holiest desires of my life.  Stephanie, I promise you my deepest love, my fullest devotion, my tenderest care.  I promise I will live first unto God rather than others, or even you.  I promise that I will lead our lives into a life of faith and hope in Jesus Christ, ever honoring God's guidance by his Spirit through His word and so throughout life no matter what may lie ahead I pledge to you my life as a loving and faithful husband.

Stephanie:  I Stephanie, take you James to be my wedded husband.  With deepest joy I come into my new life with you.  As you have pledged to me your life and love, so I too happily give you my life and in confidence submit myself to your headship as to the Lord.  As is the church in her relationship with Christ, so I will be with you.  James, I will live first unto our God, and then unto you, loving you, obeying you, caring for you, so that we might serve Christ together.  God has prepared me for you so I will ever strengthen, help, comfort, and encourage you.  Therefore, throughout life, no matter what may be ahead of us, I pledge to you my life as a faithful and obedient wife.

Ring Vows

James: Stephanie, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy.  I choose you to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as we both shall live.  And I pledge to you my faithfulness to show you the same kind of love Christ showed the church when He died for her, and to love you as a part of myself, because in his sight, we shall become one.

Stephanie: James, I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy.  I choose you to be my husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.  And I pledge to you my faithfulness to love you with a Christ-like love, and to love you as a part of myself, because in his sight we shall become one.

Our vows came from samples that used to be available for free on Dallas Theological Seminary's website.  I tried to look for them today, and it seems that they are now charging $15 for a Wedding Planning Kit that you have to purchase if you want to see their sample vows.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Crawfish Boil & Vow Renewal

It's hard to believe it, but our tenth wedding anniversary is this week!  This past Saturday, we had a crawfish boil for our community group from church, and we decided that since it was going to be so close to our anniversary that it would be a nice time to renew our vows.  A friend of ours Jason Polk, who is the worship pastor at Grace PCA Church led us through our vows.  Jason and his wife, Liz, were some of the people that we met after moving to St. Louis, and they are dear friends.  We were so glad that they could be with us to celebrate our anniversary! They are in the process of moving to Ethiopia as missionaries, which thrills my heart. You can read about their work here: On the Ground.

 My friend Jamie made these fabulous cupcakes that were reminiscent of my wedding cake.  The butterflies were made out of chocolate, and they were edible!  She is so talented.

 The little boys were intrigued by the crawfish, and I don't think they were convinced that they were food and not bugs.

 Daisy found a place to hang out, but Lily had to stay in the house.  Lily, our little Sheltie, is not fond of crowds.  We should have kept  her in the house in to begin with, but I wanted to see if she could cope with the company.  She could not.  She almost caught herself on fire.  She got freaked out by something harmless and ran to James just after he had gotten the gas lit on the burner for the crawfish.  She got too close to the burner, and her fur got singed.  I'm just glad she was not hurt.  James put her in the basement after that.
 James wanted to see how boiled shrimp would be with the crawfish.  He put them in with the crawfish after they had finished cooking.  The shrimp were really good!

We asked Jason to read Ephesians 5 and he talked about what a covenant means and he and some of our friends prayed with us. He also gave us some words of wisdom regarding parenting as we prepare to bring our daughter home.
It was a great evening!  We both meant our vows the first time we said them, but it was sweeter this time because of the history that James and I had together.  James has been with me in the good times and bad times, in sickness and in health.  As we said our vows on Saturday, I had memories of James staying by my side in a hospital and caring for me and encouraging me going through my mind.  I'm delighted to be his wife.  It was wonderful to share the evening with friends who have prayed with us, grieved with us, and rejoiced with us.  Thank you to everyone who was able to be there!  I'll post our vows later this week.