Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ideas from an Ex-pat Kitchen: Homemade Salsa

This recipe makes 2 of these size containers.
The search for a great Salsa recipe is OVER!! I have been on this quest for 2 long years now, ever since arriving in Chad and craving one of my favorite snacks of tortilla chips and salsa, and not being able to find salsa anywhere!! Eventually, I caved and bought a tiny jar for over $5 (a product that recently became available) but the taste was too sweet and it was ridiculously tried out a couple of different recipes that were all ok....but tasted too 'tomato-y' for my liking.....enter this new found salsa recipe! (Thank you Lisa!!!) You would be surprised at how little time this takes to make and how easy it is to can freeze it and save it for later (but you probably won't because it is so good you'll eat all of it before you get a chance to freeze it!) Now, enough talking about it....time to MAKE IT!


- 1 large can of diced tomatoes (750-800g)
- 2 Large onions (diced)
- 2 Large green peppers (remove seeds and dice)
- 1 Tablespoon Chili powder (for a medium heat)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic powder (or fresh garlic, minced)
- 2 Teaspoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Vinegar
- 2 Teaspoons Salt

Combine all ingredients in a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 min to 1 hour (depending on how thick or runny you want your salsa to be).

Stir occasionally.


We like our salsa thick and chunky! Mmmm.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Cooking from scratch....ideas from an Ex-pat Kitchen

Before I arrived in Chad, I used to think cooking from scratch meant something like putting together a lasagna: mixing together the bottled sauce with the cooked meat, mixing the ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, and parsley together, layering them between noodles and baking it.....BUT....I was wrong....apparently that is only partially cooking from scratch. :)

Since pasta sauce is a ridiculous price here in Chad, and you can't get ricotta/cottage cheese.....I had to change up the way I made lasagna....and quickly realized that this was not the same level of 'cooking from scratch' that I thought I was a part in Chad, you make the ingredients to then put into the recipe you are making.....get what I'm saying? For example....If I am making a lasagna....I must first make pasta sauce and then a cheese sauce (and make the milk to go into the cheese sauce), before cooking the meat and layering the lasagna.

Another example: if I want to make pumpkin muffins, I have to skin the pumpkin/remove seeds etc, roast the pumpkin, then puree it, and then I can use it in the pumpkin muffin recipe (whew!) can of ready-made puree to dump in! Ya....a whole new level!

Anyways, it got me thinking....I know I am not the only Ex-pat out there who was thrown into the deep end of 'cooking from scratch' and trying to find decent recipes that don't call for 'a can of this' or a 'jar of that' in my daily dinner adventures. After living overseas for 3 years (I know, I am still a novice....but....I have learned a thing or two in the kitchen since we first arrived), I now have a small but tasty repertoire of recipes that I am able to make with the ingredients found here in Chad and most likely found in other African cities (in fact, you probably have more of a selection of food items as Chad is fairly limited due to its landlocked location). I would love to share these with you, and if it makes even one night of cooking less of a struggle or challenge, then my goal would be met!

I'm titling this series "Ideas from an Ex-pat Kitchen" and hope to have regular recipes posted for you all to re-create wherever you are living! Hoping your families love them as much as mine do....Oh and I would LOVE to post YOUR tried and true recipes that you have found to be favorites of your family...made from scratch of course. You can email them to and I will share it with all of us 'overseas' mamas!

A Sneak Peak at some 'made from scratch' recipes to come:

Spaghetti Sauce (with 'hidden' veggies like zucchini, spinach, carrots etc)
Banana Ice Cream/smoothie
The Gooiest Brownies ever
Lemon blondies
Icing Sugar
Chicken Pot Pie
Pressure Cooker Beef Stroganoff
BBQ Sauce

And lots more.....stay tuned!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Morocco in Pictures

This vacation to Morocco was such a fantastic time! We needed the break from the challenges that living in Chad holds....and especially as it was in the height of the terrorist attacks...we had been in country for around 10 months and just needed a break from it all.
We flew with Air Moroc for the first time and were pleasantly surprised....we made it in one piece, and eventually got all our luggage :) A good start to our time away....

Finally, finally, I am getting around to sorting through our pictures we took of our time in was so hard to pick which ones to include as there were so many fun, beautiful and memorable moments to choose from. Well, I tried to narrow it down...but there are I think around you want to grab a cup of tea or some sort of drink/snack, now's the time as this'll take a while. :) Enjoy!

This is the departure lounge at N'Djamena airport....luxurious eh? :)

Our own 'in flight' movie (no TV's on this plane!)

Um....are we in the Prairies?? Loving the long, clean, wide open spaces.

We're here!!! Beach time was our first 'to do'.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Kaitlyn turns 8

I am wondering when I will stop being surprised by my kids' birthdays....I know each year will add a number onto their age but I always feel a bit shocked when I realize how fast they are growing up. I love, love, love that I can be a part of their lives, their memories and celebrate their birthdays with them....
My 8 year old Beauty
Kaitlyn has seen a lot of changes in her 8 years....lots of hello's and good-bye's, different cultures, being far from family, seeing the world.....she just takes it all in she said to her Gramma a while back...."I'm having my 8th birthday in Morocco"....what 8 year old has an international birthday and casually throws that into a conversation??? We are blessed with such an adaptable girl....

Here are some of the things that we want to remember about Kaitlyn this past year.....

- She was desperate to lose a tooth, and finally, when she was 7.5 years old, 1 tooth fell out, followed by 2 more....but that's it so far!!! She doesn't seem too bothered by it, even when her friends have lost 8+ teeth.

- Kaitlyn is such an artist/creative person.....she doesn't get any of that from me....she loves crafting, and making elaborate forts with sheets, and designing dresses out of scarves or bedsheets and a belt, painting her nails, creating picture books, making cards....she has an eye for fashion and's gonna be cool to see where that takes her as she grows up.

Always up for trying out new riding a camel!
- Kaitlyn has a capri leggings obsession....good thing we stocked up from Canada....

- Kaitlyn loves to read which is awesome to see....hope that never ends.

- Kaitlyn loves anything fancy.

- Kaitlyn has a sweet tooth...unfortunately this doesn't bring out the best of her character as she attempts to gratify her cravings without permission....lots of work done and to be done on that one! It's all just chances to shape her candy-sneaking episode at a time! :)

Loves her little sister!
- There was a period of time where Kaitlyn was obsessed with a purple sparkly belt that she got for her 7th birthday....she wore it cinched tight around her waist every day....I'm talking with dresses, sporty shirts, tank tops, t-shirts.....the purple belt was always there! That is....until it got lost.

- Kaitlyn enjoys drinking tea out of a travel mug....even if she's just around the house.....I think she thinks it's a grown-up thing to do....

- Kaitlyn loves her friends and loves being with them....I always say to her: "If I was 8, I would want to be your friend!"....

- At one point, Kaitlyn's favorite hairstyle was half of her hair up in a ponytail and the other half, hanging loose.....

- Kaitlyn is a great helper with Evie, entertaining her when I need an extra minute to finish something, reading her books, walking with her.....she loves to hug and kiss Evie (much to Evie's dismay....not the most touchy feely kid). Kaitlyn is going to be a fun Aunt and an awesome Mom.

A girl with a sweet tooth...
- Kaitlyn is great at tidying....everything might not be back in the right place....but the floor sure looks spotless! :)

- Kaitlyn loves to talk on skype with her cousins.....we'll call them up and then just leave the kids to chat away...often times they'll talk for an hour! Ok, talking, maybe not, but giggling and having fun....yes!

- Kaitlyn loves tacos, spaghetti, chicken pot pie, jello, peaches and plums (can't get those in Chad so she stocked up in Morocco.....3-4 per day!!), chicken noodle soup and apple sauce to name a few of her favorite foods.

- Kaitlyn really wants to get her ears pierced and I would let her but I told her that when she lets me near her scrapes and injuries to clean them and bandage them without screaming at the top of her lungs and refusing.....ya....THEN she can get her ears pierced. I foresee major ear infections and her not letting me treat them....and so we wait a couple more years.
- Kaitlyn is an expert rainbow loomer (in my books)....she can whip up a bracelet in no time!

- She loves to paint her nails....never just 1 color....

 Blue is her color of choice!
- Kaitlyn loves art, gym, and music....but math isn't her favorite...wonder where she gets that from?

- She is a great big sister to Lily, most of the time....besides the normal sibling squabbles, they get along great and play really well together....they both have great imaginations and can personify any object and make a game of seeing that creativity and sister love!

'Happy Birdsday' cake at a restaurant in Morocco....
So sweet of them to try! :)
- Kaitlyn has made her first, real best friend here in has been cool to see her with such a close and special's going to be hard to say good-bye in December when Anna's family leaves.....praying that Kaitlyn will adjust and make another best friend here in Chad.

- Kaitlyn has a pen pal named Zoe....

- Kaitlyn has been praying that Gramma would come to visit for about 6 months now.....persistence pays off.....Lord willing, she's coming in December!

May your dreams come true.....
- Kaitlyn loves to be snuggled with, to chat at the end of the day, to hear stories about when she was little or when I was little and she likes to be tickled on her face before sleeping.

Horseback riding on the beach in of the things
we did on her birthday.
- It has been cool to see Kaitlyn grow in her knowledge of what being a Christian is really all about, to see her strive to do what's right, to acknowledge (sometimes with prompting) when she is wrong and to live out her faith. Reading her devotional book before bed, praying with the family, reading scripture and talking about it with us, thinking about what it all means (although she is a people pleaser and often tries to give 'Sunday school' answers....but we are working on that--I want her to really think about it, not just give the answer she thinks we want to hear) and how that applies to her life, even at 8.....I hope and pray this is all laying a solid foundation built on Christ's forgiveness and hope, grace and that when she is older and on her own, she will have a living faith and confidence in her Savior. That's all that truly matters.

Anna and Kaitlyn....BFF
- Kaitlyn is off to a great start in 3rd grade! Her teacher's name is Miss M and sounds fun and sweet.

We love you Kaitlyn, and are so proud of you. You are a good friend, sister, and daughter and we can't wait to see what this year holds for you.....praying for you....always.



Evelinne Rose turns 1

In the blink of an eye, Evie is 1. I don't know if I have even gotten used to the idea that we have a baby again in the family! :) Wow....that first year just flew by. What a joy it has been to have another little girl, to welcome a new little life, and to experience all the 'firsts' again.....smiling, sitting up, crawling, walking, eating new foods, learning how to wave hello and goodbye, and seeing her adorable personality start to show....Evie is a gift.
Kaitlyn and Lily adore her, and Phil and I love her a ton....she brings lots of giggles and smiles to our family.
Evie has been a fairly easy baby....she has always slept well, fed well, and is content most of the time....she really only fusses if she is sleepy, hungry or wanting to go outside and can't!
Even though at the age of 1, Evie is just beginning to show who she is, it has been fun to see. Here are some of the things that we want to remember about her:
Taking a break from exploring

- Evie's two big front teeth are A-dorable! She loves to grin with her top and bottom teeth cute.

- When Evie finds a bucket/bowl/cup....she pretends to stir with a spoon or fork or whatever she can find that will do the job. She does the same thing when she eats her yogurt by herself....what a smart girl!

- Evie has her cupboard....she knows how to open it, and then proceeds to empty if out completely, all over the kitchen floor....literally throwing things behind her and reaching for the next....hence....the plastic dishes! Lately, Evie prefers to take a plate or bowl in 1 hand and a utensil in the other hand and walk around the we find plastic dishes and cutlery scattered throughout the house at the end of the day.

Daddy's girl
- Evie loves to be wherever the girls are playing and most times the girls love her with them....but every so often I hear screams of "E-VIEEEEEEE" when she has entered their room and started dismantling their playmobil set up or whatever else they are playing in their room. We are in the process of teaching Kaitlyn and Lily to distract Evie with a toy, or to gently take her out of their room, give her a toy to play with, and then close the door if they really don't want anything to be disturbed. The girls are pretty good about doing that.....but it's still a work in progress. Can't wait for the day til Evie can play right alongside of Kaitlyn and Lily without destroying everything! :)

Peek-a-boo....and a great artsy shot by Phil!
- Evie can wave Hi and Goodbye, and she gives open-mouthed kisses (slobbery but we don't is so precious!)

-She knows how to sign 'all done', 'bath' and 'kitty' but we are working on getting her to sign consistently.....once she gets that one, we will introduce more signs. Sooo adorable to watch her communicate and be so pleased with herself!

- Evie understands the words 'food, sleep, water, outside, birdie, daddy, mommy, Kaitlyn, Lily, hi, bye, help, hot, no, don't touch, dirty'.....and maybe more? Hard to tell at this age just how much she understands but for those words, we have seen her respond appropriately, so we assume she knows what they mean.

- Evie took her first long walk (20 steps) while we were in Morocco and has now left crawling behind,  preferring to walk everywhere! We welcomed this accomplishment as it meant getting her up off of the 'hard to keep clean' sandy floors in our house.

Soooo wanting to touch the candle....
- When the girls dig holes in the sand, Evie always crawls over and backs up towards them with her leg out, trying to fit into the hole....haha.

- Evie eats alot! She loves eggs (hard boiled or scrambled), toast, any fruit, and she usually eats what we eat.....

- Evie LOVES cats, and always wants to pet them and kiss them, much to her annoyance, they never let her! :)

- When Evie is falling asleep, she loves to feel the tag on her blankie (whatever muslin blanket we have for that day....she isn't attached to one specific one), and when she's sleepy, she likes to suck on the tag. Just her little thing she does before bed.

Big smiles after tasting her those teeth!
- Putting Evie to sleep is the ONLY time that girl stays still! I cherish those snuggly moments.

- Evie loves to swing (it's in her genes!)

-Evie loves being outside and has figured out how to open the front screen door!! The handle is low enough for her to reach....trouble!

-Evie LOVES her daddy and when he gets home from work I say....'lets go see daddy' she gets all excited and points to outside and reaches for him with big smiles and hugs.

Those are just some of the cute and memorable things about Evie. We love that she is part of our family and can't wait to see what adventures this next year holds for her.

I love this girl!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Should we stay or should we go?

Life here has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster these past few weeks as there have been 2 suicide bomb attacks here in the city, quite close to our compound (about a 5 minute drive for both of them). The first one was targeting the police station and a police training academy, then the most recent incident was this past saturday morning at the central market. There has been no official claim of responsibility from any terrorist organization but intelligence strongly suspects Boko Haram as the force behind them.
2 of our national staff lost relatives in this suicide bomb
attack at the Central Market in N'Djamena.

Life has changed here, maybe forever.

Chad was on the 'no go' list even before we arrived two years ago....mainly due to its surrounding neighbours, as all of those countries are in turmoil whether from terrorist activity or civil war (Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Cameroon) and it is believed that some of those conflicts could filter into Chad through its porous borders (although the borders have tightened up significantly since Chad joined the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria in Jan 2015).

So, how does this play out for MAF Chad practically? Well, for starters, our security level has been upped from 1 to 3 in the past three weeks and we now have a list of things to prepare and have on hand just in case things escalate a 'Go Bag' which is a pre-packed bag containing essential documents, water, food, clothes to take for a quick get-a-way; as well, we have a 2 week supply of food and water in our houses in case we have to stay put for a while, extra cash, and we are stocking up on fuel for the generator to have 2 weeks worth at all times as ya....things like that. We put these measures into place so that we are not taken by surprise if we have to leave quickly. It's good to be prepared.


As calm as this may sound as you read the words above,  emotionally for me, this is worrisome, scary, stressful, exhausting, and also very sad for the people of Chad....and I know I am not the only one who thinks this way. 

I flip flop back and forth between being totally calm about it all and then having slight freak outs. 

Some changes to our way of life have made things a bit more difficult in our day to day such as, we shouldn't go to any hotels or restaurants anymore (and there was already no where to go to relax as a family except those!!!), we have to go everywhere in two's, we have to provide a detailed outline of our movements should we leave the compound, and we can't take the kids with us when we shop (coordinating someone to watch them while we are gone--hard when there's only 2 families on the compound now and we both have to go together!). You might read those and think 'oh, those aren't really a big deal' and I would agree with you as they are more inconvenient than stressful; however, I don't think it is these actual changes that are the stressful, worrisome part....I think it is the idea of implementing these changes under the threat of being caught up in the next random attack....and wondering where and when that might be and if you might be there when it happens. That is essentially the goal of terrorism, and I can tell you, it works.

So, what can we do? Well, I guess we could call it quits and live in Canada for a while until things either calm down or it is clear we shouldn't return OR we could stay and learn how to function in this new kind of life.  It's difficult to make that decision but I don't think we need to make that kind of call at this point. We have to wait and see how this all plays this the new norm for Chad? Suicide bomb attacks in public places on a weekly basis? or will this pass as Boko Haram are slowly defeated in Nigeria? We have put safety and security measures in place and I have full confidence in the leadership in MAF both here in Chad and at the home office in England, to make the right decisions, in fact, I know they err on the side of caution.

But as much as we can place our trust in security measures and good leadership, the ONE place I am placing 100% confidence in, is God. He called us to Chad, He has sustained us here through a tough first year and brought us back despite that, and we believe that He will make it clear if we should leave and He will give us peace and wisdom if we stay.

One of the thoughts that fear creates in my head is the fear of dying....not so much the dying part, but the 'how' I die part. I have seen and read in the news the awful acts of terrorism against  civilians by Boko Haram and against Christians carried out by ISIS....crucifixions, burning people alive, drowning groups of people in a cage....sick, sick, horribly evil ways of murdering innocent people in the name of religion and that freaks me right out.  But then I know that God never promised to protect and keep safe our lives here on earth, in fact, it is in the crazy, stressful times when we seek God most desperately and isn't that what is important? Seeking God, being changed by Him, being refined into who he wants us to be? And He can only do that if we cling to Him like he is our everything, something very hard to do when you have everything you need.  What He promises is that he will guard our lives for eternity....which means we will die here on earth but live forever with Him in heaven. That hope is crucial for those who are facing life and death situations....

I read this compilation of verses the other day and it was so fitting to our situation here....and a good reminder that nothing can separate us from God, and that our lives are His.....and if we live, we live for Him and if we die, we die for Him.  I read this as I was having random scenarios play out in my mind of us being caught up in the next attack or us having to leave suddenly or one of our teammates being killed.....I know....crazy thoughts but fear does crazy things to your mind....

"I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard safely all that I have given Him until the day of His return. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels won't, and all the powers of Hell itself cannot keep God's love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are-–high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean--nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God. The love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when He died for us.  I have kept safe within your family, all of these you gave me. For Jehovah enjoys his people. How happy I was with what he created. God is so rich in mercy, He loved us so much that....He gave us back our lives again. The greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends. God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because He owns it. Living or dying we follow the Lord. Either way, we are His. "

Wow. Don't you just love it when God speaks through his word, directly to you, and it was exactly what you needed to hear? A-mazing! This was such a good reminder.....and the peace it gave to my was enough to realign my thoughts from fear to trust, for that moment. I am so thankful for His loving care.

I know it will be a daily, intentional decision to keep reminding myself of the hope He has given us, as fear has a way of creeping in and taking over.

So, we are taking it day by day....not knowing what is to come, but preparing wisely for it as best we can, trusting in His plan and appreciating your prayers.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Costly Attack of Terrorism for Chadians

Where do I begin......I guess I will say that life will never be the same here in N'Djamena. Chadians have been very proud of their military in the fight against Boko Haram in Cameroon and Nigeria.....taking a real and costly stand against Islamic fundamentalists....threats were made against Chad.....but they did not back away and continued to rescue many villages and cities who were desperate for help.

On Monday, June 15, the very first attack in the capital city of N'Djamena took place in the form of 2 suicide bombers targeting the police station and a police training academy. Around 20 people lost their lives and over 100 severely injured, and the death toll is rising as already overwhelmed hospitals try to treat major injuries with limited medical resources.

In the days following the bombings, we have seen and experienced one of the after-effects of this kind of random yet coordinated strike.....fear. The normal way of life here has been changed, maybe forever. Yes, people are still out and about, markets and stores are open and people are back to work, but movements are cautious, police and military are out in full force, personal security checks on bridges, and as you enter the Grand Marché (frisking, security wand etc.), and a ban has been placed on the Islamic full face veil (reports say that the police are burning all of the full face veils sold in the market) and also, rumors have been flying of other attempted suicide bomb attacks being thwarted by the police etc. All of our American Embassy friends have strict bans placed on going out, meeting in groups or having people over to their houses until further notice. We have been advised not to take children with us into town as their presence could slow our reaction time if something should happen. Only time will tell how long these precautions will be in place. For now, I am staying close to home with the girls, and only going out when necessary (ie: we ran out of milk powder and cat food on Tuesday so I went into town briefly, without incident).

Phil on the other hand has a busy week of flying this with 2 overnight trips and a day trip.....the side of the airport that MAF is located (customs area) is completely closed and in order to access the airport they have been parking their vehicle on the main road and walking 15 minutes into the airport and to the hanger. Totally unsustainable long-term as customs usually has 100 or more trucks picking up shipments daily....keep in mind that most products for sale have been imported into Chad.....all of the import shops rely on air shipments for resupply, so it could be interesting to see the effects if this customs closure continues for a while.

I told the girls about what had happened because I figured they were either going to overhear someone (me?) talking about it or find out from one of their friends. They asked a lot of why's and were desperately trying hard to understand why someone would want to blow himself and others up....hard to answer that one. Today they were imagining a scenario with some little figures, and I overheard them say something about a bomb going off as part of their story line....Hmmm.....not many 6 and 7 year old girls include that kind of thing in their play.....the things they have been exposed to in their short lifetime....Praise God they don't seem too shaken up by it all....I guess that is the beauty of being a long as mom and dad are calm and cool, then the kids feel safe. Praise God for that.

I think one of the hardest things about life after these attacks (which were a 5 minute drive from our house)  is the not knowing if this is the beginning of something or if it was just a one time heart wants to think it won't happen again, but my head is telling me otherwise. We'll just have to wait and see.

For now, our movements around the city are cautious and we are praying for safety and peace for Chad and all who live and work in the city of N'Djamena.

I know God is in control and we have nothing to fear...but I'm human, and a mother, and a when fear starts producing many 'what if' thoughts and playing out different scenarios in my mind....I pray for peace to replace fear, after all....I know this is exactly where God wants our family now.....and we will rest in the safety of God's will.

Thanks for praying.

Here is a link to the news story if you would like to read more details about the situation here in N'Djamena: