GIVEAWAY! ‘Tis the Season for Christmas Socks

Click over to my daughter’s blog for a fun Christmas season GIVEAWAY! ‘Tis the Season for Christmas Socks. You don’t want to miss this one. If you are a U.S. or Canadian resident, here is a chance to add some fun to your holiday season.

 

Finally Going Back Home? Then Why Are You Sad?

Craig Thompson has a great blog post talking about Disenfranchised Grief and the Returning Cross-Cultural Worker.

He cites a study giving reasons why a longed-for return to a home country can surprisingly result in grief.

Here are the six types of grief, along with Thompson’s own examples:

  • The griever’s relationships are unacknowledged
    [“You can enjoy yourself now that you’re back with your own people.”]
  • Lack of acknowledgment of the griever’s loss
    [“People move all the time. It’s not like somebody died.”]
  • Exclusion of the griever as not being capable of grieving
    [“She’s just a child. She’ll make new friends.”]
  • Exclusion of the griever due to the circumstances of the loss
    [“You knew what you were getting into when you decided to go overseas.”]
  • Exclusion of the griever due to their way of grieving which is not deemed appropriate by the community
    [“The Bible says ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.'”]
  • Self initiated disenfranchised grief where shame plays a significant role
    [“Why don’t I trust God more?”]

We are at the end of a very long project, and will soon be returning to the U.S. for a much-anticipated home assignment and reunion with our kids, grandkids, family and friends. We’re looking forward to all that with joy. But perhaps there will be sadness and feelings of loss mixed in as well. See his blog to continue reading.

Healthy Travelers’ Bars

Close up

Hey, here’s a great recipe for all you frequent flyers out there, whether you are flying around town in a car full of kids, or flying off to a dream destination, or like me, chugging from errand to errand in a beat-up truck, and occasionally jetting off to the dream destination of Manila. (See the movie Bourne Legacy for authentic Manila street scenes, and you’ll know my tongue is firmly in my cheek about Manila being a dream destination). The thing is, though, when you live on a remote island like we do, anytime you want to leave and go somewhere else, it means getting on an airplane. And waiting long hours in air terminal waiting rooms. And sitting an hour or many, many more in a plane. Some small airports have really limited food offerings. Some flights don’t serve anything. Some serve snacks of junk food. So, it is great to have a healthy snack to pull out of your bag when hunger hits.

I found this recipe online and it hooked me with two things: the name, Telluride Trail Bars, and the cute little wrappers around the bars. The original recipe is found here. The recipe creator makes these bars to eat when her family goes skiing. Of course, I’m not nearly as cool as that. But I have been to Telluride, and I did go skiing twice. The second time I didn’t even fall down once. Alas, that was the end of my skiing career – it was time to head back to the Philippines. The Telluride story is part of a wonderful girlfriend adventure road trip involving my life-long best friends, Cyndee, Marilyn and Anita back in the summer before Bill came blazing into my life.

I was also hooked by the simplicity of the ingredients, and the fact that there is no sugar added. Wow. Super healthy.

My version is simplified to use what I had on hand – and it takes only three ingredients: peanut butter, bananas, and granola.

Ingredients

I’ve made them twice now. The first time I made a 1/3 batch, to see if we liked them, before I invested a whole cup of our precious and sort-of-expenive-here imported peanut butter in it. We’ll “we” didn’t like them, meaning I did but Bill didn’t – too fruity-tasting for him. He’s not a fruit guy. But I really, really liked them, so the next time I made a 2/3 batch. It is easy to divide the recipe in thirds.

Healthy Travelers’ Bars

Here’s the recipe for a whole batch:

  • 1 cup peanut butter (I tried creamy the first time, and crunchy the second time. I think creamy works better to hold the bars together, so they don’t crumble apart.)
  • 4 very ripe bananas (This assumes U.S. stateside bananas – so adjust accordingly depending on what kind of bananas you can get where you live. Ours were pretty small, so I used about 1 1/2 local bananas to substitute for 1 banana in the recipe.)
  • 3 cups granola (My granola has a lot of nuts and other goodies in it already. But you could substitute part of the granola for chopped nuts, or dried fruit. I think they would taste great with raisins. I’m including my granola recipe below.)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
  • Additional sweetener, if desired, like honey or stevia.

Mash bananas in a saucepan. Add the peanut butter, and warm over low heat, stirring, until all is soft. Stir in granola.

 Line 13-inch by 9-inch pan with parchment paper.

(Hey, do you use parchment paper? I didn’t catch on to it until a few years ago. Love love love it. Makes cookie baking, especially, so much more time-efficient. I always hated standing around the kitchen scrubbing cookie pans between each batch. With parchment paper, you can get all the cookies ready to go, each pan’s worth on its own sheet of parchment paper. Then it is a snap to change out the pans between baking each batch. OK, end of commercial, and back to our regularly scheduled program.)

Press granola mixture evenly in pan. 

In Pan

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until well browned. Cool on wire rack until easy to handle, then gently remove parchment paper with granola bars from pan, and continue cooling on rack.

When well cooled, cut into bars. A rolling pizza cutter works well, or you can use a serrated knife.

Cut into 12 bars. Wrap each bar in parchment paper and tie with string. Your string can be cooler than mine. I didn’t have anything on hand but nylon twine, which I cut in lengths and then unrolled to separate the strands. That’s why it is so geeky and wavy looking. For my first batch I used plastic packing twine, and split the lengths down the center. They looked cuter. But, alas, I didn’t get pictures. 

Store bars in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator or freezer.

This is a great healthy snack, or even small meal – a portable breakfast. Each bar contains a half banana, a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter and a quarter cup of granola. Perfect with a glass or carton of milk!

I have some in my fridge and freezer right now.

Bars on plate

 Here’s my recipe for Tropical Honey Oatmeal Granola: 

The wonderful thing about granola is its versatility. You can substitute, add in, or subtract out, all kinds of ingredients. Have fun experimenting with local ingredients. In Palawan, of course, it is wonderful with cashews. This batch has fried pinipig in it. Pinipig is freshly harvested immature rice pounded to flatten it into flakes. When fried, it puffs up like Rice Krispies.


Ingredients:
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts or sunflower seeds
1 cup bran or wheat germ
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Heat oil and honey in small saucepan. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour warm mixture over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread on cookie sheet or large baking pan and bake at 325o for 20 minutes. Stir after 10 minutes of baking. If you use freshly‑grated coconut, it needs to bake a lot longer to absorb the moisture, just stir every 10 minutes. Vary by adding chopped dried fruit during last 10 minutes of baking time.  Makes 16 servings.

Do you have a granola recipe you or your family loves? Have you found any local ingredients that make it extra special? Do tell.

A note about coconut: The sweet flaky Baker’s shredded coconut we are used to in the U.S. isn’t readily available here in the Philippines. But here in the land of coconut plantations, freshly picked coconuts are plentiful. At the local grocery store or market, there is usually a stall selling coconuts with an electric grater. The normal use for coconut in the Philippines is to squeeze it for coconut milk, so it doesn’t matter if the dark part of the shell gets grated, as it will all get tossed out at the end. So I’ve learned to ask the person to grate my coconut for granola, and tell them I only want the white part, not the dark. Then, when I get home, I toast it in the oven on low heat for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to dry it out. Then it is ready to use for baking or cooking. Coconut milk, coconut water, and fresh grated coconut goes bad really quickly, sometimes within hours, but dried it keeps for a long time. I still put it in an airtight container or ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge or freezer. 

Blur edges

Gracia Burnham – Flying Again: 10 Years After the Kidnapping

June 7, 2012 was the 10-year anniversary of Gracia Burnham’s rescue from the Abu Sayyaf terror group, and her husband Martin’s death during the rescue. Gracia was interviewed by CBN:

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2012/June/Flying-Again-Burnham-10-Years-after-Kidnapping/

Martin and Gracia Burnham were our co-workers and also our friends. Martin flew my husband Bill into and out of stations on Mindanao for Bible translation checking sessions. Martin also flew for us while a team from EV Free Church of Fullerton, Chuck Swindoll’s former church, was in our tribal station helping to improve our little grass airstrip. During one of our furloughs, Martin and Gracia volunteered to take care of our cat and dog. That’s the kind of people they were (and Gracia still is). Martin loved to laugh and he and Bill had fun quoting silly Ray Steven’s songs back and forth.

On May 25, 2001, our younger daughter, Bethy, was graduating from Faith Academy, the missionary kids’ school in Manila, Philippines. Gracia happened to be in Manila, as she was waiting for Martin to arrive from a two-week trip to the U.S. on mission business. She was free that night, so we invited her to come with us to the Faith Graduation, and she accepted. Martin had also attended Faith Academy, as well as his brothers and sisters, and now also his nieces and nephews.

The graduation ceremony went on extra long, with too many speakers. Afterward we headed out to eat at a special restaurant in Manila. While driving we got turned around and lost for awhile in Manila traffic. I felt bad it was taking so long and getting so late before we could eat dinner. But Gracia was a really good sport throughout, and kept on encouraging us. When we finally arrived at the restaurant, Gracia sat next to me, and we were able to catch up on each other’s lives.

Gracia and Martin had tickets to fly to Palawan the next morning. Martin was scheduled to do some flying for the missionaries there. In fact, Bill and I were the ones who made the request for a pilot to come down and fly, as we had some packing up to do of our tribal house and good-byes to say before we accompanied Bethy, our graduating senior, to the U.S. for college.

Gracia told me they planned to spend two nights at a resort on Palawan to celebrate their anniversary. She said they had never done any touristy things during their trips to Palawan before, so she was looking forward to having some fun. But now she was having second thoughts – it was expensive, and perhaps they should better spend the time with the New Tribes Missionary Aviation mechanic, as he was in the country now too. She wondered if she should cancel her reservation at the resort.

I encouraged her, “No. Go, go. You’ll love it. It will be great!”

When we returned to our mission guest house after dinner, Bill and I went to bed. Gracia, meanwhile, stayed in the sala downstairs waiting for Martin to arrive. Early the next morning they took a taxi to the airport, and got on a plane for the one-hour flight to Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The staff of Dos Palmas met them at the airport, and shuttled them off to the resort. They had the rest of Saturday to relax and enjoy their anniversary. Then they went to bed. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, May 27, 2001, the Abu Sayyaf banged on their door. The rest is history. Gracia does a superb job of telling the story in her best-selling book, In the Presence of My Enemies.

Yesterday, on the 10th anniversary of Gracia’s release and Martin’s death, we pause to remember. There is a cost to following Jesus. We don’t know what it will be for each one of us. For Martin, it was death in a rescue attempt, after a year of slogging through the jungles. For Gracia it is widowhood.

These days we are in the final stages of finishing up the Palawano translation. I am very, very humbled when I think of just how expensive our Palawano New Testament is. Included in the cost are all the years and all the lives of our co-workers who have supported us by flying, by doing guest-house host and hostessing, by doing buying and shipping, by working in the office and keeping our visas updated and our support accounted for. Martin gave his life as a result of his service. And there is a little 11-month old baby lying in a grave in the Philippines who died of a tropical disease while her parents were serving us in the pilot ministry, too. I consider Emily’s death as part of the cost of the Palawano New Testament as well.

Today Gracia’s book, In the Presence of My Enemies, is offered FREE on Kindle and Nook, to commemorate Gracia’s release and Martin’s death. If you don’t catch this great offer in time, go ahead and buy the book, and her follow-up book,  To Fly Again: Surviving the Tailspins of Life.

Gracia’s website “The Martin and Gracia Burnham Foundation,” has more news and updates about what Gracia has been doing. She’s one busy woman! God is using her greatly, in ways none of us could ever have dreamed of all those years ago. My hat is off to Gracia for allowing God to work in her life, and transform what men and Satan meant for evil into something good and glorifying to God.

A Double Espresso for My Heart

I love this verse! This is the NLT version of Psalm 89:17. I bumped into it in my Bible reading the other morning, and God arrowed it straight into my heart. God’s word says it pleases Him to make us strong. 

I’m facing a season of intensified work on our translation project right now – extra cooking, extra driving, extra shopping, extra serving, making sure everything is functioning well so our translation consultant check can go on smoothly. And for the past several weeks I have to admit that I have been dreading these weeks, worrying that I won’t be able to keep on top of it all.

So when this word came to me, God used it to calm my heart. He can give me the strength. And in fact, it pleases Him to do so.

After that verse, my next reading was in Ecclesiastes chapter 3. Wow. Another timely charge. In verse 1 the writer, King Solomon, reminded me, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Then verse 11 starts off, “. . .God has made everything beautiful for its own time. . .”

Including intense consultant check weeks? Apparently, yes. And to further drive the point home, verse 22 has Solomon’s conclusion: “So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is why we are here!”

God’s message to me: Be happy in your work. 

And I thought about it. Here we are, serving the Lord by translating the New Testament into the Palawano language. And I was grumbling in my heart about my workload? It really changed my outlook to see my ‘to-do’ list as service to God, instead of demands placed upon me. It is a high privilege to serve God, no matter what calling. And this is the dream God put in my heart as a very young woman. And on top of the privilege, God promises to give me the strength to do it. It’s a win-win situation.

Thank you so much, Lord, for the heart check, for turning my heart inside-out. I really needed this message. So, so timely.

  • This experience caused me to reflect on a question I ask myself from time to time: Am I a Christ-follower because it fits my personality? Or, am I a Christ-follower because God is really who He says He is – God, and Lord, and Truth?
  • Well, actually, when left to my own devices, my personality goes a little south. I grumble, whine, am lazy, negative and pessimistic. But after an encounter with God through His word, the Bible, I am happy, joyful, full of peace and energy. An encounter like I experienced here causes me to conclude God is real, and that is why I follow Him.

After my time with God, I honestly felt energized in a new way – better than a jolt of double espresso for my heart.

Are you surprised that someone who has been in ministry for a very long time still struggles with her heart?  Feel free to leave a comment below:

Katadyn Water Filter System

Today I thought I’d share something that is a very important part of our life here. We use everyday, but take for granted, and that’s our Katadyn water filter system.

Katadyn Ceradyn Water Filter System

When we first moved into our tribal location, we didn’t own a water filter. Our water came from a shallow well with a hand-pump outside our front porch. The water wasn’t from a pure source, so needed to be boiled before drinking. So every day one of my jobs was to fill a huge boiling pot, set it on the stove, bring it to a boil, and boil the water for 10 minutes. Then I would remove the heavy hot pot from the stove, and set it in a safe place to cool. Then the next day we could use it to fill up our water jugs and pitchers. That was the only way we had safe water to drink. It was a fair bit of work, both time-consuming and fuel-consuming. Our stove was (and still is) fueled by liquid propane tanks. Each tank had to be bought in town, and shipped down to our flight center, then flown in on the mission plane. More expense! We went through two terms like that.

So on one of our furloughs we were able to buy a water filtering system. Wow. What a difference! Now all we needed to do was pour water into the top container, and a few minutes later, there was fresh pure water, already at room temperature, ready to drink, or cool.

Soon, my handy (and very sweet) husband ran some PVC plumbing from our water tanks outside straight to a faucet mounted above the water filter system. Now, with just a turn of the handle, the container was filled, and the water could start filtering.

Bing Bing in our Tribal House Next to the Water Filter - Notice the Plumbing Coming Right To It!

Since then we’ve moved to the city and live in a rented house. We brought our water filter system with us, but we really aren’t free to rearrange the house’s plumbing. So we are back to pouring water into the top filter container. This time our source is the city water supply, and not our hand-dug well anymore.

City Water Filter System, with Fill It Yourself Capability

Good clean water is such a basic necessity of life. We lived in Manila in 1995, and a typhoon shut down that megalopolis one time. We lost electricity and water for 4 days. We soon learned we could live without electricity, however inconveniently. But we couldn’t live without water.

We really like the Katadyn Ceradyn system for a number of reasons. The main one is that the filters are very efficient at trapping harmful elements that can live in water. The pore size of Katadyn ceramic filters is 0.2 micron (0.0002 mm). Bacteria range in size from 0.2  to 5 micron and like protozoa (1 – 15 micron), are efficiently filtered out. They do 99.9999 % removal of pathogenic bacteria (i.e. E-coli, salmonella and cholera),  99.99 % removal of protozoa (i.e. amoeba, giardia, cryptosporium). But no removal of essential minerals. The silver quartz in the core of the filter works against bacteria recontamination from the outlet tap.

This is what the filters look like after a month or two of our city water district water.

The system is easy to transport – the two stacking containers fit inside each other for packing and shipping. So the box size is 11” x 11” x 18”, but when set up it is 11” diameter by 26” tall.

It’s easy to use. Works on gravity pressure from upper compartment; no hookup required. Raw water is filled on top with up to 2-1/2 gallons, or 10 liters, of untreated water and slowly drips through the three ceramic elements into the bottom container. Flow rate is approximately 1.0 gallon per hour. The unit is popular with missionaries like us, living in places with low or undependable water pressure. It’s also excellent for recreation sites, base camps, boats and RV’s.

Dirty Filter Getting Ready to Get Cleaned

Cost may be an issue for some people. I recently saw it listed as: Retail Price: $249.95 SALE PRICE: $219.50  * On Sale *

It’s easy to maintain. When the rate of water filtering through slows down, it’s time to unscrew the filters and clean them. The recommended cleaner is a scotch brite scrubbie!

Three Clean Filters with Gauge - the water here stains them pinkish even when clean

Katadyn filters are made in Switzerland but available through various outlets in the United States. One source is: http://www.lehmans.com/

The service life is 13,000 gallons per element used (total of 39,000 gallons for the unit with three elements installed). After approximately 100 cleanings, the filters will need to be replaced. The system comes with a little gauge to judge when it is time to get new filters. Replacement filters run about $70.00 each.

Silver-impregnated pebbles inside the ceramic filter

This water filter system has helped us stay healthy for many, many years in a tropical country. We’re very thankful for it!

Have you ever experienced living without clean water available? What did you do?

Squeezing the Toothpaste Tube, Every Last Bit

There's LOTS of toothpaste left in THIS tube

Today is Frugal Friday. And what’s our theme song?

“Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without!”

Very good, very good. You’re learning.

Now I am going to tackle something really important – squeezing every last bit out of a tube of toothpaste. Would you believe there is a YouTube video about that? Truly. I don’t think anyone with a tiny bit of brain in their head needs instruction on how to squeeze a toothpaste tube.

My burning question is: Do you try to squeeze every little last bit out, or am I the only one? I sheepishly admit that I take a kind of pleasure in seeing how many tooth-brushings I can get out of an apparently empty tube. Surprisingly, it turns out, quite a few.

“Use It Up.” How about lotions and beauty products? Here’s a pet peeve of mine – pricey skin products in pump containers. The pump will not empty all the product. So I take the little jar apart and get that last bit out. Sometimes it is days and days worth of skin lotion. Does anyone else do that?

How about shampoo and conditioner? Do you take the top off and add some water at the end, to get the last bit out of the container?

Alright, now we are going to take a quiz. People who obsess about using up every bit of toothpaste or shampoo or beauty cream are:

  • a. Quirky and OCD.

or

  • b. Green and thrifty.

You decide.

See this post for a “Make It Do” idea.

Wednesday Word: Loyalty from Proverbs

Nestled in among some really great verses in Proverbs 19 is this little gem, Loyalty makes a person attractive. I ran across it the other day in my Bible reading – have you developed the Proverb a Day Habit? You know, a Proverb a day keeps the devil away? (I only wish it was that simple.) Since the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, it lends itself quite nicely to daily reading. 31 chapters, 31 days in a month, give or take a few. Anyway, I love the book of Proverbs. But this verse stopped me in my tracks. Is that really true? Does loyalty make a person attractive?

I thought about the opposite, how disloyalty makes a person unattractive. One popular speaker says not-so-nice things about his wife from the pulpit. Unattractive! It makes me want to go up afterwards and punch him in the nose.

The version above is from the NLT, the New Living Translation. So how does the NIV render this verse? What a man desires is unfailing love. Huh? This is the same verse? What is going on here? It doesn’t even sound the same! Very interesting from a Bible translation perspective. I don’t know Hebrew, though, so I had to tackle it in English.

So I tried to unpack it, and take it apart a little bit. See if you can follow me here. When someone desires something, they are attracted to it. And one way unfailing love can be defined is as loyalty. So, what a man desires, or is attracted to, is unfailing love, or loyalty. A person is attracted to loyalty. Therefore, loyalty makes a person attractive. It’s just like the verse sort of got turned inside out, but still says the same thing.

Thinking some more. What do we think makes a person attractive? Well, if you watch television in our host country, the Philippines, you conclude that long shiny black hair, shimmering like a mirror, and white underarms, make a person attractive, as commercial after commercial will tout products for shiny hair, or deodorant which will whiten your underarms. Um. I’m totally failing on that shiny black hair thing, and sad to say, I haven’t checked the color of my underarms lately. (Just an aside – back in my teenage tanning days, we would contort ourselves laying out in the sun so we could brown our underarms. Ah, culture.)

And if you check the weekly paper in my hometown, San Diego, ad after ad for botox, implants and liposuction assail you. Conclusion — in that culture, smooth skin that is curvy in the right places and skinny in others makes a person attractive. Alas, I’m not doing so well there, either. Sigh.

But Proverbs says Loyalty makes a person attractive. Hmm. How am I doing there? Do I speak well of others? Do I stick up for people? I can have a catty tongue, and I know I’ve made disloyal comments. Unattractive! But on the other hand, God can help me grow in that area. Love is a fruit of the spirit, so when we walk with Him, He puts that characteristic in our lives.

How about you? Have you ever thought about this verse this way before? Any Hebrew scholars out there with insight into the translation? I’d love to hear what any of you think about this verse.

How to Fix Stretched-Out Fitted Sheets and Save a Lot of Money

Are your bed sheets coming untucked? Do they slide around and get tangled up at night? Do they make you a little crazy sometimes? Would you like to save some money? I’ll show you a very easy way to put new elastic in your bottom sheets, and get them fitting snugly around the mattress again.

Now, I know on a scale of 1 to 10 of world problems, with 10 being the global incidence of  malaria as a killer, stretched-out fitted sheets aren’t the biggest problem. But, in the middle of the night, when your bed sheets are coming up around your knees, stretched-out bottom sheets can definitely be annoying.

Today is Frugal Friday, so I’ll share an easy way to “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without”. It only costs the price of a few yards of elastic, unless you already have some hanging around the house. If so, then this project is free. And it can save you the cost of buying a whole new set of sheets. A queen-size set of sheets, good quality, on sale, costs at least fifty dollars.

If your sheets are a good quality, with a high thread count, they can last a very long time. But here in the tropics, the elastic doesn’t last nearly as long. Pretty soon it loses its elasticity. And then they won’t stay tucked.

This little tutorial assumes you have a sewing machine. If you don’t, this project could be stitched by hand, over the course of a few quiet evenings — remember the women in the Little House in the Prairie books, sitting around sewing at night? I once made a set of curtains for our Little House in the Jungle by hand. So, it could happen. But it will be quicker and easier with a sewing machine.

And here’s the best part — it doesn’t have to be perfect! What you are going to do  is never going to show. The ‘fix’ will be tucked under the mattress, or folded up on a shelf in your linen closet. So it doesn’t matter if you can’t sew perfectly and your seams weave left and right, or if your thread doesn’t match the sheet, or if the elastic is ‘too wide.’ Just sew it up and get on with life. (OK, I’ll concede, if it is important to you that your sheets seams are perfect, please go ahead and match your thread.)

So here we go. You’ll need about 3 or 4 yards, or meters, of 1/4″ wide elastic, some straight pins, one or two safety pins, and your thread. Basically we are just going to make a little tunnel, or casing, to pull elastic through on two sides of the sheet. We’re not going to bother taking out the old elastic. The easiest thing to do is choose the sides of the sheet that don’t already have elastic in them. If your elastic goes around all four sides, then pick the two longer sides.

Now, just fold the edge over the width of your elastic plus about another 1/4-inch. Pin the edge. You should probably allow the tunnel to be at least 4-feet or so long, or about 1.3 meters. But longer or shorter, it doesn’t really matter that much.

Then you sew up the edge, leaving the ends open.

Then you thread a piece of elastic on a safety-pin. It helps to weave the elastic in and out a couple of times.

Then pin one end of the elastic to the sheet, close to the end of the tunnel you are going to start with.

Then thread the safety-pin with elastic into the tunnel. Push it down a little ways, scrunch the fabric down the safety-pin, then push it through a little more. Keep doing that until you work it to the other end of the tunnel.

Once you get the elastic all the way through, adjust how tight you want the sheet to be gathered. Then pin the elastic to the other end of the tunnel.

Now sew across the end of the tunnel, being sure to catch the elastic. Sew back and forth a few times. Then repeat at the other end.

Now do the same thing on the other side of the sheet. Trim off the ends of elastic, and you are done.

That’s it. See! Easy, peasy. Now you have nice snug sheets, almost like new. For pennies.

Wednesday Word: Don’t Let Satan Steal Your Joy

Joy is my Word for 2012. So I shouldn’t be surprised if it gets tested. Life happens. People disappoint. Vehicles break down. Drains clog. Translation helpers get sick. Work piles up. Close friends and relatives have troubles. Roosters crow all night long. Sleep departs. Joy disappears.

Back in 1976 I was going to college, working at a Christian pre-school, and planning my wedding to a tall, dark, and handsome piano player. My family was a bit dysfunctional at the time, and all the wedding planning fell on me. But I loved doing it. Then I got bad news. Another girl was planning her wedding for the same day as mine, to start one hour after my reception was to start. We shared many of the same friends. We’d attended the same high school, we were in the same graduating class, where both she and I were the involved-type — I was in student government, she was on the cheer squad, along with one of my bridesmaids. We’d attended the same church.

I couldn’t believe she was doing that to me. My wedding was the most special day of my life, and she was planning her wedding on the same day! Many of the ones invited to my wedding would want to go to hers as well. It felt like she was stealing my wedding guests. I was very upset and complained to a friend who worked at the pre-school with me. She said something I will never forget – “Don’t let Satan steal your joy, because he’ll try to in every way he can.”

That stopped me in my tracks. So profound. The biggest problem was in my mind and in my heart, not in the two conflicting guest lists. John 10:10 says our enemy only comes to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. God wants me to live in His joy. When I allow Satan to steal the joy God wants to give me, I’m allowing him a place in my life he has no right to have. After pondering that, I determined to enjoy my wedding no matter what. And it WAS a joyful occasion, with just the right guests.

This year, 2012, Bill and I are looking forward to the fulfillment of a dream we’ve shared our whole adult life – the printing of the Palawano New Testament. We’ve been warned to expect our enemy to attack. And he has. It has been hard keeping our translation helpers healthy – their families have been hit by sickness after sickness – tuberculosis, panic attacks, pneumonia, heart problems. We’ve been surrounded by trials in our neighborhood – late night parties, day and night construction noise and disruption. Termites are eating the walls in our bedroom. Our truck has one problem after another. We’ve had criticism and hassles. Our family back home has had trials. But despite it all, we can clearly sense the Lord’s hand of protection over all. We’ve been spared from theft, and from major debilitating sickness. God has provided abundantly. We can only thank and praise Him.

More than once this year, as each new trial hits, I’ve remembered, “Don’t let Satan steal your joy, because he’ll try to in every way he can.” Thank you, Susan (now Simone) for your wise words of long ago. And thank you, God, for being the source of joy and hope.

Wednesday Word: Joy

Joy is my word for 2012. This verse tells the source of Joy – it only comes through God’s filling.

I want to be like this little puppy. But I can’t do it on my own strength and power.

To me this little guy epitomizes joy. Full of enthusiasm, he is ready to go out and grab all life has to offer. I want to live like that. My personality tends to be more serious than sparkly, more pragmatic than optimistic. There is a truth in this picture. Some One did leave the gate open, and He invites me to join Him in the abundant life He offers.

When I am feeling like David did of old, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” (Ps 42:11) That is when I need to answer, with the Psalmist, “I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again — my Savior and my God!”

Before the Zombie Apocalypse – Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without

Just in case the Zombie Apocalypse is coming, I’ve been thinking about starting a Frugal Friday feature. The saying below is my inspiration:

The wife of one of our Palawan pilots, Patty, had this saying embroidered and hanging on her dining room wall. We saw it every time we had a meal with them. And I’ve pondered it over the years. Sometimes I’ve even practiced it.

The saying apparently originated in frugal New England. It was popularized in 1942, during the early days of World War II when the U. S. was pulling out of the Great Depression and gearing up for the war effort. Our current period of recession, with the looming Zombie Apocalypse, is a good time to revisit this advice of our grand-parents and great-grandparents.

Living among the Palawano people, some of the poorest of the poor, taught me many lessons on “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” They are masters of repurposing. For the Palawanos, a frugal lifestyle is a necessity. For me, as a First World person, it is more often a discipline in simplicity, not always a necessity.

Though because we are missionaries, living far away from the bounty and comforts of home, there are times we’ve had to make do. I’ll be sharing some of those.

I plan to post something on this topic weekly.

But let me tell you my hesitation. I think it is a good thing to be thrifty, save money, not waste things, not over-consume. Some of us need to really get a handle on spending money, and acquiring things. Things don’t bring happiness or joy. BUT, on the other hand, God does richly give us things to enjoy. One of the attractive features of Christianity is Jesus’ promise: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) I am not sure that it pleases Him for us to be penny-pinching misers, anymore than it pleases him for us to be conspicuous consumers.

Here’s a set of verses that speak to this topic, fresh from my Bible reading in Luke this morning:

This is Jesus talking – “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” (Luke 16:9 NLT) Admittedly, this statement is a bit puzzling in some ways. Many of Jesus’ sayings are like that. But clearly, Jesus states that there are good and beneficial uses of worldly possessions.

Then Jesus continues – “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. . . And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (v. 10-11)

But Jesus warns us – “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (v. 13)

So I think that is why I have a check in my heart when I start thinking about frugality. Personally, I find joy in being a good steward of the things God has put in my life. But I don’t want to be all about pinching and saving and not wasting things or money. That’s just another way of loving money or things. I want to be about loving and serving God. 

To get us started, below are some good blog posts with plenty of ideas for applying Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without:

A blog all about living simply talks about the ‘Use It Up’ saying.

A blog about personal finance from a Christian perspective has ideas for ‘Use It Up…’

And these might be of interest, too:

On the history of the saying ‘Use It Up.

 Article from Centers for Disease Control on Preparing for Zombie Apocalypse.

As I share some of my ideas on this topic, I’m hoping you will share yours, too. And hey, if the Zombie Apocalypse actually happens, we’ll all be that much further ahead. What are you doing to get ready?

Here is one idea for “Make It Do.”

And here is the best advice ever for coping with the looming Zombie Apocalypse, from someone whose husband has REALLY thought it through: http://putdowntheurinalcake.com/2011/06/on-the-importance-of-taxidermy/

How to Stay Organized While Traveling – Packing Tips for Missionaries

How can you stay organized when you are traveling and living out of a suitcase?

I’ve found three things that can really help you get where you are going with what you need. They are:

  • Packing Pouches
  • Master List Book
  • Pre-Packing
What I Use to Keep Organized When Traveling

Are you surprised how often they have to travel from one part of the country to another? And when missionaries travel, it very often isn’t just for a vacation. There is a conference, or a workshop, or a seminar to attend. If the kids are homeschooling, their school stuff often needs to get packed up and brought along, too.

In many countries, missionaries find themselves flying from one location to another, and dealing with the ever-dwindling weight allowances on planes, as well as the ever-tightening security restrictions.

I want to share with you what works for us, and ask if you have any of your own ideas to pass along.

  • 1. Packing Pouches. Above is an assortment of the travel packs I rely on to keep me organized. They aren’t all matching and color-coordinated, but there is an advantage to that, that I’ll talk about in a minute.

The first pack I want to introduce you to is our Ladybug. Oh my, how we need this gal! This is where we store significant and valuable items, like keys, credit cards, money in other currencies than the currency of our current country. These are things we DON’T want to lose or misplace.

It's IN the Ladybug!

The keys I’m talking about are the ones we aren’t currently using. For example, we have a set of keys to a storage room in San Diego, and to our tribal house, and our storage closet in Manila among others.

Little Miss Ladybug was just a give-away promotional item from a department store cosmetic counter. But what we love about her is that she is unique. She’s the only one in our house. We keep her locked in a drawer when we are home, and in my hand-carry when traveling.

Before Miss Ladybug we were forever misplacing a set of keys, or wondering where we had hidden our cards, and where in the world are the luggage lock keys, anyway? Now we know – they’re in the Ladybug!

So, #1 recommendation – designate a unique container for those valuables that you don’t use all the time, but you don’t want to lose.

This little pouch below is a repercussion of 9-11. Before 9-11 we could carry menacing items like metal nail files, Bill’s Swiss army knife, and nail clippers and tweezers, around with us with impunity. Now they have to be checked in our suitcase, and not in our carry-on, or my purse. Just the fact of having this little pouch reminds me to stow those treacherous implements away before flying. Security restrictions vary from country to country we’ve found. Some are lax and some are very strict.

Those Scary and Dangerous Metal Weapons of Mass Destruction

Now, if you are fortunate enough to be able to just pack a suitcase, grab a paperback and fly off on vacation, well, we’re very happy for you. You don’t need to worry about this next pouch’s contents. Somehow that doesn’t seem to happen very often for us. Often when we travel we are combining a break with some work. There are letters to write, boxes to pack and label. Sometimes there are clothes to mend.

It really helps to have some basic office supplies on hand. A little notepad and some tape, so I can tape a note on someone’s door. Labels to paste on the package I’m sending off to the United States. Correction fluid to white-out mistakes I make addressing our newsletters. A big fat marker for addressing packages, and putting our name on things. I would usually put a small pair of scissors in this pack, too.

I also have a small sewing kit and some iron-on patches. Clothes our size are not available in our country of adoption, so if something gets torn, we are in trouble unless I can mend it.

My Traveling Office

And if we are away from home more than a few weeks, I might need to give Bill a haircut. I’m his barber-of-choice. So I pack our hair-cutting scissors and a comb for that. The upside is that I always know where to find them when we are home, too.

My Traveling Barber Shop

This next little pouch doesn’t go on every trip with us. I just pack it if we are going to be away longer. It has extra pens, pencils, an eraser, lead refills, pen refills, and those scary scissors. It only took me three different times of getting my scissors confiscated and holding up the security check line before I learned to pack them in my checked luggage and not my carry-on. I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake.

More Office Supplies Plus Those Forbidden Scissors!

Now, my sundries bag. This is a new bag for me, just bought locally in Manila. Not very expensive. I know there are nicer ones out there. I like that it has a metal hook for hanging.

Over the years I have collected duplicates of the basic sundry items I need, so this stays packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I also include bandages (or plasters for you Asian/UK folks), a tube of antibiotic ointment and some basic meds like aspirin and paracetamol and antacid. And never underestimate the power of ziplock bags. Put liquids like shampoo, conditioner and lotions in a ziplock bag inside your sundries bag and you’ll be a lot happier if something leaks.

My Sundries Bag
A Little Bit of Everything to Stay Clean and Healthy

I want to show you the inside pocket of my carry-on bag, because I keep several things in here that I think are important. One is a master packing list. How many times have I gotten somewhere and realized I didn’t have the slip or cami I needed for a certain outfit? Also in there is a copy of my passport. We don’t carry our actual passports around with us when we are just traveling within one country. (I also keep a copy of my passport folded up in my wallet as an alternate ID, which is sometimes useful.) And an adaptor, and some batteries.

Permanent Packing List, Passport Copy, Adaptor, Batteries

One other bag I didn’t take a picture of is our gadget bag, or electronics bag. In it are all the cords for my phone charger and camera charger, and some extra adaptors, a thumb drive.

I also have a small jewelry bag, and we used to have an organizer for our girl’s hair things.

It is really helpful to have different-looking pouches for different uses. That way, it is easier to keep track of what items are where. We have two black pouches that look alike. More than once we’ve packed one thinking the keys we needed were in it, only to find out when we got to where we were going it had pens and pencils in it instead. Oops.

  • 2. Master List Book. Another item helps me stay as organized as possible, and that is a notebook. I use a hardcover journal to keep lists in – What to Buy In Manila, What Supporter Gifts We Need to Buy, What is in our Storage closet in Manila – things like that. That way everything I need to remember is in one place, handy to add to, and not on a lot of slips of paper, or in my computer which isn’t always handy. I can either throw the book in my purse, or cut the lists out (with those scissors I packed) to take shopping when the time comes. But over the months, if I think of something we need to buy next time we are in the big city, I know where to write it down.

And despite all this planning and organizing, I still make mistakes and get somewhere without everything I need. But having these systems has really helped save us some grief over the years.

  • 3. Pre-Packing. One more tip for packing: I almost always PRE-PACK two days before a trip. I put everything I’m going to need in my suitcase and carry-on, then pull out what I need to wear the last day or two, and make a list of anything that isn’t packed yet, like my alarm clock, water bottle, phone, makeup, computer, and so forth.

This tip allows me to get some sleep the night before we travel. Too many times we would stay so late packing, then have to get up extra early to travel. And then I’m grumpy. Not nice.

Now! How do you stay organized while on the road? Do you have any great things that work for you and your family that we should hear about? Something I haven’t mentioned that is important? Go ahead and put a comment in the comment box and share with us.

What is My Purpose in Life? New Year 2012

Skyline of the City of Manila, seen from the C...
Skyline of the city of Manila

I love the New Year. A fresh start. A time to look back and reflect, evaluate. A time to look forward. A time to dream. A time to plan.

We had the privilege of starting our year in Manila and attending our favorite church there, CCF, Christ’s Commission Fellowship. And the great privilege of hearing Pastor Peter Tan Chi speak. The question he asked was,

If you had ONE request to ask God, what would it be? What is closest to your heart?

“Wisdom” is what came to my mind. Life is full of decisions, choices, problems, and I would love to have God’s wisdom in tackling them. Bill felt like “Closeness to God” would be what he would ask for.

Pastor Peter’s challenged us from Psalm 27:4, David’s prayer: “One thing I ask of the Lord, that shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.”

In plain language, David’s request and Pastor Peter’s charge is to have one abiding desire, one quest, one goal. And that should be to pursue intimacy with God. Peter Tan Chi said his prayer for CCF is “that we will not be shallow Christians.” And he warned us not to get so busy with our work for God that we neglect intimacy with God.

Pastor Peter’s choice quotes: “You want to pursue intimacy with God? Learn about prayer and fasting.” And, “The biggest problem is not pursuing wrong things, but failure to pursue the ONE BIG THING,” citing Paul’s desires in Philippians 3, “but one thing I do. . .”

I’m challenged to put Pursue Intimacy with God at the top of my list of New Year’s resolutions for 2012.  Anybody with me?  I think I need to add some regular fasting to my spiritual disciplines in 2012. Bill and I have done that in the past, but not so much recently. How about you? What is it going to look like for you this year?

Merry Christmas to All!

Warm (literally) Christmas greetings to you! Christmas is a tough season for those of us living overseas, far from family and traditions. Even after 30-plus years, I still get homesick around Christmas time. This little video is my gift to you this year. It gave me chills, then brought me to tears. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. There is a surprise at the end of this video, if you watch it through.

The mall happens to be a few blocks away from where my youngest daughter, Bethy, and her husband live in Torrance, California, which made it all the more special to me.

Thanks to Rachelle Gardner for sharing it on her blog.

P.S. A little while after I posted this, I learned my good friend Barbara, a missionary teacher for many years in Papua New Guinea, and now working in Indonesia, is supported by this church. She says it was ‘my very first home church where I was rooted and grounded in God’s Word.’ How cool is that?

view to Palos Verdes from Torrance Beach
View of Torrance beach with Palos Verdes peninsula in the background

Monggo (Mung) Bean Stew

MungBeans
Uncooked Monggo Beans

Ah, Month of December, I love you! This is the best time of the year in the Philippines. And today was one of those days – cool, rainy, cozy. Just the day for some soup simmering on the stove. So tonight I’m continuing with my series of favorite soups from local ingredients. This recipe is my adaptation of the one found in SIL’s The New Plain and Fancy Cookbook, “An Adventure in Eating in the Philippines.” Monggo beans are the Filipino term for mung beans.

Monggo Bean Stew

  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups monggo beans
  • water
  • 1 or 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 chopped tomatoes

First sort through the monggos to remove any rocks or bad ones. Then rinse them with clean water. Put in a big pot with lots of water. Add remaining ingredients. Boil all together in a large pot. Simmer for 45 minutes, adding extra water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

English: Carrot tzimmes with honey.
Add Diced Carrots

Serve as is, or over rice if you want. I like spicy vinegar with it. Bill likes tabasco sauce.

For a heartier meal, add some chopped up sausages, or diced pieces of a rotisserie chicken. Monggo beans cook quicker than dried beans, and seem to need a lot of water. They don’t need to be pre-soaked. This makes a large pot of stew, so I divide it up into containers and stock my freezer for quick meals on busy days.

Español: Cebolla siendo cortada.
Add Diced Onions

Monggo beans are inexpensive, keep well, and are highly nutritious. A one-cup serving of boiled monggo beans contains  14 grams of protein, and is loaded with folate, a B vitamin, as well as other vitamins and minerals including thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.

English: A basket of garlic (allium sativum) o...
Everything Tastes Better With Garlic

This is a rustic recipe, using readily available ingredients. Simple, satisfying and  inexpensive, it is the best kind of food!

Note: Monggo beans can also be spouted for bean sprouts, which makes a fun home-school project for families.

How to Have Fun in the Kitchen With Poison – Making Roach Cookies

____ make roach cookies

Faded To Do List in Kitchen

This has been an item on my To Do list for weeks and weeks now. I have a confession to make. I’ve been Talking the Talk, but not Walking the Walk. I’ve posted several times on this blog about how Wonderful and Sanity Saving these roach cookies are. Yet here I am, with roaches starting to re-appear in my house. And sometimes in the creepiest places. Just the other day, I turned on the printer to print out some translation materials to work on. My printer started grumbling like it was chewing up paper. Paper Bog. Well, my printer does have issues, and has to be treated quite delicately if you want cooperation. But Paper Bog is not one of those issues. So I was surprised, and turned to pry out a scrunched up sheet of paper. But instead of a wrinkled page, a cockroach came flying out of the paper feed, along with the translation materials. Missing one leg. Which I later found stuck on one of the pages. Gross. Apparently, roaches inside don’t make for smooth-running printers. Who knew?

So today is Saturday afternoon. What better time to play with boric acid and onions, I ask? You can see by that: a) I don’t have a life, and, b) We don’t have kids at home anymore. Our kids would never have put up with us staying home and working all day Saturday. However, c) I think this blogging thing is fun. It doesn’t seem like work to me. More like play. So here goes:

This is what the boric acid powder looks like. Kind of looks and feels like laundry soap. But doesn’t smell like laundry soap. It doesn’t smell at all.

Here’s what I need. An onion. Some milk. A cup of flour. A little salt. My Kitchen Bear. It’s a very short list of ingredients. I’m checking my cookbook for the exact measurements. . .

"Look at all that Tupperware. You should be a Tupperware Lady." "I was." "Oh."

OK, here is where she goes into a short rant. What kind of recipe is this? 1/4 kilo boric acid powder? What in the world? How much is that? And, quote a little milk unquote. Well, that’s helpful. A pinch of salt. Could you be more vague, please? That’s a bit too specific for me. We’re going to IMPROVE this recipe! We’re going to weigh that 1/4 kilo of boric acid powder and then measure it out. All rightie, then, I’m hauling out my kitchen scale. (Hoping that roaches don’t pop out of the scale at me.) It turns out that 1/4 kilo is somewhere between 1 1/3 and 1 1/2 cups of boric acid powder. Hmmm. What shall it be? 1 5/12 cup? Let’s go with 1 1/2 cups. How does that sound? Do you have an opinion? We’re going to measure that milk. We’re going to throw caution to the wind and make a decision about that salt – a pinch is going to equal 1/4 teaspoon. And if the roaches think the cookies are too salty, well, that’s just tough. OK, rant over. It’s safe to keep reading now.

Finely chop the onion.

Stir onion together with the boric acid powder and a little milk to hold it together. (Some recipes call for sugar added, but I am afraid that would draw ants, and we don’t need to encourage those ants. We have all the ants we need already, thank you very much.)

Make into golf ball size balls.

Leave on cookie sheet to dry and harden. This is the hardest step. I’m serious. In the tropics we have so much humidity all the time, sometimes 100% humidity (which being interpreted, means rain), that things really don’t like to dry out. Which is good for women of late-middle-age. I’m not as crinkley as some of my peers from drier climates. But it’s not as good for things like oh, clean wet laundry, for example that you want to air-dry. Or, so it happens, roach cookies.

I noticed Monika put out her roach cookies on little squares of aluminum foil, which is a great idea. Because if you tuck them away in your cupboards or drawers before they are 100% dry, they will want to stick to the surface of wherever they are put. I might be too lazy to cut up all that foil, though. I’ll probably just put these pans around the kitchen, up on top of the fridge out of the way, and hope they dry someday. (I’ve thought of drying them in an oven turned low. But unfortunately, my oven doesn’t turn low. And also, I didn’t know if it would affect the effectiveness of the boric acid powder. You know, change its chemical composition somehow.)

I just happened to have some parchment paper up in a cabinet, so I went ahead and lined the cookie sheet with a sheet of that.

There isn’t a Cockroach Cookie Best Practice Guide, so you can make the balls larger or smaller. It’s really OK.

Here’s the New Improved Cockroach Cookie Recipe Par Excellence. Drum roll, please.

  • 1 1/2 cups boric acid powder  (or 1/4 kilo) (not the boric acid for eyes)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. milk

Mix together the boric acid, onion, flour and salt. Add enough milk to make into balls (pie crust consistency). Shape into the size of golf balls. Let set until hard. Place in corners of cupboards and drawers. Keep out of reach of children and pets.

I’ll mention that though boric acid is lethal for roaches, and apparently, friends say, for ants too, it is only very mildly toxic for humans – comparable to laundry soap. In fact, it is related to borax, that laundry cleaning ingredient. Link to University of Kentucky College of Agriculture article here. Here’s a quote from that article:

Boric acid is a wonderful tool for controlling cockroaches in homes, restaurants and other buildings. It is effective in extremely small amounts and retains its potency almost indefinitely provided the deposit remains dry. Unlike many insecticides, boric acid has no repellency to insects and, consequently, roaches return to treated areas repeatedly until they die. Boric acid is deadly to cockroaches, but is low in toxicity to people, pets and other nontarget animals. It is also odorless and contains no volatile solvents.

Boric acid is a white, inorganic powder chemically derived from boron and water. Boron is mined from vast mineral deposits in the ground and is used in countless consumer products, including laundry additives, toothpaste and mouthwash.

Thank you, University of Kentucky. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Though goodness knows I’ve tried.

If you’d like to read some other lovely places missionaries have found roaches, see this article, but you’ll have to excuse the Old Unimproved Cockroach Cookie Recipe Sans Excellence found there. Since I posted that, Pip found many in her blender motor, and another person found them in an insulated thermos. They are tricksy, those roaches. That article also tells where to find boric acid powder in Manila, Philippines.

Have you found roaches in unexpected places? Do tell, so we know we are not alone. We can’t ALL be horrible housekeepers, can we?

Curry Squash Soup

Kalabasa Squash
Kalabasa Squash

One of my New Year’s resolutions this past January was to keep the freezer stocked with soups and stews. Bill and I are forever trying to eat healthier and lose weight. Adding more vegetables into our diet is part of that. And having food already prepared in the house saves money and time in the long run. So I’ve been experimenting with different recipes that highlight locally available produce. Kalabasa squash is plentiful here, and available all year round. In the U.S. and Japan it is called kabocha. In Indonesia, it is labu. In Mexico, calabaza. We use kalabasa as a substitute for pumpkin in pies, muffins and quick breads. Here is a soup recipe I tried that we both love.

The taste is reminiscent of Thai Curry, but it’s made without Thai curry paste, just locally available spices. The mashed or pureed squash gives it a thick richness, and the coconut milk adds creaminess, then all the spices give it a wonderful flavor:

Curry Squash Soup

Curry Powder, jar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
  • 4 cups water (original recipe calls for vegetable broth, but I didn’t have any)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 6 cups cooked squash, mashed
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp. worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in flour and curry powder until smooth. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to bubble. Gradually whisk in water or broth, and cook until thickened. Stir in kalabasa, coconut milk, spices, sugar, salt and worchestershire sauce. If you happen to have a food processor or blender, whisking this up first before cooking, will result in a smoother soup. But don’t let lack of kitchen appliances slow you down! Adjust seasonings to taste. (If you or your children don’t like things too spicy-hot, then reduce or eliminate the cayenne and chili flakes.) Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat.

NOTE: Filipinos typically make coconut milk from grated, squeezed mature coconuts. It is called gata here, and a much less expensive, though more labor-intensive substitute for the canned coconut milk. You can get a mature coconut machine-grated in the market. I think they run about 15 pesos.

The making of coconut milk
Grating Coconut by Hand

Makes 16 servings. This turns out much like a Thai Curry soup or sauce. It is also good with cooked potatoes, and/or carrots, and/or cooked chicken added for a more substantial stew.

This recipe is adapted from one I found in allrecipes.com. I changed it out by substituting some of the broth for coconut milk, and a few other tweeks. Down here in the province where I live, I can’t get canned broth. Sometimes I make my own chicken broth. But for a quick go-to broth, I rely on vegetable bouillon cubes I find at Healthy Options in Manila. I’m trying to stay away from products containing MSG, so haven’t been using Knorr cubes lately.

We loved ordering kalabasa on our supply flights when we lived in the tribe, because they keep for weeks without refrigeration. At the end of three weeks or a month, when all the other fruits and vegetables were used up or gone bad, there would sit a humble kalabasa in a hanging basket in our tribal pantry, just asking to be make useful.

Kalabasa is very rich in beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. It also has a lot of vitamin C, potassium and folate, as well as some other vitamin and mineral goodies. The coconut milk adds a ton of minerals, too. And fat. Oh well, too bad about that.

This makes a huge batch, so we can eat some now, and put the rest in containers in the fridge and freezer for quick meals later.

Donna Amis Davis

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