Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Little Orange Crayon Goes a Long Way

We are back in the U.S. visiting family!  Pictures and related updates to come!  I had to share a laundry episode now.

Once a year I buy a bunch of shirts (and a few pairs of shorts and pants) at a Good Will near my parents-in-law and at a consignment shop near my parents to make it through the next year.  Drying clothes in the tropical sun toasts them and stretches them, and by May I have a limited amounts of shirts that fit and still look acceptable.  I stock up every summer.  The other day I bought my load of clothes for the upcoming year and put them in the washer to pre-wash them.

As I was unaware of my son's new philosophy that one should always have a bit of something to write with in one's pocket in case one has an important insight, I threw his sweatshirt in with my new clothes and created a disaster.  Crayons and dryers can create a mess some of you may be able to relate with.

Every item I had just purchased and put in that load was covered with orange crayon.

I am not proud of my initial response.  Not my best moment.

Looking online, I found a post that gave me hope that all was maybe not lost.  This mom recommended mixing laundry detergent, dish soap, and vinegar and washing in hot water.  The only problem is, only some of her comments said that people had been successful with that method.  I had a feeling rubbing the dish soap in in advance could help, and what I found was that Dawn completely took the stains out by itself!  It took some elbow grease, but I had everything looking almost perfect before I even threw it in the laundry, and then it came out great after it went through the laundry.

Just a great trick to know for next time a crayon works its way into the wash!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Happy Summer!

A fitting end to a great day--we had the first real free day today since school ended (yesterday doesn't count because Abigail was sick and I had to finish handwriting my grades into the Dominican Department of Education approved gradebook).  We had "Mommy Camp" today--some soccer this morning with some friends (because our school's soccer camp was cancelled due to lack of interest), clean the garage (service project), game, cookies, etc.  We moved the craft to tomorrow morning.  It's fun; the kids actually think of Mommy Camp as a real part of the summer.  I keep waiting for them to say, "Mommy camp is stupid," but every year they get excited.  We don't do it all summer, just designated days.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Spring Flowers, the Graduate, and Goats

I love the beautiful flowers we got as a result of all the rain we've been getting lately.

Super proud of the kindergarten graduate

These goats keep flocking in the road and making my drive interesting 
since I started taking the back way to school

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Flooding in Santiago . . . Our Drive Home Yesterday

Yesterday we watched a high school girl's play-off soccer game that was called due to lightening.  Soon we were commenting on the bad drainage in the gym where we were taking refuge.  We clearly were not too concerned by the rain at that point, as you can see below.

When we got on the road, we were first fascinated by the water build-up, then concerned as we saw the level rising up the sides of the cars.  It must have rained close to a foot in an hour (by Owen's and my estimation) and the drains could not keep up.  

I have to confess, most of the pictures were taken before things got really interesting.  Once I really thought we might get stuck in the creek that the street had become, I got distracted from taking pictures.  At one point we had to pull into a gas station, and the water was up to the level of the foot board on the side of our SUV.  We considered staying there because it really looked like it was getting too deep to drive (we watched people lift up their moto out of the water to fill the gas tank), but then a submerged gas station didn't strike us as the safest place to get stranded and we went for it.  The kids swear they saw a floating car as Owen and I were navigating our way.

We talked to stranded co-workers until they got off the roads and we shop-vacced out our house and we thanked God that everyone was safe.  Needless to say, the kids enjoyed their supper on the couch in front of Wild Kratts (in a dry corner of the house).

Not a typical rain storm.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Garden Growth

I have kale in my garden!  I didn't realize until this week that some of the radishes are actually kale.

I love it!  It is bringing me garden joy!!!

And we cleared the rest of the mini-plot of as many rocks, added some bags of soil, and planted some seeds.  We're claiming the rest of the garden now!  No more waiting for rocks to be cleared and leaving it to the weeds--we'll plant and claim it, and just have paltry yield until we get more rocks out.

Thank the Lord for our D.R. garden!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Our Car's New Look!

April Fool's!  It was another car at the grocery store!  :)

Victory Garden!!

Por fin!  At last!  We have homegrown veggies!  The radishes are in!

Not exactly my favorite vegetable, but I'll take what I can get!  :)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Easy Sourdough Gluten-free Bread

When I moved to the D.R., I decided that my gluten-free sourdough days were behind me.  I just couldn't handle the stress or commitment of dealing with starter or everyday baking.  So I took a four year break.

But lately I've started baking some pretty great desserts in my little toaster oven (because it doesn't heat up the house) and I decided to dream big and try some bread again.  I still have my kefir--in fact, I have a new batch that isn't so tart and I really love it.

So I thought I'd try my sourdough recipe with kefir in place of starter.  I mix the kefir, oat flour, yucca flour, a gluten-free flour blend, a little flaxmeal, 2 eggs, 2 T sugar, 1 t baking soda, a dash of salt, and a half stick of butter in a glass dish that just fits in our toaster.  The consistency is knead-able only with a spoon but not a liquid.  Then I let it rise a few hours (or all day, if I'm gone) and then bake it almost two hours.

And it tastes AMAZING!  We loved it so much I made three batches just this weekend!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Santiago Gardening (Finally)

Mango tree (left) and pink guava tree (right), both only about a year-old--
probably growing so rapidly because my compost pile is directly in from of them.

 OK, it's been a while since I had a real gardening post.  Actually, it's been a while since I had any post, sorry about that.  Somehow my "free Friday mornings" have been a little less free than I thought they'd be.  Lots of our days off fall on Friday, I've had to schedule appointments on Friday mornings, and, somehow, almost every time one of our kids is sick it's on a Friday.  So there went all that delicious free time I thought I'd have.

Anyway, anyone reading my blog is familiar with my unsuccessful attempts to garden in what I was told is some of the most fertile land on the planet--not a big boost for a gardener's ego I can tell you.  In fairness to my ego, the soil has so much clay I haven't known what to do with it and most of what is grown here is in ample supply and not the foods I want to grow (i.e., I probably could have been successful growing yucca or plantains, I just don't want to).

Some of my challenges have been:

1) the aforementioned clay,
2) stolen soil,
3) a bird that eats baby spinach and red beet seedlings,
4) tropical sun combined with neglectful watering,
5) heat (don't always feel like being out trying).
6) lots and lots of small rocks, intended to decoratively cover the land for I know not what reason,
7) rats in the area as a discouragement for composting,
8) and going back to work part time being closer to full time.

I basically gave up.  But last May or so, I decided that it was too depressing not to compost.  I decided I would compost and just ask myself "If I was a rat, would I eat this?" for foods I wasn't sure about (so, no grains!).  And now, after stealing leaf trash from neighbors' trash piles and lots of our own veggie and fruit waste, we have compost.  And the compost being added to the clay-ey soil (and lots and lots of buckets of rocks taken out) has led to nice garden soil.  So, hilariously, this time my need to compost led to gardening instead of the other way around.

So today we have (once again, I nust say) planted some seeds: kale, red radishes, french breakfast radishes, red beets, and tomatoes.  Not sure how it'll all do, but hoping to get something out of it this time.  Here are some pictures.

My newly planted garden--tiny, but relatively free of rocks and well-composted.  I'm hopeful that when these
seedlings come up, the netting will solve the seedling-eating-bird problem.

Palm leaves I had the kids drag over from neighbors' yards and then stripped and cut into
smaller pieces.  Awaiting sunny weather (we've had a lovely wet weather streak this weekend)
to get them dry for my brown composting material.

Baby chinola vines (passion fruit)

Our first garden harvest, a tomato plant with a single tomato.  Hilariously, this tomato plant was a
volunteer growing in our the strip where our garage door opens with virtually no soil.  We transplanted it
with little hope for its survival.  It is our first successful gardening venture here.  Abigail got to eat it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Our Dominican Christmas (in photos)

Me and Mah

Santiago light show downtown

Light show with wise man
Cookie time!  (Made more difficult this year because in addition to avoiding gluten, we had to avoid chocolate, since Micah isn't able to eat it without getting sick now.  

Lagoon, Los Tres Ojos, Santo Domingo

Manger scene, metal, Santo Domingo
Cathedral, Santo Domingo 
Santo Domingo light display

Gingerbread house

Christmas morning

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa!

A favorite gift!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Homemade Wrapping Paper

We've been celebrating Christmas by drawing pictures on strips of blank paper that came wrapped around a frying pan we bought.  We've gotten about half of it decorated--fun family fun!  :)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Keeping it Real . . .

This year, the boys were characters from Micah's "Alien Escape" and Abigail was a puppy.  We visited some American homes and did some good old fashioned trick or treating (by ourselves, no one does here).  :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Abigail got lice.  And gave them to me.

It looks like moving day over here.

We've got lots of trash bags everywhere, full of all of our stuffed animals, decorative pillows, and anything else suspicious.  We've boiled our hair brushes and combed and combed and combed.  And first we washed twice with toxic lice shampoo, I know, probably too terrible to use.  But I think I combed out multiple hundreds out of her hair.  Took us a while to catch it, it would seem.  We did have a situation.

Now we're using coconut oil and tea tree oil and I'm combing and combing with the special little comb.  And it looks like we're in the clear.  But I will be continuing our ritual of conditioning, combing, and tea tree oil for at least another week.  Just to make sure!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Perfect Sunday Sandwich

Tonight after ultimate frisbee at the school, I decided I wasn't in the mood for the turkey sandwich I'd planned for us.  So while the kids went to town on that, I chopped up some sausage and onions and sauteed it.  Then I mixed in some jarred sauce and served it on buns with a slice of cheese on top.

It was just too good for words.  Way better than I thought possible for such a fast and easily thrown-together meal.  I actually had to tone down my normally expressive reactions to my food enjoyment because there really wasn't enough for the kids (I mean, they'd already eaten, anyway . . . ).  And it hardly seemed fair to go on and on about it.

I'm sorry to say I didn't take a picture.  I just didn't expect it to be that good!  And I was halfway through and covered with sauce by the time I thought of it.  Definitely going to be a repeat soon--and I'll even give the kids some next time.

Welcome Flooding

The Dominican Republic has been in the worst drought since 1997 (and this one is worse).

It virtually didn't rain all summer, and we've had just a few good rains in the last month.

We had so little rain that our water levels were getting critically low.  And I'll tell you, nothing gets you looking anxiously at every gray cloud (and praying) like knowing that drinking water could soon be a problem.  They were already rationing running water to homes--sadly, it was being restricted especially in poorer neighborhoods.

So it was incredibly exciting to get rain this week.  It rained three out of the last four days.  It felt like love rained down from God.

Owen and I have had to return to our rain tradition.  Because our back patio is unfortunately slanted toward the house, we get flooding in our back two rooms when it rains heavily.  Enormous puddles!  Thankfully, tropical architecture is all about tile, so it's not the disaster it would be in the states.  We just basically have to sweep it out the back door and then off the porch before it flows back in.  With some mopping to finish the job.

We mopped two nights of the last four, dealing with massive amounts of water in our house.  It's been months since that happened.

And sometimes, a little bit of "flooding" feels like an amazing, blessing-from-God kind of problem.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Bit Macho . . .

One of the hardest parts of latino culture for me is the difference in how men and women are perceived here.  I'm just so American.  And I don't handle well comments or insinuations made about women not being able to do things because they're women.

Abigail started soccer a few weeks ago.  And I discovered last week that the coach is hesitant to give them too rigorous of a schedule (i.e. give them things to do the whole practice) because the girls in the team need to rest a lot.  They've been laying around a lot and taking tons of water breaks.  I've spent two different practices speaking with him about how Abigail does not need to take rests because she's a girl.  The last practice I found out that the girls had to rest while the boys played and then the boys played with the girls (because boys don't need the rest).

I told the coach that as far as he is concerned, Abigail is a boy.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My "Garden"

I don't know if I blogged about it at all years ago in Philly, but much of my "gardening" there was really picking out tons of decorative white rocks that someone at some point decided would be easier than grass (before the grass took over through the rocks).  I spent many, many hours picking rocks out of the soil.  At first, there was as much rock as soil.  But gradually, over the years, I reclaimed the garden from both the rocks and the weeds who thought they owned the place.  I added layers of compost and worked the soil year after year.  And it became a garden.

Now, as it turns out, I've moved into another rock-bed-yard house.  And I'm trying to reclaim the soil from the rocks.  We've put in a good 20 or 30 hours at this point and I have a 1.5 by 4 foot little rectangle of dirt to show for it.  Micah wrote in his school journal something like, "I picked rocks out of the garden this weekend." Which surely must translate to "I have a meaningful and stimulating home life."

I've also started composting again.  I was scared for a while, I'll admit it.  I've seen rats in the empty lots near my house.  One even chewed a hole in an old sock we left to dry on the front porch.  Ew, I know.  It was my sock.  And it wasn't that old, just dirty.  What if I attract rats with my compost?

And it's hot, which is a de-motivator for outdoor work.  Enough said.

But I get so restless sometimes, because so much of my pre-Dominican identity was related to gardening.  And I so wish I could get my hands on more varieties of greens!!!  We have arugula, lettuce, herbs, bok choy (randomly), cabbage, spinach, and napa cabbage.  But only rarely can I find any good sautee-able dark greens other than bok choy.  And I miss them!  And I miss gardening!

So I'm giving it a try.  The compost is in full swing.  We're having to steal leaves from neighbors for the dry materials (Owen actually got some security guards restless getting our last load--he got greedy, do you need to steal five bags from one house?).  And the tiny plot of land is ready.  We plan to expand to a full 4 by 6 garden once we de-rock sufficiently.

And the volunteer guava tree should be big enough to make some fruit in a year or two.

Poco a poco, little by little . . .

Friday, August 28, 2015

Essential Oils Actually Work

I guess it should be no great surprise, given how many people use them, that essential oils work, but I have to say I've been pleasantly shocked at how much they've helped my family.  I know, just one more step towards crazy . . .

I was using essential oils for my homemade deodorant and bug spray and cleaning spray, but I wasn't really looking to them for any kind of medical solutions.  But this summer I talked to some people who were saying they could do all sorts of things, and I thought, OK, here goes . . .

So my first issue was figuring out which oils to buy, because apparently these oil-users have a basic stash on hand at all times.  I had some of these already for frangrances, but I decided to keep on hand the following:

lavender oil
lemon oil
tea tree oil
clove oil (or clove bud)
peppermint oil
oregano oil
german (or roman) chamomile oil

I have some more, but really, these are my heavy-hitters, and I just ordered big amounts of lavender, lemon, peppermint, tea tree, and clove (oregano lasts longer, I don't use it quite as much).

I tried some doTerra oils, but I must say, they are expensive!  And I went through a few little bottles in a month now that I really got going using them!  So I just ordered some WAY cheaper NOW brand which looks (according to my research) like great quality for a significantly cheaper price.

Here are the following things I'm doing:

My kids allergies are under control for the first time in years as a result of the essential oils we started using.  I haven't taken them off of Zyrtec at this point, it's just that Zyrtec wasn't taking care of the problem all the way and now they can actually breathe out of their noses!

Allergy spray: (We're using a few sprays into the back of our throats twice a day)
In a tiny one ounce bottle, mix

  • 4 drops of lemon oil, 
  • 4 drops peppermint, 
  • 2 drops oregano, 
  • 1 drop clove
  • fill rest with water
Allergy rub (at night on sinuses and under nose)--I made this in a little plastic pill container.
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 4 drops peppermint oil
  • 2 drops frankincense oil (you could skip that one if you don't have it)
  • 2-4 drops of eucalyptus, lavender, or chamomile
Allergy foot rub (at night on bottoms of feet)  Also helps with trouble falling asleep!
  • 1-3 drops of chamomile (can be in a carrier oil like coconut)
Pain relief:
I have chronic shoulder pain issues and haven't been able to sleep on my right side in years.  I used to take a fair amount of ibuprofen, but lately I've cut that out completely.  I rub clove oil on anything that hurts--if it is an area of more sensitive skin, like the neck, it needs to be "watered down" with coconut oil.  For back or shoulder pain I put it straight on the skin and it works like a strong Bengay.  It gives immediate and long-term pain-relief.  (It helps me fall asleep and keeps the pain away until morning--and sometimes resolves it altogether.)

Heat rash/burns/skin problems:
Tea tree oil or lavender oil work great to help with these.

I tried making my own chamomile oil using coconut oil and dried chamomile for 8 hours in a crock pot.  It seems to be working some, but it's not as strong as what I bought.  I didn't strain out the chamomile in hopes that it gets stronger.

I have been shocked at how well these remedies have served my family.  I am now open to new uses.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Tooth Rat

You know an interesting Dominican tradition?  Instead of the Tooth Fairy, for over-protected American children, they have the tooth rat.  Kind of a different feeling putting that tooth under your pillow for a rat to get, isn't it?  I'm not sure it's worth a dollar to me.  Or even 50 pesos.