Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Day of School


Six and Eight!

Another year older, not sure yet about wiser, maybe even sillier . . .

Homemade Confectioner's Sugar

I stumbled onto this in lazy desperation (probably I could have tracked down confectioner's sugar somewhere in Santiago when I needed it, but checking two places is just about my limit for anything).  So I read somewhere about blending or grinding regular sugar with tapioca flour.  And then I went for just the sugar, and I used my coffee bean grinder, and wow, it's perfect!  Just sugar in a coffee grinder for a few seconds does it.  My favorite part is that I can use natural unrefined sugar to make it.  I mean how high-end does that sound, right?  Unrefined confectioner's sugar.  I'm sure it would cost a fortune.  While here, in the D.R., it's actually cheaper to buy unrefined sugar, called azรบcar crema.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Another Spanish Observation

Suddenly I'm feeling a big boost in my Spanish.  While it can't hurt that we've made more non-Dominican Spanish-speaking friends (almost any other country's Spanish is easier to understand) with whom to practice, I actually came up with an unusual theory as to why Owen and I both have gone up a level in our Spanish.

We did almost no work to practice Spanish while we were in the states for five weeks.  I was a little terrified that I'd find I'd lost a lot of ground when I got back.  But you know of that phenomenon when you're struggling to solve some kind of problem and just can't come up with the answer?  And then you take a nap or wash dishes or do something mindless--and then the answer comes to you?

I think my five week break in the states was the equivalent of a nap.  I was frustrated and tired of struggling with Spanish and I just set it down for a while.  And then when I came back to it, it was like my brain had figured out a few things while I wasn't using it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Homemade and Natural Replacements

I blogged about this a few years ago, but I thought I'd offer my updated list of cosmetic items for anyone who's interested (with a few cleaning product replacements thrown in):
  • soap-- castille soap Dr. Bronner or, here in the Dominican Republic, they sell bars of unscented olive oil-based castille soap
  • shampoo-- castille soap (both have to be watered down) that I rotate with Lemon Tea Tree shampoo from Desert Essence Organics
  • toothpaste-- Trader Joe's (no sweetener or color added)
  • deodorant-- Pitt Putty (Bubble and Bee)
  • lotion-- shea butter 100% Organic West African Shea Butter 16 oz
  • hair gel-- shea butter (Owen)
  • after-shave-- rubbing alcohol (not exactly "natural," but better than the scented and chemical-filled alternatives), these days Owen doesn't use it b/c he uses a natural moisturized soap 
  • shaving cream-- Oatmeal and Honey soap from Trader Joe's 
  • sunscreen-- Purple Prairie botanicals, or (for those in tropical climates or for a beach day, the less natural but waterproof Pure and Simple kids or baby 50 (Coppertone)
  • lip balm-- Western family all natural (I found it at Giant in the check out lane for really cheap)
  • perfume--Ecco Bella Organic
  • mouthwash-- vodka, peppermint oil, and water
  • detergent for dishes-- Trader Joe's
  • laundry detergent-- Econuts
  • floor cleaner-- vinegar, dish soap, and water (with some clorox added for a stronger job--a less natural addition that my maid here insists on adding because she's convinced I'm not taking the germs here seriously enough)

For more ideas, visit (Environmental Working Group).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Parental Restrictions (A very recent top ten list)

  1. Don't smack your food at the table.
  2. Don't talk about how you're going to win food smacking world records when you grow up at the table.
  3. Don't stretch your shirt up over your head and elbows.
  4. Don't bite your mother to express overwhelming affection.
  5. Don't shout directly in your parents' ears.
  6. Don't lick your washcloth.
  7. Don't jam your stuffed animals down your pants.
  8. Don't tell grown-ups: "You're a peacock cheesecake!"
  9. Don't poke at a lizard to get the tape off it's back, it's just shedding its skin.
  10. Don't use your siblings names as characters in your stories who die in battle--too upsetting for the family.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cabarete, otra vez! (A last family getaway before school starts . . .)

We stayed for the weekend again in a condo with this gorgeous tropical garden view from our balcony.  Especially when the kites start up, it's amazing.

We love this beach at the edge of Cabarete, right near a kite surfing, trapeze teaching, Spanish language schooling, healthy restaurant hotel.  The food's good over at the hotel's beach front cafe and the kites are beautiful in the afternoons.  We do have to be careful of kite surfers if we go to the beach late afternoon--they wait to start surfing until the wind really kicks up, and can get pretty close to our swimming children.  At that part of the beach, the wind is so hard in the afternoons that it's hard to walk and sand stings your legs and arms.

The great thing about the beach there is that it's so beautiful and isolated.  Even the vendors, who are many, in Cabarete, don't come as far as our beach.  Just the peanut brittle salesman.  And once we saw someone selling lemoncelli, which is like little mini-limes that taste like key lime pies with enormous pits.

Sometimes we swim in the little pool behind the condo, where we're protected from the wind and can relax in the water.  We're beginning the second year of our family adventure here in the D.R. (or R.D., as they write it here), and we're praying that it's another good one, with lots of growth and joy in the midst of our challenges.