Sunday, May 26, 2013


We have had no shortage of water problems since moving to this new house.

1) The water lines in the house were all put in just before we moved in, with the exception of the wall taps in the 2 bathrooms. The plumber did a horrible job, and most of the connections between pipes leak. Into the walls. Onto the ceiling. All over the house. Those have been re-done.

2) The toilet broke after about 10 flushes. We replaced the flusher and a few things in there, but had to have a plumber come out and look at it because it wouldn't stop running. Not running from the tank to the bowl. Running from the tank to the floor. And guess what - there was no shut-off valve. So if there was water in our attic water barrel, it was running to the toilet and out onto the floor. The plumber said there were so many pieces missing (which would control water flow and stuff) that the best solution would be a shut-off valve so that we could turn it on for the tank to fill, then turn it off. Ok, done. Not ideal, but it works.

The 100 liter barrel. 

3) There is no water rationing here like we had in Bamburi, but there will be days (on end) when the whole of Kilifi has no running water. In Bamburi, we had 10,000 liters of water storage. Here, we have 600: 100 in the attic and 500 outside. If we run out of water in the house, we have to haul buckets from outside; there is no pump. Normally, the water flows at night. By using the 500 liter barrel for washing clothes and cleaning, we have enough in the 100 liter barrel to last the day, even if we all take showers/baths. So when city water is flowing, it is enough. But if the water isn't flowing?

Our outdoor water barrel. It was raining, so I didn't go take a good pic...

This week has been a true test of how much water we actually need to have stored. The last day we had running water was Tuesday. Today is Sunday. Our attic water barrel emptied Wednesday night. Thursday evening, our outside water barrel was so low that I suggested to Rodgers we give Penny the day off Friday because we needed that water for flushing the toilet, washing ourselves, and cooking more than we needed our clothes washed and floors mopped.

We keep water in the kitchen in this 50 liter barrel. Rodgers borrowed the yellow jug when he went to get us water this morning. He brought several jugs in addition to filling our kitchen water.

We had spent Wednesday assuming the water would be flowing again that night. We are never wasteful with water, but we didn't really cut back on usage much. Starting Thursday, we conserved water as much as possible, with an "if it's yellow, let it mellow..." policy for toilet flushing and taking what Rodgers terms "desert baths" (just washing the important bits). It has not been fun. This morning Rodgers went out to find water for us because our big barrel is nearly dry. Sometimes people who have a well or tens of thousands of liters stored will let their friends have water during a water shortage. We did when we lived in Bamburi. Now we are on the receiving end.

For now, we catch rain off the roof in our wash tubs.

Our landlord is planning to put gutters around the house which will feed into an additional water barrel.  We are looking into how big a barrel we could bring into the house to replace the tiny one above the bathroom. It has to be small enough to fit through the bathroom door so that we can get it up there (the bathroom doesn't have a ceiling yet). But more than 100 liters would be awesome. We would also like to trade the 500 liter barrel for at least 1000 liters. More water is always better (except when it's all overflowing from the toilet to the bathroom floor...).

There was an episode of Fraggle Rock where the water goes away and the Pipe Bangers couldn't get the water to come back. They sing a song, "Run, water, run! Run, water, run!" I've been singing that this weekend.

Friday, May 24, 2013

brownies - a recipe

When we want a baked treat, we almost always choose brownies. We. Love. Brownies.

I am almost sure I got my original brownie recipe from Betty Crocker. However, the recipe calls for unsweetened baking chocolate, which I almost never have on hand and never remember to buy. I do always have cocoa. I use the 5 Tbsp of cocoa + 1 Tbsp oil per oz of baking chocolate conversion. This comes to 1 Tbsp short of 1 cup of cocoa. I round up to a full cup. Also, when adding that oil to the called for 2/3 cup of butter, it comes to 1 tsp short of a cup. Again, I round up. I also reduce the sugar because we are fans of less sweet chocolate, not for healthy reasons because it's still a lot of sugar and a full cup of butter! These are more fudgey brownies, not cakey at all. So here is my altered recipe. It is fab:

1 cup butter
1 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup optional extras (i.e. chocolate chips, chopped nuts, candy pieces...)

Preheat oven to 350° F

Grease bottom and sides of pan - I use an 8"x12" jelly roll pan, but the original recipe calls for a 9" square.

Melt butter with cocoa over low heat, cool for 5 minutes. (Originally I thought this wasn't necessary, since I'm not using baking chocolate that needs to be melted, but it does make it mix much more smoothly, so I melt the butter with the cocoa now.)

Beat sugar, vanilla, eggs in medium bowl; beat in chocolate mixture; beat in flour until just blended. Add optional extras. Spread in pan.

Bake 30-40 minutes or just until pulling away from sides of pan.

For Rodgers' birthday, Nate wanted to do a bicycle cake, so I used chopped Snickers to make a bicycle and stick figure Rodgers on top of his brownies.

Looks silly, but Rodgers dubbed it The Best Brownies Ever Made.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm afraid of Kenyan driving

I'm 30 years old. I've been driving since I was 16. And driving here scares me.

Bamburi traffic, though it doesn't really look scary when the cars aren't moving.

In Bamburi (Mombasa), I would occasionally drive myself and the boys to church when Rodgers went early. Then we started going to a new church that was farther away and would require too much traffic driving (for me), and I left it up to Rodgers.

Sometimes I would pick Nate up from school. We had chosen his school specifically because it was close enough that we could walk if we had to. This meant that I could also drive there without encountering the scary traffic.

Twice I drove all the way to the main highway to pick Rodgers up when he had taken a matatu to do business in Kilifi. But I am still afraid of driving on that highway down there, much less driving "in town," on the actual island of Mombasa. I'm a chicken. What can I say?

While I had walked to the corner store to buy a loaf of bread or some onions and shopped on my own that way, I had lived here more than a year without being able to drive myself to the grocery store. The great thing about moving to Kilifi is that the traffic here isn't so scary. There aren't so many matatus - or cars for that matter. Most Kilifi traffic is in the form of tuk tuks and boda bodas. I had been planning to drive more once we moved here. I did today. And it was fine!

Rodgers had business in Mombasa this afternoon (funny that when we lived there, he seemed to always have business here, and now it's the other way around). He left us the car, and when Ben woke up from nap, we went to Tuskys before picking Nate up from school. By ourselves! We celebrated with ice cream (what else?).

Now my challenge is getting used to driving on 4WD roads. Maybe I'll tackle Mombasa traffic next year.

Monday, May 13, 2013


We used to call Nate so many nicknames. At one of his infant well-checks, the doctor asked us if Nate responded to his own name. He did not. But I also couldn't remember if I had called him by his given name (or given nickname, since Nate is a nickname for Nathanael) a single time in the previous week. The doctor was not concerned at all, but I started trying to make sure I called him "Nate" so that he would at least learn his name. My favorite of his cutesy nicknames was Cute Potato Pie. The only ones I still use (because he insists that those are the only valid ones) are Sweetie and Kiddo. He is often Mr Nate.

Ben has the advantage of being a younger sibling. Besides being called Ben for Benjamin, all of his nicknames started with his big brother. When Ben was a newborn, Nate called him B. Ben would be laying on a blanket on the floor. He loved to watch Nate run around or just look at pictures. Nate would get mad at me for whatever reason and run crying to Ben. He would lay his head on Ben's tummy, and cry, "Nooooooo!!! B!! Noooooo!!!!"

Nate crying to B about how mean I am.

So we have B. And I sometimes call him Sweet B, like sweetpea. Then there are, of course, Mr Poopie Poopie and Mr Froggy Benjamin, which Rodgers often shortens to Froggy B. Mr Poopie Poopie started one day when I was changing Ben's poopie diaper, and Nate said, "Hey Poopie Poopie!" We have no idea where Mr Froggy Benjamin came from, besides Nate's imagination. And that's what makes it awesome!