Friday, November 21, 2014

Monthly Musings [a linkup]

Spending Thanksgiving as an American expat is weird. Christmas is different - it's hard being away from our family in the US, but at least the holiday is celebrated, and some familiar things like nativity scenes and Christmas carols help make me feel more homey. Thanksgiving is kind of like Independence Day. The day comes and goes like any other. No one is off work. No one is celebrating. I had a very hard time my first Thanksgiving outside of the US, during which our Thanksgiving dinner had to be postponed for about 7 weeks.

Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room of a ship in the Philippines, 2006

Since then, with help from Rodgers, I try to introduce the holiday to my non-American friends. It is a lot of work for me in the kitchen, but so much fun! We get to teach a tiny bit of American history and introduce our friends to some super yummy American foods. It helps that I make cornbread dressing and the staple food here is corn (as in maize). The dressing and turkey are always eaten up very quickly. Not so much the veggies, but that's ok with me - I can eat creamy green beans for days!

Our first Thanksgiving in Kenya, 2012

As Christians, it is important to us to have a day set aside to particularly focus on giving thanks to God for providing for us. Of course, we give thanks every day, every time we pray. But we have holidays to pay special attention. We celebrate Christmas to pay special attention to the coming of Christ. We celebrate Easter to pay special attention to Jesus' death and resurrection, even though we worship on Sundays every week for the same reason. In Deuteronomy, the Hebrews were commanded to celebrate God's provision for seven days! (The Feast of Tabernacles) We don't personally celebrate the Jewish feasts, but I believe Thanksgiving Day serves the same purpose to us as the Feast of Tabernacles.

Our second Thanksgiving in Kenya, 2013

We invite Christian friends to celebrate with us. We thank God for what he has done for us, for the ways he has worked in all of our lives, for the ways he has made his presence known in the world around us. We eat before the Lord our God, and we rejoice! (Deut 12:7)

This is a monthly linkup. Check it out for more musings about thankfulness:
The Rambling Llama

Monday, November 17, 2014

Advent 2014

I love suspense movies and books. And TV shows. Suspense is fun. Alfred Hitchcock is quoted as saying, "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." In the same way, as a lover of Christmas, I enjoy the days leading up to Christmas so much. Not that Christmas is terrifying. There is fun in the anticipation. And Suspense's last name is Anticipation.

This anticipation, the expectant waiting, is what Advent is about. Thus, we have an Advent calendar. As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas Day, we do Advent readings as a family and focus on what Christmas is about, why it's all about Jesus, and who Jesus is anyway.

This year we are using the same short Scripture readings for each day, December 1 - 24, that we used last year. We start with some prophecies, move on to the gospels (particularly who John the Baptist said Jesus is and how Jesus describes himself), and conclude in Paul's letters. I print out the list, cut the days apart, and tuck each one into a pocket of our Advent calendar, with the tree ornament for that day. You can find my printable file below, if you want to follow along! Or if you prefer to follow digitally, follow Maisha Kamili on Twitter or Facebook. I will post each day's reading, as well as posts for the 4 Sundays of Advent on the Maisha Kamili blog.

The boys are very eager to get the new ornament out each day. They bring me the slip of paper and I read the designated Scripture as they place the ornament.

 advent pdf

In past years, I've done a daily blog post Advent guide. If you're looking for a different kind of Advent reading, flip through some of these:
Advent 2013 (Dec 1) || Advent 2012 (Dec 1) || Advent 2010 (Dec 1)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mamas Tell All: Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle [a linkup]

during one anti-sleep phase, Rodgers would sleep on the couch
and let Nate play in the living room. Nate would end up
crashing somewhere like this eventually. Always entertaining!
...when you have children.

The three main components in physical health are sleep, nutrition, and exercise. The problems with being healthy when you have kids are many. Here's how I deal with them!


Kids don't sleep when you need them to. They eventually start sleeping through the night, then have sleep regressions due to cognitive development, teething, illness, name it. Both of our kids had their last major sleep regression around age 30 months (2 1/2 years). Now they may wake up during the night occasionally, but for the most part we sleep through the night.

After Nate was born, we started going to bed way earlier to make sure we got enough sleep. Rodgers wakes up before dawn, so he tends to take a nap in the evenings. I am not a good napper, so I have to get all of my sleep overnight. I sleep until the kids wake me up, which is usually around 6:15.

It was obviously much harder with infants. However, since they were bottle fed, we had the freedom to split the night feedings. If it was before 2 am, Rodgers would get up. If it was after 2 am, I would get up. (Or was it the other way around? I don't have a clear memory from those time periods...) That way, even if we both woke up when the baby woke, one of us could go back to sleep, and we each got at least half a night's worth of sleep.


Either you have no time to feed yourself and go hungry or you end up eating too much, i.e. all of your toddler's leftovers because they keep saying they're hungry, but are "done" after a bite and a half. It's hard to eat well!

One of my time savers is to prep produce as I put it away. Fruit will be cleaned and put away ready to grab and eat. Veggies will be cleaned, blanched, and frozen, ready to add to a quick recipe later. I don't always stay on top of this, but snacking well and cooking meals are so much easier when I do! We keep healthy snacks like yogurt, boiled eggs, and nuts, too. We also enjoy some not-so healthy snacks in moderation.


With kids, I feel I have neither the time nor energy to exercise. I've never really liked exercising anyway. However, in the interest of health, I try to stay active and exercise for real a few times per week. I rely on the internet. I don't have time to go to a gym to exercise. I also don't have childcare. My gym is my living room floor, and my trainer is YouTube. I'm not strict about it, though. If I am genuinely tired (or if it's too hot - we don't have a/c), I will skip exercising. It works for me!

Visit the linkup:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

end of year!

Today was the first kindergarten graduation ceremony for Nate's school. They did presentations/performances and gave awards certificates for each class before the actual graduation. It was actually lots of fun! The kids had learned a lot of songs and poems to present, and Nate recited a Bible verse all by himself, as well as participating in several of the group poetry recitations. 

We spent a lot of time waiting between different parts of the program.
Here we're keeping Ben occupied with chewing gum and taking pictures.

Teacher Leah gave him a balloon.

And Rodgers read the newspaper
During one of the waiting times, they started up a game of Musical Chairs
for the parents! Rodgers was selected to play in the first group.
He did not win, unfortunately.
Nate's 3rd from the left in this pic, getting set up to recite a poem together!
Nate was not in this one - it was a very cool Giryama folk song and dance.
I was called on to present award certificates for "Best in Language"
for each class. Nate got the award for his class! Rodgers was not
fast enough to take a picture of us, but there we are from a
distance, while they were still getting all of the kids on stage. 

Nate used to go to dance class on Wednesday afternoons, but one day they told us, "Nate says his body won't dance right for dance class. He's in chorale now instead." I thought 'choir,' singing. But actually they memorize and recite poetry as a group. In addition to the chorale verses, each class recited something as a group and sang a song. Also, some of the kids recited poems or Bible verses on their own.

They begin each presentation by saying "On the stage is [either the class, the individual's name, or "Bright Beginnings Kindergarten" if it's the chorale group], ready to recite a poem, entitled ________. Welcome (with a bow)." Then they recite. At the end, and this is my favorite part, they bow again and say, "Pleasure!"

Chorale (with some extras, I think!) learned "I Will Forget" to recite at a music festival in June. We were in Texas, so Nate missed it. However, he got to recite it with the group today! Nate's by the microphone on the left side. The poem talks about letting students learn at their own pace, in their own style, rather than forcing them to learn by rote.

A smaller chorale group (I think this may be the Wednesday group?) presented "6 O'clock," which is a cute poem about a bedtime routine.

KG2 class presented "Education." Education is like an orange situated in a desert, and I am a traveler. Those are oranges they're holding, and even though they're green, they are ripe.

Towards the end of the presentations, Nate got to recite John 1:1. He didn't even seem nervous. I'm so impressed. There were about 100 people watching him.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thanksgiving in Kenya

In the US, we share Thanksgiving with our family. The menu is arranged in advance, everyone brings something, and we all eat together. Here, we share Thanksgiving with friends. Each year, we invite different people to eat with us. Sometimes they will bring something to go with the meal, but as for my favorite Thanksgivingy foods, I cook it all by myself. This is a big undertaking with an American kitchen. With a Kenyan kitchen, it takes meticulous planning. First, let me show you what I'm up against.

I have four burners on my stovetop. However, I've never been able to use all four of them at the same time. Here it is with a 12" skillet and a 2 quart saucepan. I could fit my tiniest saucepan on the front left, but the back right is completely un-usable with the skillet there. I don't even have a big saucepan for the stovetop because it's easier for me to cook multiple things in smaller batches than to cook one thing at a time.


The oven is super small, too. It's difficult to take pictures inside a black oven, but here it is with a 13x9x2 pan. (I'll explain the thermometer in a minute.) You can see better in the picture on the right that the pan is not sitting on the rack. It's suspended by its own handles along the next-level guides for the rack.

These are the controls for the oven. This is the reason for the thermometer. How hot is big flame and how hot is small flame? Well, it varies: the longer the flame has been lit, the hotter the oven will be. Since it doesn't maintain a temperature on it's own, I have to monitor it constantly, adjusting the flame size, cracking the oven door open if it gets too hot or closing it if it cools off too much.

Then there's this little guy. I call it an electric roasting pan, but it's so much more. It's a slow cooker, a deep fryer, a skillet. I can bake in it, roast a chicken (or a beef roast), make soups/stews/chilis/beans, stir fry, deep fry. As long as the power is on, there's not much I can't do with this. Plus, it's bigger than all of my pots for the stovetop. AND it doesn't heat up the 80-degrees-on-a-cool-day kitchen.

Back to Thanksgiving. My plan has worked pretty well the past couple of years, though my menu has evolved.


  • veggies and Ranch dip (this is ambitious of me because I have not been able to find dill in any store, but I have found seeds and am attempting to grow some to make dip with)
  • tortilla chips with guacamole
  • creamy parmesan green beans
  • dressing
  • turkey
  • chocolate pie (with optional sweetened whipped cream topping)
  • buttermilk pie

T-2 days (i.e. 2 days before Thanksgiving dinner)

  • make pie crust dough, put in fridge to chill overnight
  • bake cornbread (in the oven or electric pan - I don't like the texture of cornbread in the electric pan, but since it's for dressing, the texture is moot)
  • make Ranch dip

T-1 day

  • bake the pies
  • make the dressing

T-6 hours (start time, but the last items are done just before we eat)

  • put turkey in electric pan to slow cook
  • prep veggies for veggie tray
  • make guacamole
  • whip cream
  • cook green beans on the stovetop
  • reheat dressing

Who's hungry?