Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Delicious Chocolate Cake

Super moist.  Super chocolaty.  Super yummy.

Chocolate Cake:
2 c. sugar
1 ¾ c. flour
¾ c. baking cocoa
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 c. milk
½ c. vegetable oil
1 c. boiling water

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir by hand.
Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on med. Speed until smooth. Stir in boiling water. Stir by hand (batter will be thin). Pour into pans.
Bake 30-45 min. or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans. Remove from pans to wire rack. Cool completely.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
8oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ c. butter
2 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. powdered sugar
6 Tbs. baking cocoa
2 Tbs. oil

Mix cocoa and oil with spoon in the bottom of a large bowl. Add cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
Gradually beat in the powdered sugar on low speed, 1 cup at a time, until spreadable.
Note: You can freeze the left over frosting and use it again.

Major Chocolate Lover,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Operation Organization

We had a major chord problem.

It was very serious.

I tackled it in my attempt to continue in #11 on my "Thirteen Before Thirty" List.  I labeled each chord with a piece of paper and scotch tape.  (Very high tech stuff; be impressed.)  And, I folded each chord and used a twist tie.  Rocket science.  I know.

Then I put them all in this great little basket I found at the market.  It fits perfectly on the bottom shelf of the entertainment center.

Next time Mr. Sojourner or one of the Little Sojourners says, "Hey, where is the chord to the _________?"  I don't have to spend an hour trying to find it and then untangle it.  Sweet!  Now all I have to say is, "It's in the basket!"  Now if I can only get them all to put it back when they are done...

Kind regards,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Heart Photos

The Three Little Sojourners at Disney World; October 2008.

I love photos.  I love taking photos.  I love how photos tell stories.  I love sharing photos.  I love scrapbooking photos.  I love displaying photos.  I love looking back at old photos and remembering.  I HATE editing photos.  I know hate is a strong word, but seriously, I can't stand it. 

Today I have edited 3,461 photos.  Okay, not really, but it sure feels like it!  Someone shoot me.  No don't; that would really hurt.

I am planning some photo projects to make our house a little more like home, to tie in good past memories of the people we so dearly miss, and to make it feel a little less temporary then it feels.  We can't really get photos printed here.  (Well, there are a few place, but we are talking hole-in-the-wall not-so-great places and pricey too.)  So, I had the bright idea I would get a bunch of photos printed while we are in the US for a month.  It is a pretty good idea, except it means I have a month to edit several years of photos I want to have printed.

Yes, I'm whining.  Sorry.  So, what are you up to this fine Sunday?

A slave to photo editing,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sharing on Saturday: Something Fun & Something Serious

Something Fun:

I ran across this great recipe for Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce  at Family Balance Sheet and stopped by one of my favorite vegetable ladies last night to pick up some great looking tomatoes in preparation for today's festivities.  By festivities I mean I will be cranking up the tunes, cleaning, and trying this new recipe.  You know you're jealous.

Something Serious:

Some of the beggar boys that we see every time we leave our house.

I enjoy reading Kristen's blog Rage Against the Minivan from time to time.  She has tons of great info and insight into adoption and she shares real life, down-to-earth, and often hilarious stories.  She has also been sharing a series of guest posts called "What I Want You To Know" that have been quite enlightening and thought-provoking.  You should definitely check those out.  Then, this week, she shared about some of the not-so-pretty, nitty-gritty truth about orphans and adoption that frankly, many people don't like to hear/know about.  ("Do Orphans Need 'Saving'?")  In that post she shares a post by Heather in Haiti.  One of my "favorite" (by "favorite" I mean I literally shouted "Amen, Sister!" not that it is a warm-fuzzy, feel-good kinda favorite) quotes from Heather's post is this: "While many American churches are worrying about the lighting on their stage, or fussing over the displays in their foyer, children are suffering in orphanages, groaning...aching...for someone to come redeem their lives."  This hits a chord with me for several reasons.  I will share a few:

1.) Over the passed probably five years, I have struggled with why the "church" in America (and I am talking ALL of them: each denomination, non-denominational, emergent, big, small, traditional, non-traditional, conservative, liberal, etc.) looks the way it does = not like the New Testament example that we have.  The NT church gave sacrificially for one another, helped the poor, took care of the widows and orphans, and were salt and light to those around them and to the ends of the earth.  The "church" in America looks nothing like that.  What's the deal?

2.) Why does the "church" in America spend so much money on superficial, unimportant stuff?  It's seriously sickening after living in a third world country for a year and a half.

3.) (Warning; this is a bit political in nature.)  When the health care craziness is going on in America we watched a little to try and keep up with things but again it was something that sickened me.  The best argument that I heard for the issue of heath care was that "every person deserves health care."  But, the truth is that in comparison to lots of other counties no one in America would actually be denied heath care.  If an American (or anyone else for that matter) walked into an American hospital (by the way there would be one a relatively short distance form their house), had no money, and no insurance they would not be turned away.  (I have, in fact, had to do this in my early years of marriage.)  In contrast the country I live in, if in fact they were able to get to a hospital (because there is most likely none nearby) then they would not be seen if they could not pay.  This is why you see people dying of curable things like Malaria, malnutrition, etc.  So, if you believe that "everyone deserves health care" then can we start somewhere where they may die without it?  And, as far as the very small percent of Americans without helthcare, that do not already qualify for some kind of govt. health care, the "church" should be stepping up to the plate to help them instead of building bigger buildings.  (On a side note I am not saying that health care reform is not needed in the US; I just thinking we will realize in several years that this was not the way to get it properly done.  Sorry, that's probably as political as I will get on this blog and I am sure that I would never have gotten into this debate if not for having lived in Africa.)

So I realize that none of the things I shared about actually directly talk about orphans, which the post I shared is about, but I think they do hit on the bigger issue: how followers of Christ are not impacting the world for Christ as we were called to do.  I hope and pray that this will change as people realize, even in recession, we are blessed in abundance compared to the rest of the world, and that we are called to share our blessings.

This post is definitely inspired in many ways by Radical as well.  David Platt does a much more eloquent job on addressing some of these issues.

What are you up to this Saturday?  What great posts have you found around blog land this week?

Hope you have a wonderful Saturday!

Linking up to "Share Your Faves" at It's a Blog Party & "Saturday Stumbles" at It's Come to This.

Friday, October 15, 2010


I've been reading Radical by David Platt and am loving it.  And, by "loving it" I mean it is kicking my butt.  I love a book that points to Scriptural truths and doesn't sugar coat it. 

If you are a follower of Christ: read this book.  Period.  The end.

I'll do a book review when I'm all done, but at the moment I am really savoring it and even doing a weekly discussion with my aunt about it.  Just soaking it up.

Have you read Radical?  If so, what are your thoughts? 

What are you reading at the moment?  What are some of your favorite books?

Love to have my nose in a book,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday's Travel Tales & Tips: Chattanooga Zoo

Today is Thursday again and time to link up your travel posts.  I can't wait to read about your travel stories, hear your travel tips, or share your travel dreams.
One of our favorite family things to do over the years has been to go to the zoo.  Several years we would get zoo passes so that we could enjoy it all year long.  Right before we came overseas we lived in Chattanooga, TN for five months.  It was a wonderful place and we loved living there.  Smaller zoos usually have very reasonable "membership fees" (which allow you to get into the zoo an unlimited number of times in a year's span).  The Chattanooga Zoo was no exception and we got a family pass for $55 for a year (where as it would have been $31 for our family each time we went to the zoo, $8/adult & $5/child).  This made for great and cheap entertainment for the year!  The awesome thing about zoo passes is that they are reciprocal and you can often uses them at many other zoos across the US.  This was great for us because the Knoxville Zoo was much bigger and nicer and even though the Chattanooga Zoo pass was cheaper (Just a one time visit to the Knoxville Zoo would have been $72.75 for our family to go one; more then we payed for a year's membership), we still got into the Knoxville Zoo for free the few times that we went there as well.

Chattanooga Zoo Fun
 Hank is definitely the star of the Chattanooga Zoo.  He is a chimpanzee who was once a circus act.  When you go to see him at the zoo he will come right up to the glass and play with you.  He might even give you a "kiss" or "hold your hand" through the window.  Mr. Sojourner had lots of fun playing with him and this entertained us all!

The "Misunderstood Marvels" exhibit had lots of interesting creepy crawly things to see.

There is lots of  fun animals to see in the "Himalayan Passage" including one of our favorites: the red pandas.  They have a really cool indoor/outdoor exhibit to watch them in.
The Little Sojourners enjoyed the "Warner Park Ranch" exhibit and thought the camels were extra cool (little did we know we would soon be seeing them on a regular basis in Africa!).

And they had a cute little petting zoo with lots of farm animals like goats and donkeys.  (Little did we know the streets here would be filled with them.)

We also loved to see the jaguars.  Towards the end of our time in Chattanooga they started building a new bigger and better home for the jaguars in the "Corcovado Jungle" part of the zoo.

They also had a great carousel that the Little Sojourners enjoyed a lot!  (Usually with a membership you get a few free tickets for the carousel.)

All in all it was a great little zoo that we enjoyed visiting many, many times.  My advice: find a small zoo near you and become a member to enjoy the benefits there, and at all the surrounding zoos!


The Best Mac & Cheese Ever & Awesome Green Beans Too

A few years ago Mr. Sojourner and I spent two weeks in the Netherlands for a master's class that he was taking.  (Some dear friends of ours watched the girls for us.  I am not sure who had more fun; them or us).  The original spot the school had worked out to do the classes in the mornings did not work out and so we ended up having to do them at Hard Rock Cafe in Amsterdam.  Poor us.  After class we would all eat lunch there too.  Again, poor us.  This is where I fell in love with their "Twisted Mac & Cheese" (which I thought was about the best thing I had ever tasted).  They have it in both an entree and a side.  I found the entree to be an overwhelming portion so I opted for the side and would split green beans with Mr. Sojourner too.

At the end of May/beginning of June, for our 10th anniversary, Mr. Sojourner an I took a trip to London.  Just the two of us.  (It was amazing and I will have to share about it someday soon.)  We decided that we would have to hit up the Hard Rock Cafe London for some awesome mac & cheese and free soda refills (free refills are mostly an American phenomenon that we miss living overseas).  Oh, and because London is the original Hard Rock Cafe.  (But mostly because of the mac & cheese and free refills.)
Anyways, after that trip I started thinking about how I would like to attempt this mac & cheese.  I found this recipe (scroll down) at CopyKat.com.  (I will, by the way, be attempting more recipes from there in the future.)  I convinced a few loving friends and relatives to send me a care package with Velveeta and red pepper flakes.  I patiently waited for them to get here.


2 cups cavatappi pasta, any pasta works (I used shells)
1/3 cup whole milk
4 oz Velveeta
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (I had white cheddar)
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack (we can't get this here so I added mimolette)
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (I didn't have this so skipped it)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup diced roasted red bell pepper (We can't get this so I used red pepper flakes and it worked pretty well, I was surprised)
2 tsp seasoned breadcrumbs, italian style (I grated crackers similar to melba toast)
2 tsp grated parmesan
1/4 tsp finely minced parsley (I used dried)

1. Use a large saucepan to cook pasta following the directions on the package, then drain
2. Combine milk, Velveeta, cheddar cheese, jack cheese, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in the same saucepan, and heat over low heat for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Add pasta and roasted pepper to the pan, and then toss to coat pasta.
3. Combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan and parsley in small bowl.
4. Pour pasta into a serving bowl and then sprinkle parmesan breadcrumbs over the top.
Serves 4

We also had green beans.  I cleaned them and snapped off the ends.  I boiled them in chicken broth.  When they were about finished, I fried up small bits of bacon and onion.  I drained the beans and then poured the bacon, onions, and drippings over the beans and combined.  Then I served them and the Little Sojourners ate every last one.

This was probably my favorite meal this year.  Seriously.  (Okay, second to our meal at Gordon Ramsay's Clairidge in London.)

Kind regards, 
*Linking up to Try New Adventures Thursday at Alicia's Homemaking.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Playing in the Rain

Rainy season is almost over.  The rains are coming far between now.  They may be over already, in fact.  (We're hoping for at least one more!)    If they are over, we won't see rain for around 9 months.  Things will turn brown again and we will miss the glimpses of green that we have savored over the last few months.

I recently took this picture of Little Sojourner in what may have been our last rain.  I love how much fun my kids have playing in the rain.  It reminds me of my childhood summers spent at my Grandma's house;  waiding through the gutters on her brick street after a rain.  I hope my children will look back fondly on moments like these playing in the rain, savoring the short season.

Do you have fond memories of playing in the rain?  I'd love to hear them.

Kind regards,
*Linking up to It's a Blog Party's "Say Cheese" Wednesday.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sharing on Saturday: My Elephant, Loneliness

Before we moved overseas several wise people shared with us that anything that is an ant-sized issue or problem on that side of the ocean will quickly be magnified to an elephant-sized issue or problem on this side of the ocean.  Little did I understand how true that would be.

This week I have been following along with Melissa's series on loneliness and it has really hit me hard.  She is a talented writer, mother, wife, and follower of Christ.  When I found her blog a month or so ago I was struck by her honesty and transparency.  I think more of that is needed between brothers and sisters in Christ particularly.  She shares her real struggles.  I connect with that.  I am thankful for people like her who are willing to be real even when it opens them up to be vulnerable.

In particular, her post "the secret about loneliness is..." made me evaluate where I am right now.

First of all, I love that she calls herself crazy.  I can so relate! 

I seriously started this blog because of a lot of the same things she has shared in this loneliness series this week.  Living overseas has amplified my feeling of loneliness and isolation.  The lives of those I love back in the US are going on with out me.  It's not always easy to swallow that.  There are very few people who make an effort to keep in good contact with us and out of those there are even less who care about our lives here (i.e. want to actually here about what is going on with us).  I watch carefully for those clues and when I can tell someone doesn't care about the things we have to share, then I stop sharing.  The number I share with is dwindling.  I still talk to the others (if I feel like they want to talk to us) and then we spend the whole time talking about them.  Which is somewhat good because I get to hear news about things going on back "home" but it also leaves a huge void for me.  To process all that is going on here, all that I am learning, all that I have seen, all that I am going through; I have to talk about it. 

That's why I started this blog.  About five people I know in real life know about this blog.  Some of that had to do with our security.  (We have to be careful about what we share and those who know us may slip-up in this.)  A lot of it has to do with my craziness issues.  I've figured out that most people in my real life could care less about hearing about my life.  Thus, I started a blog as an outlet.  Now, those few of you that actually read this are subject to my craziness.  (Insert crazy laugh here.)

The last part about people not reading her blog or commenting and wanting to shut the whole thing down made me really laugh.  That is exactly how I felt this week!  (Thus very few posts.)  But, I came to the realization that even if no one reads or comments I am still getting to write about things that I am processing therefore I still need this blog.  So, you are not rid of me yet!  (Insert more crazy laughing here.)

P.S. Be sure to stop by and check out Melissa's blog!

*Linking up to "Share Your Faves" at It's a Blog Party!
Struggling with my elephant,


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Which way is home?

You know you have absolutely, positively, no sense of direction when you are trying to make your way home in a taxi (which consequently is falling apart, so you are hoping it stays together long enough to get home) and things look familiar, but you still have no idea which direction home is.  Then, your four year old (who got her father's sense of direction; thank goodness!) tells you, "Mommy, we just passed it!"

You tell the taxi driver to stop.  You get out and you're still, for the most part, lost.  You ask your four year old which direction home is.  She points and leads you.  She takes you the several blocks delivering you directly to your gate.

When you get home you write a blog about it so the whole world knows your shame: a four year old is smarter then you.

A really cute four year old, though.

Needs a map and compass,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sharing on Saturday: 31 Days

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Emily's Chatting at the Sky.  She is a beautifully talented writer and I very much enjoy participating with her on Tuesdays Unwrapped.

It is through Emily's that I heard about the 31 Days including Emily's 31 Days of Grace.  (I absolutely loved her post today about grace being centered around Him.)  Today (after two days without power I am relaxing and playing catch-up while reading the first two posts in the 31 Days at the different blogs.

I enjoyed being inspired to brainstorm about my entryway at Melissa's.

I cringed with Darcy as she shared the story of losing all the pictures from her year in Europe.  I pondered after her question about why I take photos.  I am really looking forward to her other 29 posts.

I loved the Nester's reason behind her "31days to a less messy nest."  I am really looking forward to her ideas because I think they will help me on my "13 before 30" #11.

I am looking forward to reading more about Jennifer's "more with less"; isn't that just a topic we could all use a little more of?  As is (the other Emily's) "living simply."  I am all about that.

I love Kendra's tile: "31 days to an inspired kitchen."  Her first post about making a choice and then a list has me thinking.  Her second post about eating together has me convicted.

The Reluctant Entertainer's "31 days to stress-free entertaining" has me hooked.  I am a perfectionist in rehabilitation.

Seriously take the time to check these talented ladies out.  I am looking forward to learning a lot the next 29 days.

Kind Regards, 
*I'm linking up with "Share Your Faves" at It's a Blog Party.

Pondering Photo Motivation

After reading Darcy's post today I have been pondering my motivation for taking pictures.

Baby me rescued from the photo drawers.

As a child I remember spending countless hours alone in our hallway fishing old photos out of two large drawers.  I think it may sound like a curious thing for a child to do, but for me it was like looking into an enchanting window into the past.  Sometimes there would be a name, a date, a place, or a short sentence scribbled on the back which aloud me to have some idea about the photo.  Other times, the back was blank leaving me to deduce or imagine about the picture.  I guess I have always believed that pictures tell a story.  And as far back as I can remember: I have loved a good story.

In my pre-teens I got my first camera.  A Kodak Cameo.  I absolutely loved that thing.  The flip front was oh-so-cool.  Ever since then I have been snapping away.

I have not always been the greatest about actually developing them (and the digital era has only made that worse).  But, Darcy's post has me thinking on that too.  I need to get backing-up my pictures and start printing most of them!  I hope to have lots and lots of photos to pass on to my Little Sojourners.  But, I not only want them to have the pictures; I want them to have the story behind them too, which is why I got into scrabooking and journaling about my pictures.  I want them to have something to look back on and remember the many, many, many great memories we had together.

Why do you take photos?