Monday, August 19, 2013

La Casa De Sinclair | The Kitchen

I am so sorry that it has taken me so long to get my first home tour post up.  We have been doing some serious work on the house and I didn't want to take any pictures until I was happy with the finished product. All week I scrubbed my kitchen down from top to bottom; I sewed (or actually re-sewed) my kitchen curtains, and while there are still some things to be cleaned in the kitchen (won't there always be???) I finally feel ready to present it to you.

This is one of my favorite rooms in our house, but it wasn't always that way. The biggest problem for me when we first moved in was the vermin - specifically mice and an infestation of roaches. As I mentioned in my last post, the former tenants did have pigs and chickens living in the next room.  The day that I realized I had a serious roach problem was when I was cleaning out a spice rack that is on the wall and decided to empty it out and spray it for bugs.  I had NO idea what was going to happen next...20 HUGE roaches crawled out from behind that thing.  Not all at once of course, but they slowly came staggering out and up the wall. I stood there with a broom in my hand, knocking then down off the wall and then crushing them beneath my shoes.  Oh...I really hated the kitchen!!  Well, the game changer was when Ben decided to have the bottom kitchen cabinets ripped out and completely re-built.  He hired someone to lay a concrete slab so that the cabinets were built up off the floor. This drastically helped with the mice problem. Somehow they were getting in under those old rotted out cabinets. He also ripped out the tile back splash. The roaches had made a home in the back splash up in the grooves of the grout. Once we tore out the cabinets and the tile, I have never had a roach problem since (I do see an occasional mouse, but read here for my solution to that problem).  We do live in a tropical country and so I do have to stay on top of it. I keep roach baits out and I will see them every once in a while. They often come in with the groceries or on the eggs. But thank the Lord (and my amazing husband) I rarely see roaches anymore.   So, without further kitchen :)
click on any picture to see it enlarged
This is the view of my kitchen as you are entering the door coming from the courtyard.  The only minor thing I dislike about the room is the tile on the floor.  It is old (30 years or so) and dirty from years of being trampled over with, depending on the season, muddy or dusty shoes.

You can see our temporary dog, Georgia. We are dog sitting for friends and fellow missionaries, Don and Karen Winch, while they are on furlough. We keep Georgia's cage here in the kitchen. She's cozy in that corner of the kitchen, especially when I'm running my oven. Her Douala-thinned blood isn't used to this cold Northwest climate! I also pointed out our "Wall of Fame."  We love to put prayer cards, Christmas cards, wedding invitations, you name it...on our fridge.  If you are up there, you are most definitely famous! If you aren't up there - you better send us your picture quick!

If you turn your head to the left, you will see this little nook:

We keep our water filters here. Veggies go in the hanging baskets and my eggs in that beautiful green bowl.   The two-door plastic cabinet is where I keep small appliances.

One addition we made when we rebuilt our cabinets was the addition of drawers. There were no drawers in the kitchen and we designed it so that we had a set on this side of the cabinets. I love them - they are big and deep. I don't know what I'd do for storage without them!  The top cabinets are the ones that were in the house when we moved in. We did, however, paint the kitchen ourselves.  Thankfully my husband is a painter because it is a lot of work keeping up with all of our walls! I did the simple ivy stenciling shortly after we moved in almost 9 years ago.  It has held up quite well.

Now I'm standing in the little nook, taking a picture over the counter top you see in the previous shot.  This just gives you a little better view of my stove and my pot rack - another treasure I had made here. I have always wanted a pot rack! Right next to the stove is a little black shelf that Ben made to cover the ugly orange gas bottle that my stove and oven need to run.  It is also very handy to have next to the stove when I am cooking. I keep my matches there and a spoon rest. It is the perfect set up.

You can probably tell from the picture but our fridge is super small.  I have learned that I don't really need a huge fridge.  The only thing that was a challenge at first was the size of my freezer. We eventually bought a chest freezer and that gives me the perfect amount of cold storage space.  We mostly use the small freezer space in our fridge for ice and we keep all of our frozen food items in our chest freezer.

Here you can see my sink and counter space.  When we were rebuilding the bottom cabinets we found these huge 2 ft. ceramic tiles that were perfect for our counter top. We hired a plumber/tile worker to install them and they are absolutely perfect. Originally the counter was covered with these tiny tiles and I didn't even have a place to roll out a pie crust.

Our sink was a single and Ben changed it to a double for me. Our faucet was a single and Ben got a mixer for me and also installed a brand new water heater. The first time we tried to turn our water heater on, we realized that it didn't have any water in it. We opened up the valve to fill it, and the water started pouring out of the heater like a sprinkler! Evidently, it had sat unused for so long it had tiny, rusted holes all throughout the heater.  Once the new water heater was in, and the new faucet, I could do dishes without heating water on the stove! What a time saver!

The black table that you see in this next photo was already in the kitchen when we moved in. It used to be the same color as the spice rack above it. Both were built and installed by former missionary, Dale Crawford. From what I understand he was quite the woodworker and we can see touches of his handiwork throughout the house. That rack was the infamous "roach rack" as mentioned above. :)  Ben added some hooks underneath and it displays our beautiful, locally made, pottery.  Don't be fooled though - we aren't coffee drinkers. You will find my coffee pot stored in the top, back corner of my cabinets. When guests come, I dust it off in hopes that it will still work. The coffee mugs just look pretty hanging there and we do occasionally make a cup of hot tea.

These next  two views of the kitchen are from the opposite side of the room looking back towards the entrance. You can see the water filters again, and the smaller window that is on this side of the kitchen.  Much of the work that we have recently been doing to our home has involved these windows that face the courtyard. For the 9 years that we have been here, the windows were covered with an ugly metal grate.  This grate made it impossible to clean the glass because the holes were too small to reach through. The dust, grime, cobwebs, and ick that had built up was absolutely gross.  There was nothing I could do about it though. The windows were nailed shut from the outside and that grate kept me from properly cleaning them. Ben recently decided to have new metal bars made and installed from the inside that would keep our house safe, but would look so much neater than what was previously there. This past week we ripped out the metal grates from all of the courtyard facing windows, painted the trim, scrubbed the glass and installed the new metal bars.  Without a before and after picture you can't really understand the difference, but trust me when I say it is amazing. I mentioned that I re-made my curtains this week. Before, I had one long curtain (from the same material) that covered the entire window - mostly to hide the filth behind it. Now I can showcase the window and it allows so much more light to come into the room!
Ok, the final view is looking at the door that enters the kitchen from the courtyard outside. You can see my chest freezer that I mentioned. It used to be in my laundry room, but that space next to the black table was absolutely perfect for it. It also gives us an extra little bit of "counter" space, so-to-speak.  More often than not, it ends up cluttered with a little bit of everything. We all enter the house, and drop our things like Bibles, purses and even toys, rather than putting them where they belong. Whenever I actually need to get into the freezer, it ends up being a bit time consuming, lol! And as you can also see, I've marked the photo with an arrow pointing towards the rest of the house.  From this point on, I hope to go in order and share each room with you as I take you on a tour through our home. So, next up:  The office.  (I need to do a bit of cleaning first) :)

I hope you enjoyed the first installment of our home tour.  I never in a million years dreamed I would have a house this nice here in Africa!  In college I had visions of mud huts, with grass thatched roofs.  God has truly blessed us with a gorgeous home, and I know I say it all the time, but it is big enough for lots of visitors. If you have ever had a desire to see a missionary work in an English speaking third would country on the continent of Africa...we are your people! We'd love to have you!
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

La Casa De Sinclair | Part 1

Have you ever wondered what a missionary home looks like?  Of course missionary homes across the world are quite different, but how about a home located in the interior of Cameroon? I know that when people think of homes in Africa, they often think of grass-roofed mud huts. And while you will find grass-roofed homes in certain areas of Cameroon, we are surrounded by homes with tin roofs that are constructed of either cement, or mud blocks ...with the latter being most popular due to the low cost.

The search for our home began very shortly after we moved here. We were living with the Needhams and Tom was taking Ben and Matt around the Bamenda area looking for housing.  We had about exhausted all of the possibilities in Bamenda, when one day Tom suggested that they check out the "old Crawford house." What is very interesting (and I might have already told this story...skim past if you've already heard it) is that Ben and I stayed in this very house when we visited Cameroon during our college days and before we were even married.  Former GFA missionary Dale Crawford and his family lived and served here until health problems required them to return to the states. We spent a weekend with the Crawford family to get a glimpse of their ministry. The day that Tom suggested they stop by this house nobody was around. They peeked in the windows and weren't able to actually see anything, so Tom suggested calling the landlady, Susan Tebong.  She informed them that a tenant had recently moved out and she was in the process of fixing up the house to rent it out again!  They arranged a day to view the home with her and on that day Ben made an offer. Evidently she'd already received an offer from some Catholic nuns looking to rent the home, but Ben's offer happened to be higher, so she accepted!

Even though our landlady had painted and cleaned, the house was still in rough shape. I actually came down and cleaned and scrubbed some more before we moved all of our things in over Thanksgiving weekend.   The last tenant had raised pigs and chickens in the house, so you can imagine all of the filth!  It took me a very long time to feel like I was living in my own dirt, and not somebody else's, if you know what I mean! Slowly but surely we worked on the house and it eventually came to feel like home.

It honestly is a continual work in progress.  We are constantly painting and working on home improvement projects. The most recent was to add new doors and screen to the house.  But, I thought it would be a fun blog series to give you a tour of our absolutely gorgeous home. So, today I'm going to start with a diagram of the layout of our house!

I will explain a few things about this (very bright!) diagram. As you can see our house is in a "U" shape.  The courtyard portion is outside. All of the black lines signify the location of doors that enter the interior of the house.  The big black line at the front of our courtyard is actually a large iron gate that we slide open and shut for an extra measure of security. Half of the courtyard (the front half) is covered by a roof.  We have a table, grill, containers for water, etc... all stored out there. The back half of the courtyard that is butting up to the house is mostly open. There is a little garden in that section.  In a future post I will share photos and it will give you a better idea of what I'm talking about.

The "outside laundry/store room"  is the only room that is not connected to the inside portion of the house.  It is kind of like our garage, but without the car! Ben keeps all of his tools in there, and my washer and dryer are in there as well.  I have to go outside the house to do my laundry, but I'm always under a roof, and the gate is locked, so I'm completely safe.  

We have four doors that actually enter the inside of our home.  The kitchen door is the door we primarily use.  The two doors at the back of the courtyard have just been redone.  We added metal doors there and changed the wood doors that were there into screen doors. This is SO nice because I can open up the metal doors during the day and the screen doors allow a breeze to flow through the parlor!  The metal doors are also added security. The door at the front of the parlor is a big double wooden door on the inside. and then a big iron door on the outside.  We recently added screen to the iron door as well, so during the day we open up the big wooden doors. I really love it!

You can't really tell from the diagram, but our house is big.  It is HUGE actually.  I will never forget the first time my mom and the Whitely's visited.  It was time for bed and Kathy asked, "What time does the shuttle leave for the bedrooms."  We still laugh about that. :) Our home is almost 2,400 square feet (not including the courtyard, but including the outside laundry room), with all of that being on one level.  Another thing that makes our home appear so big are the high ceilings. As you can see from the diagram, the parlor is the biggest room. The portion of the parlor that butts up to the office is where we have our big dining room table. One gorgeous feature of the parlor is the (almost) floor to ceiling windows that run down both sides of the outside facing walls.  Our view is breathtaking! During the rainy season you can see a big waterfall flowing down the mountainside from the front picture windows. The side picture windows give you a view over the whole village of Bambili. 

The house was built back in 1976 by the late husband of our landlady, but sadly he died before they were ever able to live in the house. Our landlady has a very unique heritage. Her birth parents are British. However, she was adopted as an infant, and her adoptive mother was British and her adoptive father Argentinian. She spent much of her childhood years in a German boarding school in the country of Argentina. She went to university in the U.S. which is where she met her husband...a Cameroonian.  Susan's many European influences can be seen in the building of this house.  The fact that this house has an inside kitchen with cabinets is one influence as most African homes have outside kitchens.  All of the bedrooms have floor to ceiling built-in closets, which is another feature you don't often see in homes here.

I'm so thankful how God orchestrated events and led us to this home. We are so blessed and I'd love to share this blessing with you. So, please stay tuned, because I'm planning to do a post each week, with pictures, about all of the different rooms in our house, so you can actually "see" where we live.  This will have a couple benefits. One, you will get to see our beautiful home. And two, it will give me a reason to deep clean each room and make it presentable for viewing! :)  

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Busyness!

Whew, the last several weeks have been very busy ones. I feel like I can finally sit and relax. Here are all the things we have been up to!

Emma celebrated her birthday near the end of June (the 23rd).  When Ben visited the states in February, I had him bring back some gifts for my girl's birthday.  Missionaries have to really plan ahead like that.  Emma is a horse lover!  So, I planned all things horsey for her birthday. :)  The big, wow gift was the American girl size horse that my mom got her!  She was over-the-moon!

She also got some other horse gifts.  Her birthday fell on a Sunday, so we celebrated after church as a family.  I worked all day Saturday so that we would be ready to just come home and have a party. It actually made that day very relaxing for me since I'd already completed the work!

After Emma's birthday, Faith Ann began the countdown for hers, knowing that it was just a few weeks away. We made a paper chain for her to keep track of how many days she had left until the big day.

While counting down, we managed to keep her busy by hosting our summer Vacation Bible School...referred to as Holiday Bible School here in Cameroon.

The first week we held our HBS in Bamenda. The school where we hosted it last year wasn't an option this year. The big field we used to play all of our games is now occupied by an "up-story" building - as it is referred to here. We didn't plan enough in advance to find another location, so we held it at our church and just played games in the small church yard. The kids didn't seem to mind at all. We had a high of 72 kids on one day. The other days averaged slightly smaller.  It was a great week though.
We rounded it up with a parent's program, but that was a bust unfortunately.  It was raining cats and dogs and while the kids managed to make it out, the parent's didn't want to brave the rain. We had only four parents come. While no parents made any salvation decisions on that night, we did have several kids trust Christ through our program during the week!

During that week of HBS, the Needham family (missionaries that live near us) had a church group of 22 people visiting. After hosting a large group last year, I knew how much work cooking for a group that size actually is, so I offered to prepare a couple of meals for Barb. On Monday of that week, I brought up a huge taco-inspired meal, with a taco casserole, homemade chips, and a huge bowl of cookies. Barb prepared some carrot sticks.  Then on Thursday of that same week, I invited the group down here on the fourth of July and prepared pizza on the grill! Whew - with the visiting group, our family and the Needham family I fed around 35 people.  I was SO tired.  I actually missed our HBS on this day since so much work went into preparing the meal. We had sausage pizza, a salad bar, and brownies and ice cream! Yummy!

One more interesting thing happened this particular week (to add to the already crazy stuff taking place!). Our neighbor, Bless, who is about Drew's age, came up to our gate with a friend. I came out and greeted him and asked him if I could help him with anything. He showed me a bucket that he had in his hands and he told me that he brought me something. I looked down in that bucket and squealed. I quickly ran inside the house and told Drew, "You've got to come outside and see this!"  He was pretty pumped to find the bucket crawling with 6 little, bright-green chameleons!

As of right now, we have 5 of those little chameleons in a cage that we had built.  One escaped out of the bucket and we never did find him. The rest are thriving. We have the neighbor kids help us hunt for grasshoppers to feed them! 

So, after that fun filled week we hosted our next HBS here in Bambili. This was a bit more relaxed as we live in walking distance from our church. We had a good group of kids, with just over 50 being our high on the last day. We also hosted a parent's program again.  Ben and I had already discussed that if this parent's program was a bust again, we just wouldn't do them in the future.  I expected that no parents would attend. O me of little faith!! We had 7 parents come, and it was the first time for 6 of them to enter the doors of our church. Ben presented the gospel at the end of the program, and three people raised their hands. He explained to them right before we dismissed, that if they were serious about accepting Christ they should come and talk to him or me and we could show them from the Bible how to know for sure that heaven is their home. Honestly, I wasn't expecting anyone to speak to us. However, one lady approached me immediately and said, "I was one that raised my hand. I want to know how I can have eternal life."  I sat down with Carine, and showed her from the Bible how she could be saved. She put her faith and trust in Christ alone that night, as did the man Ben was able to meet with.  I walked away from that meeting on cloud nine. I was so sure that nobody would show up...and it was so wonderful to see God prove me wrong!  We decided that from now on, we are doing parent's programs. If only one person hears and understands the gospel, it will be worth it. 

HBS ended on Friday, and on Saturday I spent much of my day preparing for Sunday, because we had another birthday in the family. Faith Ann turned 7 on Sun. the 14th of July. Like Emma's special day, Faith's birthday landed on a Sunday and in order to be prepared I needed to work ahead. I made her cake and made up the pizza dough (she requested Pizza for her birthday). The cake took longer than I'd anticipated, so I didn't get as much accomplished as I would have liked to.  It all worked out in the end. Sunday we came home and I worked on the pizza, while the kids cleaned up the parlor.  We ate our lunch and afterwards we brought out the presents and cake.  

A former Cameroon missionary posted on my facebook post regarding Faith Ann's picture, saying that in Cameroon we don't always have access to a lot of gifts for birthdays, and the cake is part of the gift.  It really is. I have always tried to make my kid's birthdays very special. One of the big parts of our birthday is the cake reveal. They can't wait to see what theme I've picked and what it will look like. Pinterest has given me a lot of great ideas, but for this year fellow missionary and friend, Rachel Barilla, helped out by letting me borrow some of her Wilton cake pans! :) I thought this would definitely streamline the cake making, but honestly these pans are very time consuming!  The form and shape are very helpful in decorating, but all those frosting stars! Whew!

So, that pretty much brings us to the present.  With HBS behind me and the summer beginning to dwindle down, my thoughts are now focusing on school.  I'm anxious to get organized and plan out my school year.  The kids...not so much! haha!

Our next countdown is for our visit with Mimi. She has plans to visit us with the Whitely's some time in October. We can't wait! She is going to be a world traveler this year. My brother and his family are in Costa Rica for language training in preparation to move to Venezuela for full-time missions.  Mom and Dad are visiting them in August.  I doubt I'll ever get my dad out here to see us, though I wish I could. But, after conquering her fears on her first trip here, my Mom makes plans to visit us every term.  If she doesn't come soon, Drew might be taller than her the next time she sees him!

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Ndawara Tea Plantation

Until recently, I had no idea that within a couple hour's drive from our house there is an amazing tea plantation enterprise. We live in the "interior" of Cameroon (as some have been known to refer to it).  Booming businesses are not generally what you think of when traveling through the tiny villages and towns in the area where we live.  In fact, beyond Ndop (which is about an hour from our home), the main road is not even paved. I would have never thought it possible to travel beyond the tar road and find a massive and successful tea plantation.  Our friend and fellow missionary, Rosemary, offered to take us up there this past February to tour the Ndawara Plantation. I thought it would be the perfect educational field trip!  

After traveling to the end of the paved road I previously mentioned, we continued on for about 10 more minutes until we came to a faded and dilapidated sign board announcing the entrance to the plantation. If you weren't actually looking for the sign it could easily be missed. In fact, we thought we'd passed it and almost turned around at one point. We took a left at the sign and traveled a very rough and rocky road up the mountain for about 20 minutes or so.  The view was gorgeous as we seemed to climb to the top of the world. I can only imagine what it would have looked like in the rainy season. 

We arrived and set up a tour of the entire operation.  Our guide came out and began to lead us through the factory.  Beyond the buildings full of machines are lush hills, green with the growth of tea leaves. They hire locals to hand pick each tea leaf. They toss the leaves into the handwoven baskets strapped to their backs. The work is incredibly tedious, but I can't help but think of all the jobs it creates for people. I doubt they mind the monotony so long as it puts food on the tables to feed their families.

They collect bags upon bags of tea leaves. The strong tea fragrance fills the factory. By the end of the tour we all smelled of the aroma of tea and had tea dust somewhere on our body!

After they spend their day collecting,  a new set of workers then put the leaves on conveyor belts. The leaves travel slowly around the factory as they are chopped, processed, and dried. Following the belts you can see the leaves change color right before your eyes from a bright green to dark brown.

Once the tea has been thoroughly processed, they package it. They fill large sacks full of loose tea to ship to customers worldwide who will then package it with their own company labels. They also package the tea with the Ndawara company name to be sold right here in Cameroon and possibly other parts of Africa.  I was amazed at the high quality machinery they had here to package and seal their tea. They can fill small bags with loose tea, and we also watched a machine fill individual tea bags for just a cup of tea.
There were a handful of ladies there boxing and packaging the individual tea bags as well as boxing up packages of loose tea. The entire process was really fascinating and we all walked away with a box of Ndawara Tea!

The next part of our tea plantation tour was the kid's absolute favorite. It seems that the owner has been trying to build a small menagerie of animals for his guests to see. This isn't like any ordinary zoo. We are in Africa, and there aren't any strict safety regulations like you would find at a zoo in the states!  We were led to the animals and this is what we saw!
Oh my he not cute!?  These little guys were just roaming around. We were all a little timid actually. At the back of my mind was the story of the lady that had her face ripped off by a chimp.  I wanted to go home with all of my body parts on this day. We were told to walk on by them for now as we were led to the back of a large field where all the birds were held.  Gorgeous peacocks and huge Ostriches were wandering around behind a fence.  We were careful of the ostriches too!  They were looking for something to eat and I didn't want it to be our fingers!
This picture just needs a caption!

After the birds, there were a couple of caged monkeys. They were both chained and sitting in the darkness. I felt bad for the little things. I don't think they see the light of day very often.
Then the Boa Constrictors were the last thing in this section of the "zoo". They were very large and very ugly, and I don't think it is even necessary to post a photo. :)  We were all pretty anxious at this point to get back to the adorable Chimps!  

By this point we were kinda warming up to the chimps (all but Faith Ann and Daddy). Kate, Emma and I really wanted to hold one. Daddy said no, however and I can understand his decision. Wild animals are wild and unpredictable. I'd rather go home with my face in tact than say that I was able to hold a chimp for the first time.  We were able to shake Billy's hand at least, and he was trained to make kissing noises when greeting people. It was really cute. The smaller ones were wild and crazy. They kept fighting with each other like a couple of toddlers. It was so funny to watch. 
We stood around and watched these little guys for probably an hour. This was the end of our visit to the Tea Plantation and it was such a full day! We definitely made some wonderful memories and plan to go back again. We now have two incredible places to take our guests when they come to visit us here in Cameroon. I plan on bringing my Mom here when she comes out in October. We also love taking our visitors to the PresPot, which is a pottery place where you can watch them form pieces from scratch out of clay. They explain the entire process of forming and firing the pottery. One day I'll do a post on that - it is pretty amazing!  

So, if you want to see how pottery or tea is made...we are your one stop shop! Come and visit us here in Cameroon! 
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

From the Missionary Kitchen | Ricotta Cheese

Over the years I have learned some tips and tricks in the missionary kitchen that have been "Aha" moments for me. When we first moved here nearly 9 years ago, my menu was very small. I got so tired of cooking the same things over and over and over again.

People would come and visit and share a trick now and then and my menu grew longer and longer.  One thing was still lacking for me though - and that was cheese. I started out on my cheese making venture by browsing the web. The New England Cheese Company stood out to me, and I ordered a ricotta/mozzarella cheese making kit.  It came with everything I needed to make those two types of cheeses. I decided to attempt ricotta first, since mozzarella seemed a bit trickier of the two.  The first batch looked gorgeous and I longed to make a pan of lasagna with it!  I had no lasagna noodles what's a girl to do? Improvise of course!

When I was newly married I'd once tried my hand at making crepes (I know there is supposed to be a french accent in there somewhere...).  I figured that making crepes was the easiest way to get a noodle type texture for a pan of lasagna rather than attempting to roll out a pasta dough to a paper thin consistency.  The result was actually very tasty! With the addition of my new-found ricotta, the recipe was a hit!  Shortly after that attempt at lasagna, I actually found boxed lasagna noodles in Douala after one of our trips there, so I've never had to make crepes again.  However, if there is ever a shortage of lasagna noodles here in Cameroon, I wouldn't hesitate to try my crepes version again!

The ricotta method was a tiny bit tedious having to keep track of the temperature and adding the certain ingredients at the right time. It was a few years later, that a fellow missionary was visiting and I was talking to her about making ricotta. She told me her method, which is infinitely easier than mine!  I will never look back!

So, I thought I'd quickly share how to make some ricotta cheese in a pinch! Here is what you need:
1 gallon of prepared powdered milk
3 TB white vinegar

I have never tried a gallon of processed milk like we would normally buy in the states. We only buy powdered milk here. You could give it a try and at worse you'd be out few bucks, or you could just buy some powdered milk to keep on hand.

Put the gallon of milk (I make it full cream, or whole milk version) in a large pot and turn on the stove.  I let it heat until it is just boiling. Once it is boiling pour in your 3 tablespoons of vinegar and you will see the curd instantly separate from the whey.

I immediately turn off the heat, and then let it sit there for a minute or two. Next, I line a colander with my cheese cloth. Let me quickly stop and talk about the cheesecloth. Make sure you get the finest weave there is otherwise you will lose the majority of your curd down the drain! My cheesecloth is actually called butter muslin and the weave is very fine. I still double it over when draining my cheese just to make sure I don't lose any of my wonderful cheese! I once was out of cheesecloth, and used one of my husbands t-shirts instead!  No worries - it was clean, and it worked like a charm. :)  

Ok, back to cheese making. Once you line your colander with the proper cloth,  pour the curds/whey mixture inside.  Now, I've read about the wonderful things that whey can be used for. Google it and you can learn too. If you want to reserve this miracle liquid, then be sure to drain your cheese into a bowl.  

Once I've drained the majority of liquid from the cheese, I take the corners of my cheese cloth and hang it up. I have a very handy place to do this as it can just drip right down into my drain.

You can let it drain as long as you like. I actually don't drain mine very long, especially when making lasagna. Once it drains a bit, I add my egg, and some parmesan cheese and salt, since it hasn't been salted at all yet.  

I have no idea how much ricotta cheese costs these days, but this is an amazing substitute if you have these ingredients on hand. The price of powdered milk would determine whether you are saving money or not. It is the only option I have since we can't purchase ricotta cheese here.

We are definitely a cheese loving family and the options for purchasing cheese have increased since our first move here. We used to be limited to Edam. Edam is good and I like it, but eating pizza with Edam just isn't the same as mozzarella. We can get Edam as well as Gouda, Swiss, and Mozzarella fairly regularly now. We can also get Cheddar and Feta in the big cities like Douala or Yaounde.  Edam and Gouda are both great substitutes for Cheddar though, so I never buy it.  And even though I can get it in the big city, my next cheese making venture will be one of my favorites...Feta!  I have all of the ingredients I need (purchased from the New England Cheese Making Supply company), I just need to motivate myself to do it.  I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out!

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Welcome to Chez Sinclair

Last night we did something pretty crazy and I thought it would be fun to record it in the blogosphere so we could remember it.

The Needham family are fellow missionaries that live about 15 minutes drive from us and they have been a huge blessing to us through the years. In fact, I don't know what we would have done without them! When we first arrived in Cameroon, we lived with them for 2 months while Tom helped Ben look for housing among other things. We have learned SO much from them and to record it all would take a long time! Their family is extremely gifted musically, and their daughters have been teaching my two girls how to play flute and violin.  It has been fun to watch Kate and Emma learn and grow under Sarah and Elizabeth's teaching. They even plan a recital every couple of months. They make it as formal as possible, and we are all encouraged to participate. The last recital, Emma played a flute solo as well as a couple of numbers on her recorder (she is mastering the recorder first since the fingering is similar to the flute). Kate played a few violin specials and I even jumped in with a piano solo.  Here is a little sample of Emma at our last recital.

For all of the hard work the teachers put into teaching our girls, we wanted to do something special for them. And not just for them - but for the entire Needham family since they all deserve our appreciation. So, we invited them to our home for dinner. Not just any normal dinner ... this was a restaurant! Chez Sinclair to be exact. Here was our menu! :)

And here is the back of the menu:

We printed out our menus, and glued them to card stock. Faith Ann met our guests at the front door, and asked, "Welcome to Chez Sinclair. How many are in your party?"  Elizabeth was the first one to enter, and she asked Faith to repeat it a few times before she figured out what was going on. They were then seated in the "waiting area" (we just put our living room furniture in a circle) and then after their places were set, they were led to their seats.  From there the kids passed out the menus and started taking their drink orders.  Ben and I were feverishly working in the kitchen. I was preparing the garden salad while Ben was pouring drinks for the kids to serve to our patrons. After drinks and salads were served the kids got the appetizer orders and began to deliver them. I know that our guests had to repeat their orders several times (Our kids need a little more practice before entering the restaurant business!) but all of the appetizers were served.  While they were eating their appetizers, we began working on the main courses. I worked on grilling the pizzas, while Ben put the fajitas together. We worked together to get the taco salad out. Then I quickly put a couple of pizzas on the grill for the kids, while Ben made up a couple of taco salads for our kids and also made some fajitas for himself. We then joined our guests for dessert! Whew! We were worn out! I had planned on a fancy dessert, but when all was said and done, we just joined them with a pan of brownies and some napkins (since nearly every dish was dirty by then!!!) and ate dessert and visited with them. 

It was a fun evening and so memorable for our kids. They kept commenting on how they felt like this really was a restaurant!  I started preparing food around noon and worked non stop until the Needhams arrived. I didn't think I would get it all ready, but by God's grace I did! I wasn't sure what everyone would actually order. Ben kept telling me, "You know they are all going to get pizza. Why add all of this other stuff to the menu?"  But when all was said and done, every single thing on the menu was ordered by someone. And I had just enough of everything. The only thing left over was pizza dough and sauce, which I'll freeze for a later date! It worked out perfectly!!

And completely unlike a real restaurant, our "patrons" joined me in the kitchen to help me wash the huge MOUND of dishes that had accumulated. It would have taken me a couple of hours to put that kitchen back together. But working as a team it took us about 30 minutes.

I think it was a special treat for the Needham family and I know it was a memorable evening for my own kids. I'm sure they won't soon forget it!
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