Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Wrap Up

How was your Christmas this year? While I'm still getting used to spending holidays away from extended family, I can say that our Christmas 2010 season was quite happy.

The festivities began on Christmas Eve with a barbecue. Two of our friends, Jo and Andrea, were visiting us from Mbeya, so we had the privilege of sharing the meal with them. Paul is getting really good at grilling over charcoal. It was delicious!

After our Christmas Eve feast, we snuggled up in the living room to watch a Christmas movie with the kids.

On Christmas morning, we had grand plans to enjoy a Christmas breakfast of eggs and homemade cinnamon rolls, but the electricity company nearly foiled those plans. Just after we put the rolls in the oven, the power went out. We do have a generator on our compound (for which we're extremely grateful), but 6am just too early for the loud noise it makes. So, thinking quick, we all piled in the truck and drove over to the office to make our breakfast (the office has access to a generator that keeps computer servers going, so it comes on automatically whenever the power goes out).
Thankfully, just as the cinnamon rolls were finishing, the power came back on and we were able to return home and still enjoy a nice breakfast.

After breakfast, we let the kids look in their stockings. At the bottom of Josiah's was a clue. They were about to start a gift hunt.
We sent them around the house and the compound looking for clues.
With his newly-acquired reading skills, Josiah got to be the designated reader.
We even got our guard involved.
At the end of it all, they found their Christmas gifts - bicycles! Thankfully, it was a lovely, sunny day, so they could take them right outside and give them a try.
In the afternoon, we joined a group of friends for a delicious Christmas dinner, then we returned home and got the opportunity to Skype with both sets of our parents.

It was a good day!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Party

Over the weekend, Josiah and Anna were able to take part in a Christmas party for the kids on our housing compound. Five of us moms worked together to put on the party, and everyone had a great time.

We had a craft, games, food, and even a visit from Santa Claus/Father Christmas (depending on what culture you're from and what you call him).

Josiah making a Christmas card:
Anna running back to her team in the clothing race relay:
Santa/Father Christmas arrives:
(A lot of us thought he looked more like a kindly, old bishop than Santa, but the borrowed costume was all we could find. The kids didn't mind.)
All the girls received "Barbie" dolls that Paul found during his recent trip to Dar es Salaam:
All the boys received a package of racing cars:
I think the packaging from Josiah's gift describes the day best:
It was a wonderful, memory-making day for our kids.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Frogs Can Bite?

I never knew there were biting frogs out there. Sure, I knew some of them excrete poison, but I never thought about frogs having teeth.

Well, I was grossly misinformed. This big guy definitely has teeth.

The kids discovered this frog hopping around our compound yesterday afternoon. Rainy season is just beginning here in Dodoma, so he was out feasting on the flying ants that emerge after the first rains. After being warned not to touch the frog, Anna's curiosity must have gotten the better of her because not 10 minutes later, she ran in the house screaming, blood dripping down her hand.

We talked to our guard, and he told us these frogs aren't poisonous but that Tanzanians know to leave them alone. We now understand why.

Thankfully, a Dora Band-Aid seems to fix everything.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Fondant Experience

A couple of weeks ago, my friend turned 40, and her husband asked me if I'd bake her birthday cake. I really enjoy baking and cake decorating (and Julie Anne is a dear friend), so of course I said yes.

As I was looking around the internet for decorating ideas, nearly everything that I liked seemed to be made with fondant. I'd never worked with fondant before, and quite frankly, it scared me. Also, I knew I couldn't run to the store and buy it here in Tanzania, so I'd have to find a recipe and make it myself.

When I finally settled on making a cake in the shape of a gift box though, I knew that I wanted to try fondant for the bow. I knew I couldn't do that easily with buttercream frosting. Thankfully, I found a decent recipe for homemade rolled buttercream fondant. I liked the recipe overall, even though it was a little greasy.

I wasn't brave enough to try fondant to cover the whole cake, so I used chocolate buttercream for my base.
I was pleased that the fondant came together well and rolled out easily. My only headache was getting my bow loops to dry. Next time, I'll try making these several days in advance.
The finished product:
We kept the party a secret, and I think she was pretty surprised!
One of the best parts of cake decorating is celebrating the wonderful people for whom they are created. Happy Birthday, Julie Anne!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Organic Without the Price

Living organic seems to be a big deal in the West these days. When I was living in America, I could certainly see the benefits of eating this way, but we just couldn't afford to spend the money it took to buy a $6 "certified organic" gallon of milk or to pay $4 for 2 organic green peppers.

One of the highlights of living here in Tanzania is that I have no choice but to buy organic. Nearly everything fresh is organic, and I like that. No - I love it!

Every Friday, I go to our local open-air market to buy our fresh fruits and vegetables. Here are some of the things I bought this week and the approximate total price I paid in US Dollars:

1 kilo Nyanya (tomatoes): $0.82

Matango (Cucumbers): $0.68

Pilipili Hoho (Green peppers): $0.68

1 kilo Vitunguu (Onions): $1.31
(I paid a little more because they were large)

1 kilo Viazi (Potatoes): $0.41

Karoti (Carrots): $0.34

Cilantro and Pilipili Mbuzi (Hot peppers): $0.13

Ndimu (Key Limes): $0.34

I buy other great organic items weekly too. Some of these items aren't as cheap, but I'm still glad that I can get them:

Nanasi (Pineapple): $1.03 each
Ndizi (Bananas): $0.10 each
Nazi (Coconut): $0.41 each
Maziwa (Fresh milk, delivered to my house 3 days a week, from which we also make yogurt) - 1 Liter: $0.68
Mayai (Eggs, delivered to my house once a week) - $4.48 for 30

Oh, and some of the best things in life are...

Mapashon (Passion Fruit): FREE from the vine in my yard!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ant Attack

Last night, these not so friendly (now-dead) ants decided to invade our front porch.
Paul discovered them when he went out to put his bicycle in the storage shed after dark. He didn't turn the porch light on, so unfortunately he stepped right into the swarm. He felt the stinging pain in his foot, realized what was happening, and quickly got out of the way. Thankfully, he was wearing flip-flops or else he might have had many more painful bites!

In Swahili, these nasty little guys are called sungusungu (biting ants). As I search the internet, they appear to be a species of army ant. Don't quote me on this, though. I'm definitely not a scientist!

One thing I do know, though. We'll be much more careful to turn on the porch light if we go outside again after dark!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Birthday Season

I haven't blogged in a while. Today, I'll blame this on the fact that we've recently reached the end of what we've come to call "birthday season" in my house, and this time of the year makes me tired and drains my creativity reserves.

Three of the four of us Heffts have a birthday in August and September: Josiah on August 5, Anna on September 8, and me on September 19. Last year, we were in orientation and language school during birthday season and weren't able to throw parties for the kids like normal, so taking that fact into consideration, I purposed to put on special, memorable (hopefully) parties for the kids this year. And it all went pretty well, except for the fact that it took me nearly a week to recover after each of the parties.

One thing I learned during my first real Tanzanian birthday season: I miss my neighborhood Wal-mart and party store in the States! Although, I was able to put on fun events for the kids, it took me a lot more time and internet-scouring to get things together. And I definitely had to put on my "crafty-lady" hat. Because I couldn't just run over to Wal-mart and buy all the neatly packaged party supplies I needed, I ended up creating a lot of the games and decorations myself.

But thankfully, I didn't have to do it all myself. Aladdin's Cave, the small ice cream parlor in town, carries a lot of little plastic trinkets and candies, so they were my go-to shop for creating party favor bags. We also have a decent stationery duka (shop) in town that carries supplies like glitter, birthday tiaras, kid-themed pencils, poster board, and ribbon. What I couldn't find in town, I tried to make myself.

Josiah's 6th birthday party was the biggest, and took the most work. He loves all things marine-life, so we decided together on a shark theme. He has quite a few friends in Dodoma, so we ended up with 16 children at the party! Thankfully, we have a large common area in our compound, so I was able to have it outside.

As they arrived, the kids made a shark necklace out of twine, paper shark cutouts and dyed pasta.
Next, we played games like "What time is it Mr. Shark? (similar to What time is it Mr. Wolf?), Feed the Shark (the kids threw homemade fish beanbags into a cardboard shark box I had made), Water Brigade, and Fish, Fish, Shark (like Duck, Duck, Goose).
Finally, we had snacks and cake.

For Anna's big day, she requested a princess party. Because she was turning four, we catered this party for the (mostly) under 5 set and only had 8 party-goers this time. This was a very good thing considering that the school planned an afternoon parent's meeting right in the middle of Anna's party, which meant that my right hand man had to leave half way through the event.

When the kids arrived, they decorated foam prince/princess crowns (Thanks, Mom for sending all that craft foam. It was a lifesaver!)
We played games like Pin the Kiss on the Frog Prince, Musical Magic Carpets, and Find the Pea.
And, again, we ate cake.
I'm pretty sure the kids had a wonderful time at both of their parties, and that made me feel good. However, I was beyond exhausted at the the same time. So, when my birthday rolled around 10 days after Anna's, we kept the celebrating pretty low-key. We had a few friends over for coffee, cake, and conversation.
I did make my own birthday cake (which I actually enjoy), but my friend, Julie Anne, also made me a delicious pavlova.
It's been a good birthday season in the Hefft house, but I'm glad it won't roll around for another year!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Celebrating Grandpa

One of the wonderful benefits of marriage is gaining a whole new family. When I became a Hefft nine years ago, not only did I gain a husband, but I also gained new parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of them welcomed me with open arms, a blessing I don't take for granted.

One of those new family members was Howard Eppler, Paul's maternal grandfather. I knew who Howard was for a long time before I started dating his grandson. He and Virgina attended my home church, always seated in the right center section of the auditorium every Sunday, three or four rows from the front. When Paul and I started dating, I got to know Grandpa and Grandma Eppler better. We had dinner at their house several times. We talked more at church. Their acceptance and love for me was instantaneous. Howard and Virgina became my grandparents, and I became their granddaughter.

On Saturday, July 17, at 9:45pm Grandpa graduated to his heavenly home after struggling with failing health for several years. Tomorrow, family and friends will be gathering in Kansas City, Missouri, to celebrate his life and lay his body to rest.

Unfortunately, we won't be physically present at the funeral (although one of our cousin's is working on setting up a Skype call so we can see and hear the service!), so I wanted to share some of my favorite memories of the man we were blessed to call our grandfather.

Our first date. No, not for Paul and me, for me and Grandpa. The spring before Paul and I were married, Grandpa Eppler asked me if I would accompany him to a Calvary Bible College banquet, since Grandma Eppler was ill in the hospital. I thought it was sweet that he would ask me to join him. He even brought me a flower. Another sweet memory from that night: during the banquet he got a call from Grandma saying she wasn't feeling well. He quickly and politely ditched me, and sped to his wife's side. His love and concern for her was so evident.

The way he said my name. I'll never forget the way he would smile and greet me with a hearty, "Hi, Mel!" whenever I would arrive. He always seemed happy to see me.

Watching him with my kids.
I'm so glad Josiah and Anna had the chance to get to know their great-grandfather. They always loved to go next door and "visit" Grandpa and Grandma Eppler whenever we were staying with Mom and Dad Hefft in Arizona.

Josiah in "Grandpa's bike"

Grandpa holding Anna for the first time

Kansas City Chiefs. Grandpa liked football, especially the Kansas City Chiefs. Even after he moved to Arizona, Grandpa still kept up with Chiefs' games. I'll never forget the day, I walked into his apartment and there he sat, eating a bag of chips and watching an old game from the early 90s. It made me smile.
Bonding with our brother-in-law, Ben, as they watched Chiefs stats being posted live on the internet while we celebrated Christmas at our house in Dallas in 2007.

His amazing memory. I'm fairly detail oriented, but Grandpa Eppler gave the term a whole new meaning. When he told a story, you always got dates, times, locations...everything.

Listening to him pray. Howard Eppler was a prayer warrior. Several times while I was in Arizona, I had the opportunity to "eavesdrop" on Grandpa and Grandma Eppler as they sat together after breakfast to read the Bible and pray. I heard him pray in detail for each of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Then, he went through recent missionary prayer letters and lifted up those requests to the Lord. Praise God they were on our prayer team. His prayers for us will be missed!

The last time we saw him. I'll never forget the last time we saw him on this earth. Our family gathered together in their little apartment in Arizona, and Grandpa prayed over us. Then we took a family picture, hugged, and said our goodbyes, not knowing if we would see each other again on this side of heaven. One month later, our family would get on an airplane and fly here to Tanzania, where we would begin assisting the work of Bible translation. A veteran missionary, Grandpa was passionate about world missions, and he had even spent 10 years serving in our particular organization, so I know he was excited about what we were going off to do.

Even though we wish we could be with family this weekend as they celebrate Grandpa Eppler's life, we know he would rather we stay here in Tanzania and continue the work of advancing the Gospel. We're proud to do what we can carry on his legacy of serving our Lord and Savior.

Thank you, Grandpa, for the example you set before us. We love you! You'll be missed!