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Friday, May 27, 2011


Congolese girls and many women play a competitive game called
Zango, which involves singing, clapping and jumping.  Boys play
football (soccer) whenever they have time, a ball and a place to kick it. 
Soccer is not just a game; it has the force to unite people, communities
and nations.  To the African child, soccer is like second-nature.  The
first game kids learn is kicking the ball.  However, to many of them
kicking a ‘real soccer ball’ remains just a dream. But thanks to African
ingenuity, kids make their own ball by finding anything at their disposal- from plastic bags to rags and twine.   Ben & Michelle - Congo

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The amazing benefits of Strawberries….

…these nutrient-rich berries fight weight gain, cancer

Red, ripe strawberries mean that summer is near. These delicious berries are everywhere in June which is peak strawberry season.  These amazing berries are fantastic allies in your fight against weight gain, says Dr. Leo Galland, author of The Fat Resistance Diet, and Jonathan Galland.

Strawberries: 1. Stimulate your metabolism and suppress your appetite.  2. Carry a low glycemic load, helping to control the rise in blood sugar, a key benefit for those with type 2 diabetes.  3.  Help your weight-reducing hormones function properly, optimizing your weight loss. 

Strawberries also have other great health benefits.  They’re full of powerful antioxidants, which fight against inflammation – which over time can lead to heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer and other conditions.  Low in calories and high in nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C, strawberries are a great addition to a healthy diet.  They may even help to prevent your brain from aging, according to some studies.

For a powerful nutritional punch, simply add a handful of sliced strawberries to: granola, oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Summer Attire

It’s been a long winter.  Holed up inside, lonely river water, soundless stadiums.  Just a glimpse of the sun has people grabbing for sandals, shorts and sleeveless tops.  I smile as they strain upturned faces struggling to feel the heatless rays on their countenances.  Vitamin D, warm or not, is a good thing.

I’ve held out.  I’ve yet to expose myself to the elements.  My legs are still encased in the fibers of my stockings.  Summer tops and flip flops are safely put away until the temperature dictates change.  I find a comfortable security wrapped in my old black sweater.  I love the new experience of season changes but drag my feet as I leave one behind and stretch toward the new.  It’s not so much that I like routine or dislike new adventures.  I’m just a sucker for the coziness of a good, fluffy robe. 

But God…
…dropped a vision on me the other day. The uncomplicated version consisted of me standing in a huge meadow.  To my left was a lovely bubbling brook, the sun and a tree with a hollowed out ‘seat’, a writing table and a bookcase.  Heading to a lone tree quite a ways away to the right was a ‘yellow brick road’. I moved to sit beneath ‘my’ tree when I hear the Lord tell me “there is knowledge at the tree beyond.  You have found a place of comfort and you can always return for a season, but I need you to make your way down the path before you.  There you will find new information.”  I faltered.  “Yes, you just settled but you may not stay.  You will never ‘stay’.  Like shedding your winter clothes for the vulnerability of summer attire, you will be subject to new environment and ravages of nature. But here I AM gathering and sending angelic presence to support you…” I saw myself turn toward the distant tree, take a deep breath and begin to walk.  My neck aches as I force myself not to look back, longing for the cool brook and tree nook.  For just that moment, I understood Lot’s wife.  Open to the elements while running toward something new is overrated, though necessary.

Encased in angelic fold
I feel the sanctity of Your love
Brimming desire to look into Your eyes
Overcomes a weary heart.
One more beat
One more beat
Your passion becomes my strength.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time off for Good Behavior

Frequently on Roy’s day off, he will offer to wake Sylvester (our yellow nape Amazon parrot), play with him, feed him and put him up in his room for the day.  At first I balked at it.  Roy didn’t do it the way I did and after 25 years Sylvester likes his little routine.  But, once I gave in a couple of times and let Roy do it his way (which Sylvester just LOVES)  I realized it gave me more time in the morning to do my own thing.  It was refreshing to spend just a little more time with God, get ready at my own pace, and add extra hairspray to my doo.  A little bit of freedom.  Now I look forward to my mommy mornings off.

Sometimes, I am the same way with God.  I hear His voice call me from the hustle and bustle of the day to spend special time with Him.  I find I unconsciously fight it.  It’s too comfortable when I’m safely ensconced in routine.  But what He has for us, the beauty of His touch, is more than I can turn from for any length of time.  I have learned to pry myself quickly away from the mundane and plant myself in the exhilaration of His presence.  I pray you are able to let go of the ordinary, every day duties when you hear His voice calling so you can experience the sweet spontaneity that His arms offer.

Leaves nip playfully
At each other,
As they scamper
across the yard
without a thought
dancing to the melody
of the wind’s gentle breeze.

I watch
wistfully wondering
When I last so unconsciously
Moved with the music
Of God’s calling.

I fall to my knees.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Kenya Ceramic Jiko

Today, the most promising version in stove design is the 'Kenya Ceramic Jiko' (KCJ).

The KCJ is a portable stove that uses charcoal as fuel. Shaped like an hourglass, the metal stove has a ceramic lining in its top half, with the bottom half being a collection box for ashes. The coals are placed into the ceramic lining at the top, which is perforated to let the ashes from the coals fall to the bottom of the stove. These ashes can then be collected and disposed of safely. The head of the stove has metal rings that hold a pot in place for cooking.
The KCJ increases stove efficiency by addition of a ceramic insulating liner (the brown element), which enables 25 to 40 percent of the heat to be delivered to the pot. From 20 to 40 percent of the heat is absorbed by the stove walls or else escapes to the environment. In addition, 10 to 30 percent gets lost as flue gases, such as carbon dioxide.  With proper use and maintenance, the KCJ has been shown to reduce fuel use by 30 to 50%. This means less wood is burned to make charcoal, and fewer trees have to be cut down. This also means less labor in looking for and chopping firewood. The stove also reduces emissions from incomplete combustion, such as toxic gases and particulate matter, resulting in better overall health of the users.
The Kenya Ceramic Jiko was designed through efforts of local and international agencies and many concerned people. Today, the stove is so popular that it is used in over 50% of all urban homes and about 16% of rural homes in Kenya. Furthermore, its use has now spread to neighboring African countries, and variations of the KCJ can now be found in homes in Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Senegal, and Sudan.  Aside from KENGO, several NGOs, including CARE (Kenya), have worked with women's and community groups on the production, demonstration and dissemination of the stoves.
Prerequisites:  The use of the stove requires access to fuelwood or charcoal. Production of the stoves requires ceramic material and scrap metal. Training has been provided by KENGO to other regional NGOs in the manufacture of the new jiko. Quality control is an important factor in maintaining the improved efficiency of the stove.
Cost and availability:  The trade name of the new domestic jiko is Kimathi Jiko, and it sells for 55 to 75 Kenyan shillings, or Can $2 to $3.
Suppliers of the stoves include: Program Officer, Wambugu (Central Highlands), PO Box 5069, Nyere, Kenya  and   Mr Richard Kimani, Jerri International, PO Box 52747, Nairobi, Kenya 

Here's a fun & hopefully helpful idea.

How to Kill those pesky Mosquitoes
Fill a 4-ounce spray bottle with Listerine and spray your yard, seats, doorways, window frames & any nearby standing water then watch the little demons disappear!
OUR FRIEND'S COMMENTS: I tried this on my deck and around all of my doors.
It works - in fact, it killed them instantly. It really doesn't take much, and a big bottle is less than $2 (or maybe your friends will send you a few bottles) and not as expensive to use as the can of Bug-spray.   So, try this, please. It will last a couple of days. Don't spray directly on a wood door (like your front door), but spray around the frame. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Sabbath


I hate getting sick.  It always comes at what seems to be the most inopportune time.  It kicks into my insecurities because I have to let people down by calling in sick or missing appointments.  This time was really a bummer.  My Dad was visiting and I was taking a whole day off to spend with him.  Roy and I planned this great trip to a little artsy town up in the mountains that he would have so enjoyed.  That morning I woke up sick.  Not the kind of sick you can disregard and plow through with a good face; no, the kind of sick that cannot be ignored by anyone around you.  Back to bed I went, disappointed and miserable.  All day it went the same and we were unable to take our trip.  And then I received the best present ever.  My Dad sat on my bed and we talked; we talked about how he was feeling after Georgana’s death and how he is pushing through.  How he has found a greater God through it all and how he wants to know even more about Him.  We talked about my book, Eden’s Song and how proud he was of what Roy and I are doing.   We talked in between trips to the restroom, ice water and naps. 
The next day Roy took him to the airport amidst tears and hugs.  I was forced to stay in bed another day.  I kept thinking of all these things I needed to get done, but it just wasn’t going to happen and I finally succumbed to the fact that I was bound to rest.  When Roy came home from work, we talked.  We talked about what a great visit we had with Dad, where our next trip to Africa would be, what the newspaper said.  He napped before his next shift and I found myself thinking about things from ‘when did my stomach get so round’ to praying for a friend who lost her husband 3 years ago and is wondering if she will meet someone else soon.  I realized that there are very few days that I just allow thoughts to go unbidden in and out of my mind; tossing the ones that mean nothing, pondering insightful discoveries and handing God those too big for me. 
It became a Sabbath.  I never take a Sabbath – I know that is unbiblical, but frankly with a 5 day workweek, laundry, house cleaning, home groups, writing a new book and Eden’s Song there isn’t much time to stop.  But God knows.  God knows there are days that just need to be for building relationships and taking a bath without hurry; days to throw out the distractions and refocus on what He has called us to do.  These last 2 days opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to life than a continuous flow of ‘work’ even if we love what we are doing.  That we really do need to ‘stop and smell the roses’ once in awhile to appreciate the beauty around us enabling us to share it with others. 
I pray you find your Sabbath.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Clean Cookstoves - the Solar cookstove

The cookit is a panel style solar cooker that was developed in 1994 by a volunteer group of engineers and solar cooks associated with Solar Cookers International. ( It was based on a design by French scientist Roger Bernard. The CooKit is made of cardboard and foil shaped to reflect maximum sunlight onto a black cooking pot that converts sunlight into thermal (heat) energy. A heat-resistant bag (or similar transparent cover) surrounds the pot, acting like a greenhouse by allowing sunlight to hit the pot and prevent heat from escaping. It weighs half a kilogram and folds to the size of a large book for easy transport.

It is capable of cooking most foods in several hours, and retains nutrients that are lost in cooking over higher and direct heat. The Cookit has been beneficial to displaced persons in refugee camps where firewood was scarce and there was abundant sunshine.
Most solar cookers work on the basic principle: Sunlight is converted to heat energy, that is retained for cooking. Sunlight is the "fuel." A solar cooker needs an outdoor spot that is sunny for several hours and protected from strong wind, and where food will be safe. Dark surfaces get very hot in sunlight, whereas light surfaces don't, therefore black or dark pots should be used; best in dark, shallow, thin metal pots with dark, tight-fitting lids to hold in heat and moisture. A transparent “heat trap” around the dark pot lets in the sunlight, and keeps the heat that is produced from escaping. For the Coookit a clear, heat-resistant plastic bag or large inverted glass bowl is used.

The advantages are the low cost, the easy transportability; they are light and compact; the fact that for most areas in the developing world Cookits can be manufactured locally, thus creating jobs, local ownership and production while reducing the need for large amounts of petrol in transportation.

It is also an advantage that the food is cooked slowly, as it allows for extra hours where women are not required to tend a fire or search for firewood. These added hours can be used for other income generating activities, such as working on ones farm and increase produce; working with other women to initiate a poultry farm; pig farming or other entrepreneurial, artisan activities.

The disadvantage of the Cookit is that it is made with cardboard, which if exposed to regular moisture and water, will damage it and it will no longer be functional. If it is kept out of water and well maintained, it will last longer.

The requirement of the plastic bag is also an obstacle in that these bags can be reused, but will eventually need to be replaced. Again, the number of times these bags can be reused varies on the specifics of each household. When a plastic bag is poked or ripped, it is no longer viable. In areas where water is scarce, if a pot spills while removing it from the bag, cleaning the bag can be difficult and reduce its length of use. These plastic bags and the need to consistently replace them is perhaps one of the main disadvantages of this solar cooker. SCI and other organizations and engineers are working to expand our research to develop and improve this CooKit, while keeping the cost low and increasing the durability and problems with the plastic bags.

Want to try the CooKit for yourself? Download instructions to build your own:!

Roy & I were thrilled to see one of these at work in Kenya when we visited our friends at HEART.  You can also check out the Mind the Gap page on