Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas. We love and miss you all.

Means family preparation for Christmas 2011.
We made ornaments, ginger bread houses, and over 200 cookies. Most of which we delivered to the neighbors with a tract about the birth of Christ.
Matt 1:21 "for He shall save his people from their sins"

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas Story

I thought everyone would enjoy this beautiful story of how God has redeemed two lives in more ways than one this Christmas season.  And how he used a Christian children's home to do it.  As you read the story, thank God that he is always in control, and pray for Johana's salvation.

This is the children's home we ministered in the first nine months we were in Mexico.  As you can imagine it is a challenge to make Christmas a special time of year for 30 plus children.  The home can always use funds, but especially this time of year.  I can personally guarantee that every penny that is sent to Casa Betania will be spent on these children.  So, if you are still trying to figure out what your gift to Jesus will be this Christmas, consider Casa Betania.  And here is the beautifully unfolding story of Gaby and Johana in the words of the director's of Casa Betania

One of the most amazing stories of God's love and His providence in the lives of the children we receive.

This is Gaby, she at 2 yrs. old and her two-month-old baby sister were taken by the state and placed in a children's home for infants. Through the years Gaby had been adopted on two separate occasions but returned to live in the state run home. We received 14-year-old Gaby last April. In the last several months she has given her heart and life to Jesus Christ and become such a wonderful part of our family.

We knew that Gaby had a little sister who had also been adopted but by a different family. We encouraged Gaby to continue to pray for her little sister that God would place someone in her life to share with her the amazing love of Christ and that she also might one day accept Christ as her Savior. Last month we received a phone call from the same home that Gaby came from about a 12-year-old girl named Johana. We asked Gaby and the others from that home if they knew a girl named Johana. And Gaby said yes, her sister’s name is Johana but she had been adopted. I then asked her what the age of her sister was, but she didn't know because it had been so long since she had seen her.

I began to pray for this little girl "Johana". Gaby was sure that it couldn't be her sister because she really didn't think her sister was that old, but more importantly her sister had been adopted. Last week the DIF called again about this girl and made plans to bring her here today. When she came in, we realized in fact that this is Gaby's little sister! She had been adopted twice but removed from the home because of abuse. Can it be possible that God has entrusted us with this little one also so that she might come to know Him??? God is so amazing! After four adoptions, two little sisters have been reunited in a home and it is God's good pleasure to give us the opportunity to share His love with them!!! We are so incredibly blessed!

Merry Christmas!  Now go make some cookies with your kiddos!


Friday, December 2, 2011

The Ants Go Marching One By One.

The ants go marching one by one.
Hoorah! Hoorah!
The ants go marching one by one.
Hoorah! Hoorah!
The ants go marching one by one;
The little one stops to suck his thumb,
And they all go marching down into the ground
To get out of the rain.
Boom, boom, boom, boom!

The song should really go "down into the ground piece by tiny piece with all my garden.  Grrr, grrr, grrr, grrr!"

mage courtesy of SweetCrisis /

All the gardening advice I have for the US says that, besides the fact that ants sometimes cultivate aphids, they are harmless. Harmless!! They have obviously never encountered the leafcutter ant, because they are NOT harmless.  They have moved in and built a MASSIVE labyrinth of tunnels under my garden.  I am not exaggerating, there must be a million or more.  

"Leafcutter ants cut leaves from plants and trees and grow fungus on these cut fragments. The ants use this fungus to feed their larvae (the ants themselves mostly imbibe plant sap from the cut leaf fragments). ...
Leaf cutter ants are limited to the arid, semi-tropical and tropical regions of South, Central, and North America, but they are one of the ecologically-dominant ants everywhere they are found. They are arguably the most well-known of the ants to the local people and foreign tourists in these regions, mainly because of their spectacular habit of carrying colored petals or green leaves in foraging lines that may stretch more than 250 meters from their nest! 
Leaf cutter ants have one of the most sophisticated animal societies in the world. This is because of their unusual method of farming (they are the only animal besides humans who grow their own food from living matter), their extremely large colony sizes (up to 8 million individuals per colony in one species, Atta sexdens), and their fantastic caste system (with ants of different sizes and forms specialized for various tasks in the colony)." The Guide to Leafcutter Ants.
This is a formidable enemy! *sigh*  
Doesn't the mere sight of this cause you to shudder, bring cold sweats, toss and turn at night?

I have tried every trick I know, every trick I could google, and even resorted to spraying commercial bug sprays into their ant hills that are a "reasonable" distance from my organic garden.  All while the leafcutter ants march on, singing there happy song, waving their thanks that I am growing such wonderful plants for them in this very dry year, and rolling on the ground laughing at all my efforts to evict them.  I have gardened in three countries, four states in the US and two states in Mexico.  I have battled, aphids, slugs, powdery mildew, drought and I have been triumphant.  I am not a novice! 

My garden is my refuge, it's where I go when I am discouraged, unfocused, tired, bewildered.  It's where I laugh and cry and pray.  It's the one of the constants in my life.  It is where, to my great enjoyment, I have produced hundreds if not thousands of pounds of wholesome food for my family.  It is my deep sigh.
Happily marching along! Hurrah!  Hurrah!

Quite fascinating really!

Sawing down the carrots!  They love their greens!

So, here's some points to remember.  All my/our efforts have not be for not, we've shared but they haven't even gotten the grand majority.  This is actually my bonus garden.  We didn't get here until the 3rd week of August and I didn't plan to garden until the spring, but hubby knows how much joy it brings me, so he and a man from our home church prepared the spot.  And finally, I've still got a little fight left and a few more tricks up my sleeve, so watch out.  For right now, the kids and I go out and spray them off the plants with water, stomp out every ant we can find and generally try to disrupt their happy march several times a day.  It's not 100% and it's a good bit of effort, but it is keeping most of the garden from disappearing under the ground. :)

One for the blackbird.
One for the mouse.
One for the rabbit.
And one for the house.

I always thought that philosophy was for other suckers.  Look who's the sucker now.  LOL! :) 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yep!  That's me, practicing injections on the one and only Mona Sloan over at Mi Casa es Su Casa!

Wow!  It's been a long while since, I posted!  However, there is a very good reason.  The end of October and first part of November I had the opportunity to attend the Medical Mission Intensive at Equip International in North Carolina.  What an amazing unique class they are providing for those serving in developing countries.  Whether you want to make medical care part of your ministry, you just want to be able to help the occasional neighbor that knocks on your door (yes, that happens here), or you need to be able to care for your own family this course gives you a lot of tools.  I can't express how pleased I was with the course, how much more equipped I now feel and how thankful I am for the opportunity to go.  I probably know more about world diseases then I even wanted to and less than I need to, but it's a very good start.
It is called intensive for a reason, all day is spent absorbing information and all evenings were spent working on the case studies they gave us.  So, that explains the radio silence, I did not have much time to post or very good internet out in the hills of North Carolina.  The case studies gave us real to life examples of how to use the diagnostic skills they were teaching.  So interesting and sad to see how our fallen world effects people all around the world.  And you'll all be relieved to know I didn't "kill" any of my "patients". 
Our time here in La Chona will be drawing to an end before we know it.  The missionary family whose work this is, will be returning and it will be time for the Means family to stretch our wings and step out on our own.  The only problem is we have no idea where God wants us to go next.  We've had a vague thought since the beginning of this adventure that whatever our final destination, it would involve reaching out to some of the unreached indigenous groups in Mexico.  God providing and making a clear way for me to attend this course has been a small confirmation that we are thinking in the right direction.  
During the time I was in North Carolina, Sam and the kids stayed in Texas and took care of some business.  Sam sold our Toyota and completed his annual VA physical.  The next week they spent at Calvary Baptist Bible Ranch relaxing and shooting guns.  Few thing rival stress relief like gun shooin'.  Sam spent a lot of time that week talking to God about where we should go next, since it really is time to start thinking about it.  From my understanding the conversation went something like this.  Sam, "God, I really need to know where you want us to go next, Mexico is a very big country and I can't drive around and see all of it, but you know where the need is." God, "Uh-uh."  Sam, "Umm, God I would love to do whatever you want us to, could you just let me know where that is?" God, "Mmm."  Sam, "Hey God, me again, thank you for all that you do in our lives and allowing us to serve you in Mexico, but the time is getting a little close, so I would really like to know...." God, "Finish reading your Bible and go shoot guns with your kids, I'll get back to you later, it's all under control(said gently, of course)."  :)
Sam wasn't discouraged when he picked me up from the airport.  He was sure he had gotten an answer loud and clear - "sit tight!".  
I can't go into all the details, it's just too hard to understand how God works sometimes, but during all the commotion of getting packed and driving back down to Mexico, an extra day on the border to get some paperwork in order, God began to open our eyes to an area we knew about, but had never considered before.  Vamos a ver!  We shall see!

And just between you and me, I kinda think all the hollerin' was really unnecessary! ;)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Here I Go Again with the Food

I wanted to share one of my new delicious, healthy, money saving cooking secrets.  If you already know this trick, don't bust my bubble.  This has revolutionized my cooking.  I should go on for a bit in the name of suspense, but I won't.  To start with I have always used the words "stock" and "broth" interchangeably, but as it turns out they are to different things.

From wiki answers here's the long and short of it:
"While they're both the liquid results of boiling animal parts, stock tends to be made with bones and inedible bits, while broth is made by boiling meat. Both can contain vegetation as well, with whole vegetables like celery and onions more common in stock, and simple herbs more common in broth. Stock is often richer in mouth feel because longer cooking time renders more of the connective tissue into gelatin. It should also set up like a tasty meat jell-o in the fridge for the same reason. "

So what I have always done is get a whole chicken, placed vegetables in the pot with it and boiled it to make a broth by definition.  I would then stain off the broth, clean the meat off the chicken and us it for soup or enchiladas or something and discard the vegetables.  Sometimes I would do this in the crock pot.  While it's healthy and good, it's not really ubber flavorful.  

So here's my new revolutionary method.  I noticed that at the Mexican markets you could get chicken bones with almost all the meat cleaned off, they are super cheap.  We're talking less than a dollar.  So I put the bones, about a dollars worth of vegetable(onion,celery, carrots), maybe two dollars and water in my dutch oven.  I just recently got a dutch oven and I am not sure how I lived without it before.  Lot's of dutch oven love going on in this house.  Anyway, I also throw in peppercorns and salt and maybe some dried parsley and/or basil.  This goes in the oven at about 300F until it looks and smells - well - awesome!  Talk about flavor explosion!  Something about the oven roasted, dutch oven method just really deepens the flavor.  So for probably less than $3, I get 3 and a half pints of delicious stock.  That's a whopping 14 cups!  In the U.S. you pay $2.50 or more for 4 cups.  That's 3x the saving and twice the flavor, plus no overload of sodium or MSG.  Also the stuff at the store is shelf stable, and what you have made has leached all the vitamins from the bones and veggies into this yummy, vitamin rich liquid.  I can't even get premade chicken stock in Mexico.   The only thing available is the powdered stuff.  This may fulfill the cheap requirement, but it doesn't fulfill the healthy or flavorful part.  

So there you have it, go make some yummy broth and then serve your family the best chicken soup they have ever tasted.  Seriously, it will knock their socks off!

And while I'm obsessing about food.  Here is a yummy meal I made this week.  I was shooting for brisket, but what I ended up with was either skirt steak or brisket sliced up Mexican style.  Either way it came out super tender and yummy.  I paid a little less than $20 for the meat, which is a lot for us, but this makes two meals and this whole meal is only around $2 per person, so that's not too bad.  I balance it out with a meal of beans the next day to keep us with in budget.  The first meal (pictured below) is slow-cooked brisket in onion gravy and the second meal you make from it is brisket sloppy joes.    Click on the link for the recipes. 

I can not describe how thankful I am, that I am able to feed my family healthy nutritious foods.  It is overwhelming how many mothers around the world would love to be able to provide any type of nutritious foods for their children and simple have no means.

Sam make greens as a side and Lena stirring the gravy.

A little "how to cook greens" demo.  Start with fresh greens, heat pan to really hot, add olive oil and greens.  Sprinkle in some pepper flakes and one clove of garlic towards the end.  That's a Carie original, you can also do it with green beans!  Yummo!

I'm not sure what it means if you can not restrain yourself from taking pictures of the food you cook...hmmm....

These babies are the first from the garden.  I planted them near the zucchini, but had to pick them early because the zucchini grew so fast it was shading them too much.  I also thinned out the turnip patch and used some of the young tender greens in the salad.

And finally, in the name of just going way to far, we are taking just ignoring the line altogether. I mean isn't it bad enough with all the green smoothies for breakfast and salads for lunch!  I went and made a raw green dessert!  In my defence it was a school project.  It was in our book called "A Trip Around the World".  We are studying South America and apparently this is a Brazilian recipe.  Any of you folks from that area of the world can feel free to either affirm or deny this.

Here I am taking pictures of food again, geez!

Abacate Batido

4 avocados
1/2 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup powder sugar*
6 tablespoons line juice
*the second time I made it I replaced about half the sugar for 3 tablespoons of honey and it worked great, the fam didn't even know. ;)

Put it all in the blender and your done.
I don't know if you folks in the States can make this.  I saw the prices of avocados last time I visited...YIKES!  But here they are very reasonable, even cheap and limes are plentiful, so what a great recipe!  It was a huge success.

A little skeptical even for my clan, can you blame them?

Now that's what I call a culinary success!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our Last Two Weeks in Picture! How FUN!

Baked bread for the first time THIS YEAR.  In my defense, our house in Cuernavaca didn't have an oven.  I tried a new method, it's with sour dough starter and doesn't use any "leaven".  It works great.  My next goal is to teach Hannah how to make the bread, which she's very excited about.

This is one of the secrets to perfect bread; an oven thermometer.  Want your bread, not too dry, but not too gooey in the middle, get an oven thermometer.
Found this guy and several other creatures around our house.  We are now the proud owners of a black widow.  When we found the spider and were all standing around looking at it trying to decide what to do with it, K stated that she did not know why we were having a discussion when the obvious thing to do was kill it.  Then she suggested I culture it since, I have things from kefir, to bread, to kombucha, to veggies all over the house "culturing".  Too Funny!
I taught children's class in Spanish for the first time!  

Slurped my blog into Blurb!  Insta scrapbook!  YES!  I'll let you figure that one out on your own.  I sure do like my Mac!

We had green desert and it was a huge hit.  I'll post more about it later.

We visited with friends in Zacatecas for Josiah's birthday.  Aren't these two adorable little hams.

Zip-lined 380 ft, upside down, cast and all.  It doesn't get much better than that!  Happy 12th Birthday Josiah.

Hosted our first youth night.  Everyone had a blast.  Of course, it's hard when you're the little ones in the family and have to go to bed with all the excitement going on.  

Can you say NO FEAR!  YIKES!

Hannah made yummy tomato soup.  We got the recipe from Pioneer Woman's web site.  We just omitted the alcohol and used homemade stock instead of bunion and water.  Sided it with grilled shrimp from the market. 

Bro H said he wanted to see some green coming from where he harvested all those rocks.  So here it is, I'm planting seeds in Oct!!  Love !! This is my solution to the dogs getting in my garden and it works really well.  Although, I have gotten my own foot twice now.  OUCH!!  Also yes, I'm using knitting needles for spikes.  They were given to me "used" (so yes I'm using vintage knitting needle as spikes in my garden *gasp*) as a gift and I was going to use them to teach with since I never knit back and forth on straight needles....who does...knitting in the round is what it's all about, baby!  Anyway, I think they make very cheery lovely garden spikes, I'm also all about the square foot.  I like to balance my round knitting with my square gardening. Hahahaha!  Surely someone will think that's funny. :P

Happy Birthday J and isn't our friends little one absolutely a doll!  She was so inthralled with the whole candle process.

This one repelled when he was 4, so no surprises here!  LOL!

I repaired a laceration on a cow heart and aren't those good looking sutures....good technique too!  :)  Brushing up on my suturing skills and working on some new techniques.

I married him for adventure, he never disappoints!  :P

Preschool, Means style.  Haden looks at book, then says, "I need some help."  "Can you please read this too me."  Then someone reads it to him.  He also watches Leap Frog letter factory sometimes and colors lots of pictures, it's kind of his thing right now.  Then he goes outside and plays, eats lunch and takes a nap.  What a rough life!

Haden tried to use the clothes line for a zip-line.  Whoops!  It's quite high, I'm glad no one got hurt!

Hannah's turn.  She did flip upside down too, I just didn't get a good shot of it.  She'd want me to say that.  :)

The brave ones, minus K and R who still hadn't decided if they wanted to go or not.

And I saved the best for last.  K did it too and I think she's glad she did!  Although I think she closed her eyes and prayed most of the way.  Next time she'll enjoy the view more.  

Currently, Zacatecas has the 3rd longest zip line in Latin America, second only to Costa Rica and Cancun. 

Hope you've had a great few weeks too.  We got permission to do a "Movie in the Park" in our town center this Friday and will be showing an evangelical movie.  Everyone is very excited.