Sunday, February 26, 2012

my revised opinion on cloth diapers

reviewed Ashlynn’s cloth diapers a few months ago and I have to make a few revisions since we’ve moved back overseas. 
I love our cloth diapers now.  Ashlynn has outgrown the Kissaluv’s and Thirsties duo wraps. They were wonderful for when she was smaller.  I highly recommend this combo for babies under 12 pounds. I still squeezed them on her when she was three months old but as she approached 12 pounds then just didn’t cut it any longer.  She’s now purely wearing bumGenius all in one diapers with snaps. 

When we first arrived in Ethiopia I had to start relying on our cloth diapers because we simply didn’t have enough disposable diapers in our suitcases to get us through the weeks until our air freight or consumables shipment arrived.  As Ashlynn grew, the cloth diapers held in the explosive breast milk poop much better than the disposable diapers.  She’s also had zero diaper rash or even a hint of redness since we’ve moved to using solely cloth diapers. 

I bring disposable diapers when we are traveling.  It just makes things easier.  For our Mekelle trip last weekend we didn’t have space to pack around a wet bag and dirty diapers all weekend.  Gross!  Disposable are the way to go for air plane flights and overnight trips. 

At 2 AM I slap a disposable diaper on Ashlynn for the nightly diaper change.  Getting the cloth insert arranged properly in the pocket and snapping the diaper closed feels like rocket science at that ungodly hour.  I barely have to open my eyes to put on the disposable.  I allow myself this tiny luxury. 

In America, my biggest complaint about cloth diapers was all the washing.  I have three kids.  Spending that much time washing every day was eating into other important things like eating and sleeping.  The first 10 weeks of any baby’s life is just too hectic no matter how many other children you have.  Adding all that cloth diapering just made me crazy.  We live in Ethiopia now.   Ash is 4 months and now that she has a nice neat schedule, I’m not a walking zombie (maybe on occasion).   I also have a housekeeper to do the majority of the diaper washing.  Now cloth diapers are a piece of cake.  The weather is glorious here on a daily basis so all the diapers get hung to dry outside while the inserts tumble in the dryer.  We are generally running to grab a hanging diaper to throw on the baby as it’s still in the process of drying but that’s just how it goes.  We haven’t had a blow-out yet. Charlie's Soap is perfect because it's powdered and can be shipped through the pouch no problem.

We are in the land of zero disposable diapers so my small stash of disposables are sacred.  I squirrel them away for my middle of the night changes and our travel.  I can’t imagine having to order a box of diapers on a weekly basis to get sent through the pouch to get to us.  With all that cash we are saving I can order powdered milk or instant oatmeal.  Cloth diapers are pretty cool if you have the help for washing.  So many people don't have the help and still do it.  These people are Saints!  You have my kudos if you are making washing cloth diapers a priority in your family on top of the rest of things you are doing.   

I highly recommend Jillian’s Drawers website for ordering.  Definitely invest in bumGenius.  They are going to take us all the way until Ashlynn’s potty trained. 

dinner anyone?

I apologize to anyone who panics without a real recipe with measurements.  I don't follow recipes when cooking (baking is different).  I take that back.  I love recipes for inspiration, but I tend to do my own thing once I have the basic idea and plan in my head.  When it comes to a new food item (like polenta) I use a recipe for the basic ratios.  If you want to try your hand at these meals, don't be afraid that yours will likely turn out slightly different than mine. That’s the fun of cooking.

These yummy eats were two of our dinners last week.  They both happen to be vegetarian.  It's tough to come by meat here that looks worth cooking, so at least twice a week we eat vegetarian meals.  It took me a bit to feel comfortable serving a vegetarian meal this often to my family.  At first I felt like something was missing on the plate but I've since come to terms with vegetables taking the lead role in my meals. 

Potato and cheese croquettes with mushroom sauce, sauteed spinach and candied squash
Boil about a pound and a half (totally guessing) of potatoes with their skins on (sneaky vitamins for the girls) and mashed them like mashed potatoes.  Add salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and some diced matured Edam cheese (cheap and easy to find in Ethiopia-any cheese will do) to the mash and let the potatoes cool.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan on medium heat.  Form round potato patties with your hands dust them with bread crumbs. Saute them in the oil until they were browned on both sides.  When all the croquettes were browned I lined them on a baking sheet and kept them warm in the oven at 300 degrees.  This dried the potatoes out and crisped them up a bit.

In the mean time sauteed a cup of walnuts in about a tablespoon of butter until the butter is frothy.  Add a big bunch of fresh spinach and a dash of salt.  Saute until the spinach is wilted. This dish is packed with vitamins and omega-whatevers.

For the candied squash place thin slices of squash in a glas pan, dust with cinnamon and brown sugar.  Crumble about a tablespoon of butter over the squash and add a handful of strawberry flavored dried cranberries (raisins or plain dried cranberries would be fine).  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees, stirring periodically until the squash is tender and your children come running in because the whole house smells sweet like cinnamon and sugar.  Watch them promptly run back outside when they learn that it’s squash, not dessert.

At the last minute I decided the croquettes needed a sauce. Heat a cup of homemade chicken broth in a sauce pan.  When it’s bubbling add a teaspoon of flour/water mixture about a quarter cup of milk and whisked until the sauce thickened up.  Add some Parmesan cheese to taste (my Mom sent Kraft Parmesan!) and ¾ cup chopped canned mushrooms.  A dash of salt and pepper finished the sauce.  It was pretty slammin on the croquettes.

The girls loved the croquettes.  I let them and munch them outside while they played.  Does anyone else have kids who are roaming eaters?  Getting them to sit down and eat their dinner is next to impossible.  Usually they inhale their food for about 5 minutes then start roaming.  It drives me insane.

Squash curry with vegetables

This was a simple Friday night meal.  I started by dicing the squash and roasting it in at 400 degree oven with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast until the squash is tender.

While the squash was roasting I sauteed a chopped onion and two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Tip: I keep fresh ginger in the freezer since it’s used infrequently.  It’s easy to grate and won’t mold when frozen.  Add a tablespoon of curry powder and continued stirring until the onions are cooked and the curry and ginger has browned a bit.  Add a ½ cup of coconut milk and 1 ½ cups of homemade chicken broth.  Stir and let it bubble and thicken for 5 minutes.  Next you can add any sort of vegetables you want to the sauce.  I added snow peas and green bell pepper.  Add the roasted squash to the sauce at the end.  I ended up adding more ginger, curry, salt and pepper to taste as well as fresh parsley before serving.  It depends on your personal taste.  Serve over white rice. 

the man who made it all possible

I can't believe how lucky I am. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

fairy in training

My sister, Emily sent these tiny little fairy wings for Ashlynn. Thanks Aunt Emily!

it doesn't have to look good...

to taste good.

Need some dinner inspiration? This week I made roasted chicken and veggies as well as penne puttanesca. Both kind of ugly but really delicious.
The roasted chicken and vegetable meal is one of the quickest and easiest meals I've done lately. Here's what I did. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut one onion in large chunks as well as carrots. Toss these on a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Chop potatoes and add to the baking sheet. Cut up a whole chicken and arrange the pieces among the vegetables. Drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper and granulated garlic on the chicken and potatoes. Chop about a half a cup of kalamata olives and toss with the rest of the veggies. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh rosemary. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes, tossing the vegetables around periodically. I flipped the chicken pieces half way through cooking as well. At the end the chicken will be juicy and tender while the potatoes are soft and the carrots and onions are caramelized. This was simply delicious. The caramelized onions were my favorite part.

I made the penne puttanesca with some veggies I had in the fridge. Cook about 3/4 lb of penne pasta. Heat olive oil in a pan and add vegetables of your choosing. I had fresh spinach and a yellow pepper begging to get eaten. Add a few cloves of chopped garlic to the veggies. When cooked a bit add a can of tomatoes with the juices. Add some kalamata olives, capers (2 Tbsp) and a bit of salt and pepper. I had some leftover roasted chicken from the previous meal so I chopped it up and added it to the sauce. Next toss the penne with the sauce, add freshly chopped parsley and Parmesan (if you have it). This dish was amazing and super easy.


After our trip to Tigrai region and tasting the honey from that area, I immediately went to the store to buy some. It's not exactly what we had at Gheralta but it's pretty close. The honey is thick but spreadable and sweet. After our run in with an African honey bee nest in our house I might as well eat as much honey while in Ethiopia as I can.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gheralta at dawn

God, birds and all children under 5 are up at dawn. Therefore, so are we. Dawn is pretty spectacular in Gheralta.

eating at Gheralta

We ate all our meals at the lodge restaurant. Breakfast was my favorite meal (it generally is). Every morning hot rich Ethiopian coffee was served as well as homeade yeast dougnuts, biscuits, rolls, eggs with vegetables, and an assortment of honey and homemade jams. Lunch consisted of a vegetable appetizer, fresh pasta with tomato sauce, salad with all the ingredients grown in the gardens on the grounds and fuit. Dinner was soup, salad, vegetable lasagna, beef goulosh, and crepes. The second evening was an Ethiopian meal. My first ever Ethiopian food and it was delicious. Lentils, injera, beef, spicy vegetables, and honey wine. The food at Gheralta lodge was fresh and very good. For me, the simplistic atmosphere added to the dining experience. I also found the simple natural decor of the lodge very pleasing. It was clean, airy and authentic.

Gheralta Lodge

Gheralta lodge is a peaceful Italian owned lodge that attracts expats and tourists from all over the world. The accommodations are excellent and the location provides spectacular views. It’s necessary to book a room in advance because it frequently fills up. I was especially impressed with our room and it’s bathroom. The plumbing was modern, toilet was new. We even had a bathtub to bathe the children. Our stone little lodge looked out on the valley and gorgeous rock formations.
The accommodations were individual round stone brick lodges placed far apart on the grounds of the lodge. There are trails to walk on, trees to climb, small hills to hike, and livestock to watch. The girls played in a sandbox and were delighted when the sheep flocks would come close by to graze. We climbed and hiked to a few beautiful look-out points. Even discovered a few spectacular trees to climb. I was amazed at the quiet peacefulness the lodge provided. The landscape is so very different than the tropics we are accustomed to. It was a completely different kind of beauty. The mornings were cool enough to bundle up, as were the evenings after dinner when the sun went down (I was excited to put Ash in a coat that Addie wore in Virginia when she was born). During the middle of the day the sun beat down hot enough to make me want to nap in the shady areas on the veranda lounge chairs. When the sun went down and we got the girls to sleep Justin and I were treated to a whole other world of beauty. The black night sky in Gheralta lit up with more stars than I have ever seen. The sky was dotted with bright shining stars as if the girls had thrown a handful of glitter in the air. Some of the constellations were easy to spot. Orion’s belt was directly above our heads. It was simply breath taking. Justin spotted three shooting stars over the two nights. My husband was 10 years old again wishing he had his telescope with him. The next time we go we will be bringing our sleeping bags to lay on our backs to stargaze. The stars were definitely icing on the cake at this place.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mekelle, Tigrai Region

We had our first family adventure away from Addis Ababa this past weekend. I made a lot of fuss about packing up our suitcases and flying with our kids after we just barely have gotten settled in our home. The last thing I felt like doing was flying somewhere and staying in a hotel with my kids, especially since Ashlynn has been treating me with all night long wake ups worse than when she was a newborn. I made way too much fuss about not wanting to go. But, the minute I got my head in the game and we were at the airport ready to leave I was glad we were going.
We flew to Mekelle which is in the Tigrai region of Ethiopia north of Addis Ababa. It was a short 45 minute flight but we touched down in another world. Mekelle surrounded us with vast open dry land meeting towering rock formations and mountains. We had a long two and a half hour drive from the airport to the Gheralta Lodge. The last hour of the drive was on an unpaved road. The drive was tedious but the landscapes we saw are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. All along our drive we saw stone homes and compounds dotting the countryside and climbing the sides of mountains. The local people marched along the road we drove carrying baskets on their heads and bundles on their backs. It was market day and everyone in the vicinity was traveling to the small village we passed through to get food. Donkeys carried jugs of water for their owners. Whenever we passed a well we saw a gathering of young people and women there collecting their daily water supply.
Once we arrived the landscape of Gheralta blew us away.