Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Brine it Baby!

Well, I did it... Finally at 36 years of age (wow I sound old) I cooked my first Christmas Turkey Dinner.

Last year, my sister made a turkey with a brine recipe from Pioneer Woman.
It was AWESOME.

I found a butcher here in Senegal that was taking orders for Christmas turkey's. We ordered an 8 kilogram turkey.... 17.6 pounds (for just the four of us!). And of course, it arrived with it's feet and head attached in twine (not to mention the usual surprises stuffed inside).

Christmas Eve morning, I whipped up the brine hoping to recreate my sisters delicious turkey. For 24 hours, the turkey soaked. Brine, baby, brine!

Here is the recipe from Pioneer Woman (and also a great explanation as to why you should brine):

Ingredients:
3 cups Apple Juice Or Apple Cider
2 gallons Cold Water
4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
5 cloves Garlic, Minced
1-½ cup Kosher Salt
2 cups Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
5 whole Bay Leaves
Peel Of Three Large Oranges

Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.

Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.

When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.

Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.


The turkey was juicy, flavorful, and fantastic.

My stuffing, on the other hand, was not.
I need a good stuffing recipe if anyone out there has one they would like to share. I used Pioneer Woman's, but had to do a lot of 'substituting' as I didn't have cornbread.

We also had mashed garlic potatoes, green beans with carrots, lots of gravy, and homemade apple pie. The only thing missing was cranberries, but it's impossible to get those here.

We all sat down for dinner and spent an hour eating, relaxing, laughing, and enjoying each others company.
It was a perfect meal (minus the stuffing!).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And this is Christmas.

For the last few days, I haven't been able to take a deep breath.

I don’t have asthma, I’m not sick, and I don’t have anxiety (right now, anyway).

It's because of pure and utter excitement.

The last few weeks have not been easy here in West Africa. Richard has been working around the clock...literally. As a journalist in West Africa, he is covering news that is violent, terrifying, and tragic. I have never truly appreciated being a US citizen, and all of our rights, until living here.

We have been falling asleep at night talking about a country that has two presidents, burning tires, smoke bombs, random politically driven killings, and mass graves. At the same time there are also people going through our garbage looking for scraps of food.

While trying to digest the rawness of reality here, we are also dealing with simple ‘day to day’ annoyances... like mild sickness, 8 teeth coming in with constant night wakings, being pulled over by police officers with machine guns simply because you are white, me working more than I should, power outages, water outages, etc.

Etc, etc, etc. Etc, etc, etc. I suppose the 'etc's' could go on...

These annoyances are trivial compared to what many of the people around us here are dealing with.

Christmas is helping us realize how truly blessed and grateful we are.

I have been ‘more than’ excited about Christmas, as this is our first Christmas as a family. It’s our first Christmas with our angels, Laird and Dylan. Granted, they have no idea that it is even Christmas, but for Richard and I, our hearts our so full of love and gratefulness that we can barely contain ourselves.

Last Christmas, we were fighting for their lives… not knowing what the future would bring.

And here we are, blessed with 2 amazing, healthy, happy little angels.

Right now, it’s 80 degrees, the harmatan winds are humming, and we still smell of mosquito spray from Christmas Eve. We miss our families and friends back home more than ever. But Richard and I have managed to get in to the Christmas spirit simply being grateful for what we have.

We are so so so so so blessed.

And so you are you.

Be grateful for what you have. Let go of your daily annoyances. Hug your loved ones and kiss your spouse. Take a moment and look at everything in your life that you have, rather than what you don’t. Take a deep breath and soak it all in. Life is beautiful, short, and wonderful…

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Priceless



Luckily I had the camera out for Dylan's excitement!!!
YESSSS!!!!!!!

Our little drummer boy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday at Club Med

video
Just another wonderful day....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Canadians

Application photos for Canadian citizenship.

Yes, these boys are going to have dual citizenship.
1/2 American and 1/2 Canadian.
Amerdians? Canadicans? Hmmm.

One thing for certain though...these boys will be shouting 'Go Habs Go'.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Yassa Poulet at Sonko's

Yassa Poulet or Poulet Yassa is probably Senegal's most famous dish. In fact, it has spread throughout most of West Africa because it is so tasty. At almost every restaurant here in Dakar, you will find Yassa Poulet on the menu (including a japanese restaurant). However, there is a right way to make Yassa and... well...the 'other way'.

Our guard, Sonko, brought over some Yassa that his wife and sister made on Tabaski.

It was heavenly.

I have eaten many, many, many yassa dishes as I think I am truly addicted to this meal. It takes incredible will power for me to not order the Yassa everytime we eat out. Sonko's yassa was one of the best I have had.

Last Saturday, we were invited to see how a good Yassa is made. It takes hours and hours....not just to prep, but to slow cook the chicken. And then to grill it on low heat. And then to let it simmer in the delicious sauce.

I sat in the kitchen with my notebook, pen, and camera feeling so so so lucky to witness this meal preparation....the right way. It took 6 hours...and it was delicious.

Maybe, just maybe, I will be the first toubob that can make a good Yassa.


Preparing the spices with the giant mortar and pestle.
(whole peppercorns, garlic cloves, full dried red pepper, and maggi cubes)


Then the special spices were put just underneath the chicken skin and rubbed all over.



Then, prepare the Yassa sauce spices. (peppercorns, green onions, salt, maggi cubes, garlic).





And this was amazing. Pounds and pounds of onions were pounded for about an hour. It was a lot of work...and even had to swap out arm power as you would get tired after just 10 minutes.






Rich and other family members relaxing in the living room.



Baby Kelly and I (my namesake).


Laird and Sonko's wife.


Relaxing in the kitchen while the chicken was simmering.



Checking the yassa sauce while slow cooking the chicken. No oven, just a fuel tank.


Then the slow grilling.


And the final addition of olives.

Mmmmmm......

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doggie Transportation


Saw this on my way in to school the other morning.
Creative.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Butter Chicken


Okay... I MUST share this recipe.

Because it's CRAZY YUMMY.
Because it's fast.
Because it's Indian.
But most of all, if you live here in Dakar, you can get ALL of the ingredients here. (Insha'allah)

Found it on Pioneer Woman... I love you Pioneer Woman.

Oh yeah...it needs to be made the night before to get FULL ON FLAVOR ACTION. I doubled the spices (except for cayenne pepper).

Butter Chicken Recipe Ingredients:
  • 4 pieces Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (cut Into Bite Sized Pieces, despite what the picture looks like)
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoons Black Pepper
  • ½ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Coriander
  • ¼ teaspoons Cumin
  • ¼ teaspoons Cardamom
  • 1 whole Lime, Juiced
  • 1 whole Onion, Diced
  • ¼ cups Butter
  • 1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Tomato Sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 Oz. Can) Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 pint Whipping Cream
  • 1 bunch Chopped Cilantro, to taste
  • 2 cups Basmati Rice (or However Much You Want)
Instructions:

* Combine first 9 ingredients and marinate overnight.

Saute the onion in the butter until soft. Add marinated chicken and cook about 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat with the lid on. Add the whipping cream and cilantro just before serving over Basmati rice.

Note: this is a little spicy, but you can cut back on the cayenne if you want.


Yummy Yummy Yumminess.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Toubab Dialaw



On the main highway leading out of Dakar, the Valdmanis family's Renault station wagon passes a dilapidated commuter bus with four sheep standing on its roof. The animals balance precariously as the bus tackles deep potholes and spews black exhaust. A few minutes later, all forward progress is halted by a herd of big horn cattle crossing the highway, escorted by three wizened men in Arab desert robes and headdresses carrying sticks.

"Traffic's not too bad today, thankfully," one of us says.

This weekend was our first road trip out of town with the boys, and our destination was a tiny fishing village and artist community called Toubab Dialaw. At just 50 kilometers away from our house, we intended to leave after breakfast and arrive by 10 am to settle in for a full day on the beach and an overnighter at the Sobo Bade artist commune/hotel.

What we didn't realize was that, about 7 kilometers past the goat market near the Oil Libya gas station, there is a right turn that heads to the sea. We went straight instead and ended up in the middle of a sun-baked wildlife reserve -- Bandia -- that is home to giraffes, and more alarmingly, rhinos.
At about this moment, the car starts acting up, like there's a problem with the fuel delivery. A plugged hose or filter? Bad gas?

"Do you know where we are?" one of us says in a voice that betrays serious concern.

Dylan and Laird, as if on cue, wake from their nap as the car lurches through a flat grassland flecked with trees stretching to the horizon. Who knows what is lurking out there. There's no hint of ocean. I can feel the heat beating through the roof of the car. I wonder if we have enough water to survive if the car dies. Dylan and Laird start crying.

About 20 tense kilometers later, we find a man who tells us we need to take a right turn at the next crossroads, travel over two hills and then take a left at the big baobab tree. We say thanks and move on.

The car is still lurching, but not breaking down. The odometer says we've already gone 100 km. Bit by bit, we start seeing evidence we're on the right track -- a sign for the Saly region, where many of the best beaches are; a huge SUV filled with white people; a crossroad and two hills; a big baobab tree. Sigh...

It is about lunchtime by the time we reach Toubab Dialaw, a colourful hamlet nestled on a cliff overlooking a white sand beach and rocky outcroppings. Sobo Bade is basically a compound on the edge of the village, built onto the cliff. It is full of artsy types -- a group of dreadlocked senegalese musicians play guitar, kora and djimbe in a shady garden set back from the ocean, handmade posters advertise batik and yoga classes, a market sells african masks, sandals and paintings, and the french expat owner looks like 'mother earth'.

We settle in to our room and walk down the rock path to the beach with our giant orange twin stroller. The waves are gentle and the water is perfect -- cool enough to ward off the afternoon heat. Laird and Dylan get into their swim trunks and sun hats and we carry them in -- they're giggling like maniacs.

That evening we stroll through the village and then have dinner on a high balcony perched on the cliff overlooking the beach. The swimming has made Laird and Dylan sleepy. On the sand below, we watch a soccer match and artisanal fishing canoes coming back from the sea. The sun starts to set. We finish off some chocolate crepes and our last sips of wine.

We head back to our room, on the edge of the garden. For some reason we're all exhausted from the day. Kelly and I cancel our planned game of backgammon and we all go to sleep around 8pm to the sound of a drumming circle not far away.

Fascination with the 'white twins'.


Laird going for the waves.



Crawling all over Mommy and Daddy


Dylan on his 26th mile of the Sand Crawling Marathon.



Headed for surf with Dad.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blessed

A year ago last Wednesday, I left Richard in Dakar and was on an emergency flight home to Portland Maine.
Little did I know, I would be checking in to a hospital where I would lay flat for 3 months.

At just 22 weeks pregnant, my pregnancy was in serious danger as I was in pre-term labor and had almost no cervix left. 22 weeks is just over half the length of a pregnancy... and not even considered to be 'viable'. That meant for 2 weeks, I layed flat and was simply monitored without medical intervention; doctors were not able to put me on any medications until I hit the 24 week mark (viability).

Checking in to a hospital this early during a pregnancy was traumatizing as most on the floor were in the latter weeks of their pregnancy. I, however, was just starting to 'show' as I spent 18 weeks engulfed in severe morning sickness. The physical size comparison of our bellies made me realize how long of a journey I had to go. It was time to fight.

3 times during my 3 month stay, I was prepped to deliver the babies quite early. Once at 26 weeks, 28 weeks, and 32 weeks. Ultimately, Laird and Dylan hung on until 34 weeks (to the day). My water broke a few hours before the stroke of midnight...which officially marked week 34.

To be honest, I don't know how I survived the 3 months of stillness. Some friends and family suggested reading books, knitting, learning french, crosswords, etc... as it would make sense to catch up on these great hobbies that you never have time for in 'normal life'.

However, once you are confined to a hospital bed (a scary environment in itself) so early in a pregnancy, you are completely unable to do anything... but pray, and worry, and pray, and worry, and pray, and worry, and pray. Concentration on anything longer than 2 minutes is nonexistent as your mind will always find it's way back to worrying. Several times, I opened books to read...and after a sentence a two, no matter how gripping, my thoughts wandered back to my present situation. Thank goodness for mind-numbing television.

This certainly was the biggest test of my life. And how ironic it was to lay flat and still, but have a mind that was doing somersaults and racing 200 mph in complete fear.

My routine... Wake up at 6 am when doctors come in to examine me and cross off a day in red crayon off my calendar. Then, I would spend most of the morning staring at this calendar...looking at my x's...counting, adding.... wondering, and praying for hours. Absolute mental torture.

I cannot explain to you the connection I had with some of my nursing staff. They saw and heard it all... every mood, every tear, they were there for every good day and every bad one. They were my caretakers, they were my counselors, and they were my friends. They comforted me during the darkest of times...they listened patiently and treated me as if I were their only patient on the floor. They took care of my body, mind, and spirit. I had their schedules memorized and would even request my favorites days in advance. They gave me countless pep talks... but most of all...they gave me hope. My daily mantra 'I can do this' was written on my wall in giant letters.

My room was flooded with mail, incredible bouquets of flowers from loved ones, care packages cards and letters, and pictures... The support from friends and family was astonishing. Looking at the walls of my decorated room, made me realize how loved and supported I was. After just a few weeks time, my room looked as though I had been living at the hospital for years. During Christmas, I was lucky enough to have a tree and some twinkle lights too! (but don't tell hospital security that!)

Having your soul mate 1500 miles away during most of this time was extremely difficult. However I was blessed with such loving support from friends and family. Phone calls, emails, and visitors were my saving grace (besides for the mindless soap operas that kept my brain from thinking too hard). Friends that I had not heard from in years contacted me with loving emails and well wishes.

There were family members that made it in almost EVERY DAY. I don't know how you did it...but you did. I am forever grateful. Life gets busy, errands need to be run, appointments happen, work runs late, snowstorms and weather, sickness, etc... But there are some of you in my life that made it in to see me 'no matter what'. I know how difficult it was for you at times. Your visits kept me going; they kept me strong. Whether it was a 5 minute visit or a 3 hour visit, you helped me from falling apart. I couldn't have survived this journey without you. Thank you for all you did...for your meals you brought in, for the countless loads of laundry you washed, for your help with my Christmas shopping, for the errands I couldn't do from my hospital bed, for wiping down my room everyday with bacterial wipes so that I would not get sick... Thank you, thank you, thank you.

But most of all, thank you for simply being there. Thank you for listening to me on days when all I could do was cry. Thank you for listening to my worries over and over again... Thank you for helping me stay strong.

People always ask, 'How did you do it'?
All I can say, is 'I am blessed with amazing friends and family that were right there with me'.

I am sitting here with my perfect angels... listening to them laugh and giggle with one another. Dylan is holding on tight to Laird's right ear as he is trying to pull himself up, and Laird is giggling uncontrollably like it is the best thing in the world.

I am so blessed.


INTRODUCING....

Liam's little brother...

Maxwell Hazen Nudd
Max was born at 10:47am
on
Friday, October 22nd
weighing 8lbs 13oz

Can't wait to meet you Max!! See you in 22 days!
xoxoxo


The Big Man and Max




Friday, October 8, 2010

Lost at Sea

Goree Island Swimmers

I’m briefly seized by panic. I’m about two kilometers from the nearest point of land and I’ve already been swimming for about an hour. A sustained wind is pushing white caps over my head as I try to catch a breath. I look around to get my bearings. Freighters lie at anchor on the horizon, awaiting entry to the port of Dakar. I know Goree Island, my destination, is somewhere to the right of the big ships, but I can only see it when a swell scoops me up. A tuft of green atop hard angles tipping into the sea, details obscured by the distance. I drop back into a lonely trough, put my head down, and start swimming again.

This was roughly the experience of 500 people this weekend as they passed the midpoint of the Dakar-to-Goree swim race – a 5-kilometer traverse (slightly longer than the swimming stage of the iron man competition) from Dakar’s industrial zone to an island that earned its notoriety as Africa’s westernmost slaving station. This year’s race marked the event’s 50th anniversary, and amazingly, no one during any of the competitions to date has been reported lost at sea.

I say that because it is a bit of a free for all. Swimmers of all abilities gather on the beach the morning of the race and are let loose with little guidance at the stroke of noon. Veteran swimmers know to head in a direction about 90 degrees to the left of the island to counter the strong current, and novices like me tend to follow. I’ve been told drowning is a serious possibility for those who head straight at Goree. A few wooden boats cruise around to herd people who go too far off course, but it seemed to me an impossible task in the vast swath of ocean. During the first half hour or so, it is fairly easy to keep within sight of your fellow swimmers who act as guides. But as the minutes tick slowly by, the groups diffuse across the water and pretty soon, almost everyone is alone.

Luckily, I only had the one mild panic attack during my swim. It helped me to remember the young man on the starting beach who tied his wrists together with a rope, “to remember the slaves” he told a crowd of his fellow swimmers. I imagined him struggling bravely a half-hour ahead of me, tied up like a pretzel, and I toughened up.

After a monotonous stretch of swimming, the island grew larger. I got to the edge and began swimming along its coast to the beach and finish line. This was the fun part – not just because my lovely wife and a cold beer awaited me a few hundred meters away – but because I could now see the ocean floor with my mask as I crossed the reefs. I saw a giant puffer fish directly below me. I saw a school of minnows that looked like air bubbles moving sideways instead of rising to the surface. I saw piles of boulders, and stretches of peaceful white sand. Then I saw the edge of the rock pier and the slope of bottom rising toward the finish line. It was a welcome sight after hours of nothing but darkness below. I took a big breath and dove down to swim along the bottom for the last little stretch. When I came up, I was done, and the quiet of the sea was broken by music and cheering onlookers. Swimmers, who had all completed their solitary struggles, collided together at the finish and happily stumbled up the shore.


After the swim with a Gazelle on the table

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Some pics...



Rich and I on the way to ngor island


Dylan eating in his African chair




Fun in da crib yo!


Yahoo!!!



Rainbow view from our house

When it rains, it pours.

Literally. The rainy season is incredible here. At times there are puddles far deeper than my waist.

But, metaphorically speaking this has certainly been one of the roughest weeks we have known here in Dakar. Visions of jumping on a plane back to the U.S. crossed my mind several times.

Temps are soaring above 100 degrees, and of course, everyday there are massive power outages. Last week, we went some 14, 16, and 18 hour intervals of no power. And as usual, our generator is on the fritz. Sleeping at night has been quite difficult not only for us, but for sweet little Laird and Dylan. We have had to throw out a lot of food, which is not only quite wasteful, but expensive in a country whose food is astronomically priced.

Our only car key is lost at sea. Yes, my dear husband went surfing with our only car key in his surf trunks. In the U.S. this would not be that big of a problem, but we are starting week two of trying to get a key made. No one really knows how long it will take, but we have already been quoted $500 to get the key.... We have been taking taxis to get to and fro... As you can imagine it is a struggle trying to communicate and negotiate in French.

We survived our first baby illness. Three nights ago, Laird woke up crying with a high temperature. He had no other symptoms...just crankiness and a high temp. Richard and I stayed calm as we awaited the 3 a.m. arrival of the emergency service at our home. Of course, we had no power when the doctor arrived. So, we all sat around Laird on the floor while he was examined wearing headlamps and flashlights, with sweat soaking our clothing. We then struggled through a five hour wait for malaria test results. Thank goodness it was negative...just a passing virus.

Our house leaks everytime it rains. Not just a drip or to, but puddles filling our family room and rivers flowing down our stairs. Unfortunately, we also noticed water filling our overhead lighting glass lamps... Yikes.

Dakar is also in the midst of a gas shortage. Luckily, we have no car that needs its tank to be filled and we fortunately refilled our cooking gas just before the shortage happened.

Due to the major power outages, there have been several protests in neighborhoods of Dakar. The last place I want to be is near a third world countries angry demonstrations. To be honest...I get it. I feel the anger everytime there is an outage. Why can't the government do something about this problem? It's infuriating...


Yes, it was one hell of a week. But good news...we survived.

Last night was our first night of sleep with power. Isn't it amazing what a good nights sleep can do? We had a battery inverter installed on the second floor that will run fans and internet during a power outage. Laird is feeling much much better and is now pulling himself to standing on whatever object is available. Dylan is not sick yet.

When it rains, it pours. Luckily the rainy season ends next month.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Pool Day at the Savannah & Lighthouse Visit

Me and my boys.

Bia, Dylan, Sofia, and I.

Laird and Dad at the lighthouse.


Naptime after a day at the pool.



Dad and Laird at the top of the lighthouse.


Laird and Dad using a kickboard.



Dylan LOVES being on the kickboard!



Dad, Bia, Dave, Laird, Sofia, and Dylan in the pool.



Dylan.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Korite

Last night, around seven oclock pm, many Senegalese were outside looking up at the sky in search of the moon. Despite the fact that France and many other countries declared it was the end of Ramadan, Senegal likes to make sure by waiting to see the moon themselves. Especially this year. Why? Well, superstition.

Korite marks the end of Ramadan, although the name varies from country to country. It is a day of great celebration. The month of fasting is over, and Muslims dress in their best clothes, pray, and feast with family.

This year, Korite would be either on Friday or Saturday... The only way to see what day the holiday would be on, was to look at the sky on Thursday night. Senegal is a bit cautious to declare Friday as Korite because there is a superstition that someone important will die if it is on a Friday.

Today is Korite and it is Friday.

Last night, I received 4 text messages around 730 pm from friends spreading the 'word' that the next day was a holiday. Spreading the word that a holiday was the next day is not so difficult here; radio alerts the public every few minutes as well as local tv broadcasts. Text messages flood the phone lines. Even the school that I teach at sent out a 'night before' text telling teachers and families that school would be closed the next morning.

It is 9 am on Friday, and I am on our roof... listening to the quiet. This morning Dakar is calm and peaceful. The birds are chirping, there is a nice breeze, and the street that is usually bustling with car rapides, buses, and lots of traffic is empty. In the distance I can hear the hum of the imam from the mosque. It is a lovely day... I am envisioning Sonko and Astou celebrating with their families. But, I can't help but to wonder about that 'important person'...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

7 month Gigglers

video

Hope this laughter makes your day! xxoo

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brothers

Astou, Laird, and Dylan


Laird and Dylan's new African chairs



I love you brother!

Gris-gris – sometimes attractive and always practical

A few days ago, Kelly spotted a couple of ornate leather belts on a chair just inside our front door which she figured belonged to Sonko. She thought they’d look nice with some of her skirts, so she asked him about them. (One is pictured above)

“Those are for protection while I am guarding the house. If someone tries to stab me with a knife while I am wearing them, the knife will not penetrate me,” he said. “I wear them very late at night.”

We live in a safe part of one of Africa’s safest cities, but the use of gris-gris(pronounced greegree) – or protective charms – is as active here as anywhere else on the continent. They come in the form of necklaces, earrings, rings, armbands, and belts and generally have very specific uses.

“They also make them for bullets,” Sonko said.

Senegal’s professional wrestlers are perhaps the most decadent users of gris-gris. The sport is cherished by the Senegalese, who flock to stadiums each Sunday night to watch muscle-bound men with shaved heads duke it out in a circular sand ring. But before the matches begin, there is a drawn-out gris-gris ceremony during which the fighters put on their magical arm bands and have jugs full of good-luck fruit juices poured over their heads by a fawning entourage.

Taxi drivers also use gris-gris to protect them on the road. In this case, the gris-gris is applied to the vehicle itself, instead of to the driver – usually it is a lock of horse hair tied to the rear bumper, sort of like a tail. From the looks of the cabs, though, these things don’t prevent bust ups.

Elsewhere, in the region, gris-gris is a must-have for anyone who engages in battle. Fighters in Liberia’s civil war are famous for having worn women’s wigs while taking potshots at eachother, believing the wigs would deflect bullets. Creepy.

More recently, in Congo where rebels are up to some nightmarish things on a routine basis, a Spaniard was taken hostage during a bizarre vacation. Congo’s Information Minister announced to the press before his release a few days later that the rebels had shaved off all of the Spaniard’s body hair to make good luck charms, believing non-African hair has special powers in battle. A great story that turned out to be false – his hair was still on when he was released.

Anyway, none of that really matters. Gris-gris or not, Sonko’s belts are cool and Kelly’s likely to have some made to wear for aesthetic reasons.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My First Loaf


In all of my 21 years of age (and then add another14 years), I have never made a good loaf of bread. It's true. I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that yours truly STINKS at baking.

And just when I thought my baking days were over, Pioneer Woman posted this EASY and DELICIOUS cinnamon bread recipe.

I don't have a mixer here in Dakar either. This was made with my good old fashioned hands and lots of kneading. BUT...

It was a cinch. And the loaf is gorgeous to look at...just like the picture.

I think my failed loafs (or loaves?) were from my lack of patience with letting the dough rise properly while in the baking pan. So luckily, last night, while waiting for the dough to rise... Laird needed two diaper changes, Dylan spit up and required a clothing change, I required a clothing change from Dylan's spit up, Dylan and Laird both got bedtime baths and massages, I re-wrote my lesson plan notes for school that Laird chewed to bits while I was bathing Dylan, and VOILLA!.... 2 hours for the loaf of bread to rise!!!!

Make this bread.

You will love it and your house will smell really really good.
Ingredients:
1 cup Milk
6 Tablespoons Butter
2-½ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
2 whole Eggs
⅓ cups Sugar
3-½ cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
⅓ cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
Egg And Milk, Mixed Together, For Brushing
Softened Butter, For Smearing And Greasing

Preparation Instructions
Melt butter with milk. Heat until very warm, but don’t boil. Allow to cool until still warm to the touch, but not hot. Sprinkle yeast over the top, stir gently, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in milk/butter/yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add half the flour and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the other half and beat until combined.
Switch to the dough hook attachment and beat/knead dough on medium speed for ten minutes. If dough is overly sticky, add 1/4 cup flour and beat again for 5 minutes.
Heat a metal or glass mixing bowl so it’s warm. Drizzle in a little canola oil, then toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and set it in a warm, hospitable place for at least 2 hours.
Turn dough out onto the work surface. Roll into a neat rectangle no wider than the loaf pan you’re going to use, and about 18 to 24 inches long. Smear with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Mix sugar and cinnamon together, then sprinkle evenly over the butter-smeared dough. Starting at the far end, roll dough toward you, keeping it tight and contained. Pinch seam to seal.
Smear loaf pan with softened butter. Place dough, seam down, in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix a little egg with milk, and smear over the top. Bake for 40 minutes on a middle/lower rack in the oven.
Remove from the pan and allow bread to cool. Slice and serve, or make cinnamon toast or French toast with it.
Yummy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ramadan

This morning I woke up before 6am, went down to the kitchen in a half-slumber and started eating. I had half a mango, two pieces of toast, a bowl of cereal, a cup of yogurt, a mug of coffee, a glass of orange juice and a pint of water. I was stuffed to the gills before the sun came up at 630am – which was the goal. I’d made a decision, for the first time in my 33 years, to go from dawn till sunset without food or water, just to see what it is like for the millions of people around me doing the same thing.

It is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims abstain from worldly pleasures during daylight hours as a way to show their faith. It is a bit like the traditional conception of the Christian Lent, meant to involve 40 days of fasting. But in practice, it’s completely different. For one thing, people actually do it!

Ramadan, this year, runs from Aug. 11 to Sept. 10, so I’ve already had a glimpse at what happens in Senegal – businesses close down, people drive absent-mindedly, and the daily prayers – when people prostrate themselves on mats anywhere and everywhere in response to the muezzin’s call – appear to the eye to be much more heart-felt than normal. I’ve also noticed people take a lot of pride in not complaining about the fast, which makes it all the more mysterious.

Here’s what it was like for me:

730 – Still feeling full, I bike to work under the already oppressive sun. I wonder if the construction workers are fasting.

800 – The water cooler looks really good when I arrive at the office. And wow, it would be nice to have a raisin Danish and a coffee like I usually do. Ah well…

900 – I start wondering if my mouth is getting parched? What will it be like in ten hours?

1100 – I momentarily wonder what will I have for lunch? Oh, right, nothing…

1230 – My colleagues are eating grilled fish with homefries and a wonderful sauce. I start concentrated deeply on work. Seven hours left till sundown.

1400 – One of my colleagues walks around the office offering chocolates from a box. I take two of them and put them in my desk drawer. I can hear them calling my name. I tell them to wait.

1530 – My eyes are starting to feel dry and burn a little, which makes me blink more often than normal. I have just the faintest hint of headache. My belly is grumbling. I take another chocolate from the box and stick it in my desk next to the others.

1630 – I get a surprising energy boost that arrives from nowhere. This is usually the time of day I want to take a nap. I feel clear-headed.

1730 – I’m biking home and notice the surf is really good. Is surfing a worldly pleasure? Some things are better left unsolved.

1800 – Kelly and the boys give me a surf pass and within five minutes I’m out on the waves. The empty feeling in my belly is replaced by surf stoke.

1900 – I get home and start really feeling thirsty. Sonko and I start counting down the minutes. He’s thinking coffee, I’m thinking water.

1927 – Time is going VERY slowly.

1930 – The sun dips below the horizon. Three pints of water. Then dinner. Ahhhh

All in all, it really was not too bad. There was no pain or serious discomfort. Instead it seemed like about a half-dozen moments of serious temptation during the day that required an act of will to overcome. For Muslims, this is an important act of faith, but I reckon a bit of exercising the will could be useful for anyone of any creed. Nonetheless, I’ll be taking lunch tomorrow.