Pizza Amour

Today is the first time that I have had some time all to myself in the middle of the day in forever.  The five oldest went to Miss Jasmine’s house for an end of the school year party and Aimee is taking her afternoon nap.  I may have indulged in the last piece of chocolate cake, without even sharing.  Ahh…

While enrolled in education courses at what is now Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, it was quite common to hear my professors tell us students that teachers do not teach for the money.  They weren’t lying.  Then came the opportunity to be a campus minister for the Wesley Foundation in Joplin, MO at Missouri Southern State University.  The pay took a turn for the worse.  Finally, God returned our family to Haiti to serve as missionaries.  We were definitely not climbing the ladder of worldly success, which was never very high on our priority list anyway.  The succession of these  life events is making it difficult for me to wrap my mind around why we are trying to get our pizzeria off the ground.  Do I feel like we are doing what God is leading us to do?  Yes, but I have no idea for the why, which is ok.

For over a year, we have been talking about opening a restaurant. Originally we thought we were heading towards a Mexican restaurant in Haiti (which if someone would ever do that, I would definitely be there!).  I am not sure how to explain this, but pizza makes us feel normal.  Just like a big plate of rice and beans makes a Haitian feel at home, pizza does the same for us.  Unfortunately there are not a lot of choices when it comes to pizza in Haiti, so we started making it at home.  My husband starting inviting guests over for pizza.  People started requesting pizza on their return trips.  We held a wedding and pizza reception at our house.  Pizza Amour it is!

Already we have hosted a few groups of short term mission teams, served some customers in our front yard seating area, and have sold quite a few take-out orders to those passing by our house.  I never dreamed of moving to Haiti to start a pizzeria, but as weird as it sounds, it seems quite natural.  In case there is a question, yes, Eric is still working for Operation Blessing as the acting national director of Haiti.  We are only making pizzas on the weekends and for special group requests!

Many thanks to Jadon Salvant for helping us with our logo!

Pizza Love

One of the Haitian Operation Blessing employees was married last Saturday.  We had the privilege of having the wedding at our house, along with the challenge of preparing pizzas for 60 ish people for the reception.  Our friends, Scott and April Salvant agreed to keep our children for the day so the the house could stay clean and I didn’t have to worry about getting 6 kids ready for a wedding and preparing 15 pizzas!

Hannah Hamilton and Brett Murray are working here in Haiti over in Fonds Parisian. They came early on Saturday and I had wonderful unexpected help for the pizza preparation and serving.  They are amazing!

Thank you Brett and Hannah for all of your help!  Hannah is still recovering from malaria.  Pray for her complete recovery!

We worked hard throughout the early afternoon and I went upstairs to grab a quick shower before the wedding/pizza baking. I came back downstairs to discover they had taken my couch outside on the sidewalk for the bride and groom to sit on.  I sure would have swept under the couch had I known they were going to use it!  Eric was Martial’s best man for the wedding.  Ironically, the maid of honor sat between the bride and groom on the couch.

Yep, that's my couch right there on the sidewalk!

The day was a success, Martial was married and the guests loved the pizza.  Additionally, Eric and I have fallen in Pizza Love, we are now working diligently to take our pizza quality up to the next level.

More Pine Forest Pics

I love this picture, but I would love it even more if Eric could have been in it with us!  I know that my hiking attire is so not ranking on the cute scale.  I needed that sweater for a little while though!  It was chilly.

Sweet Callie posing with her daddy.  The other kids were off playing “Hunger Games”!

There is some terrace farming taking place beyond the trees on the hill.

This shot was taken coming through the mountain pass and overlooking the valley below.  The whole day was beautiful and so fun!

Foret d’Pins

The Haitian Pine Forest!  Sixty-five degrees and fresh pine air awaited us at the top of the mountains, a welcome change to the hot and dusty streets of Port-au-Prince.  It is a rare day when we load up everyone in the middle of the week along with a big bag of muffins, Pringles, and some chocolate bars (that may have melted  beyond the point of eating).  Ahh, but that is what we did on Ash Wednesday, a day when all of the stores and schools are still closed in Haiti because of Carnival. The beauty of God’s creation surrounded us and at every turn we stood in awe and wonder at the One who made it.

Immediately as we hopped out of the car to hike up a trail through the pine trees, the kids spotted wild strawberries covering the ground.  They started picking and eating the strawberries.  As soon as they cleared out a patch, they went looking for more.  They were delicious, but only enough to whet the appetite for more.

There is no way these wild strawberries would ever truly satisfy my family of eight, but the kids were determined to try!  Strawberries are a coveted item amongst my kids. We found a 2 lb pack of imported strawberries at the grocery store for the bargain price of $13 just the other day.  Needless to say, we didn’t buy the imported ones.  I am pretty sure they didn’t taste as good as the wild ones anyway.

Other cool things we found on our trip to the Pine Forest:

Hannah's five leaf clover

Agave antillarum (as best as I can decipher)

Flower stalk of the Agave plant, close to 12 feet high!

As we were heading back near the end of the day.

I cherish these moments with my family.  I love the joy of hiking through the forest.  I adore the One who makes life worth living.

Sausage Making

One great benefit from butchering your own pig is deciding on how you want to use the meat.  Our next pig, assuming there will be another one, we will definitely make sure to grind more of the pork to make our own sausages and brats.  In fact, we will probably use both shoulders for sausage making instead of brining.

That meat grinding attachment for the Kitchen Aid that I thought I would never use came in handy for grinding the pork.  We used a lot of the ground pork as pizza topping, Sausage and Red Bean Stew, and also to make these amazing Hot Italian Sausages, and brats.  Unfortunately, I think we have already used all of it!

Eric was in charge of the sausage making.  I cannot say that I am jealous about that, either.  He started by cleaning the small intestines.  Ironically, he learned the most from a blog of a missionary in Africa who was doing the same thing!

After “harvesting” the intestines from the pig’s insides, I (Eric writing here) handed them over to some ladies standing nearby to clean for me; they had offered to do it for a small fee, and I was glad to let them!  Haitians normally just cook them in soups, but I had sausage making plans!

I brought home a bucket of pig intestines to hopefully turn into some great brats, but didn’t know a lot of the process.  It seems the art of homemade sausage is almost lost in this day and age…but thanks to the internet I found some helpful hints.  You can’t just use the intestines as they are…they walls are about 1/8 ” thick and really slimy.  To turn intestines into sausage casing requires a lot of scraping, after several hours of soaking in salt water to help clean them.

I grabbed a plastic auto body Bondo scraper from a box of car stuff I had laying around, and got to scraping.  I probably wasted several feet of casing trying to figure out how much pressure to apply, should it be right side in or right side out, etc.  Just when I thought I had really ruined one piece, I held it up and realized it was exactly what it was supposed to look like!  The prepared casings are paper thin, just a very thin membrane, but incredibly tough!  I was able to fill them with water to see their shape…perfect brat shape!

Eric scraping the intestines

A Proud Moment

Our meat grinder did not have the sausage stuffer attachment, so that was another hurdle to overcome.  I looked around at some pvc supplies I had laying around, and within 30 minutes or so of cutting, gluing, and filing, I had a workable attachment for the meat grinder.

Eric's Sausage Making Attachment

It was a pretty easy process from that point…just mix all the spices and ground pork, and stuff it into the casings I had just made.   It was pretty fun twisting the links after every six inches or so, it definitely takes practice.  Each sausage has to be twisted the opposite direction as the previous brat so they hold their shape.  It was definitely a rewarding adventure!  I absolutely love the spicy Italian sausages I made!

Saut d’ Eau

Last Sunday afternoon, we took a two hour drive out of Port-au-Prince to see a part of Haiti that we have yet seen.  Eric was scouting out the land to see about drilling a well in a little town called Zorange.  The fam piled in the car to spend some quality time together. What we found was beautiful!

The road up the mountain was actually a great road, wide and even.  This is always a bonus!  As we wound our way up the mountain, the sights of the city were diminished by an amazing view of the Caribbean Sea.

We found the little village Eric was looking for and instead of turning around and heading home, we kept going up and up.  We came to this beautiful waterfall cascading over the side of the mountain.  As we were gaping out the window, Eric asked a man on the street what we would find if we continued up the way.  He laughed and said what we were looking at was nothing and to continue further up to see the real waterfalls.  What a surprise!  We found this little community at the top of the mountain called Saut d’Eau, ( French for ‘waterfall’)and a Haitian national park.  We had to make a donation to get in and then a group of locals followed us to watch us look at the waterfalls.  Funny how they didn’t have to make a donation…

Christa with her little brothers.

Unfortunately, we showed up late in the afternoon.  We are planning a day trip soon so we can go prepared with lunch and swimsuits.  What a gem in the middle of a country where everything is difficult!

Oh yeah, and on the way home we found these amazing watermelons for sale.  Watermelon for breakfast in the middle of February? Sure, we can handle that.

 

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Birthdays

A year ago, (yesterday) we were celebrating our Jett’s fifth birthday.  We were no doubt eating chicken and dumplings and downing some chocolate cake.  Little did we know, a sweet baby girl was born less than a mile away on the street to a momma who didn’t have a home or the mental stability to care for her new baby.  Three weeks later she came to live with us.  Aimee Espwa has been an absolute joy and privilege to care for over the course of her first year.

I love it that Aimee and Jett share a birthday!  Jett loves Aimee and now they have had their first birthday together.  It makes him feel special that he gets to share his day with his baby sister.

Aimee has two bottom teeth and has been toddling all over the house, especially since the last few days.  She is happy and content.  I am so glad that God has blessed us with a house full of kids.

Birthday Buddies, Jetty and Aimee!

Aimee wasn't quite sure how to go about eating her cake, but she figured it out!

Chocolate!!

Six Years, Jett, Wow!

Pictures From Home

Already, it has been a few weeks back in the warm Hispaniolian sunshine, back to the homeschool grind, and trying to keep up with the feeding of these hungry kids of mine.  I want to share a few pictures of some really important people in my life that I was able to see during my short visit to St. Louis.

My Sisters! Jeanna, me, and Joy

I was so blessed to spend quality time with my sisters.  Not too long ago I wrote about missing them while living in far off Haiti.  I wish the circumstances would have been better, but I am so grateful for our time together.  I know my kids would have loved to be with me so they could hang out with their cousins.  Our kids all have a special bond that I hope will continue throughout their whole lives.

Sweet Nieces Heaven, Megan, and Allie

My dad and mom with the Davis kids, Jonathan, Megan, and Justin

My last full day in St. Louis, my best friend from college, Krystal Jones, drove all the way from Bloomington, IN to visit a few short hours with me and my parents.

me and Krystal

Time was too short; however, it was time well spent!  I am blessed to have all of these beautiful people in my life to support, encourage, and challenge me to be a better mom, wife, teacher and friend.

My mom is doing well.  Her CA125  (blood marker for ovarian cancer) continue to decrease rapidly.  I am thankful that God is keeping her in the shadow of his wing and that His presence has been continually revealed.

 

Sipping Hot Tea

Today was the perfect day to sip hot tea all day long with my mom and dad.  The sound of the snow plow woke me this morning.  I jumped out of bed to see what the racket was all about.  Funny how I am used to the neighbor’s rooster waking me up in Port-au-Prince.  I really thought someone was dragging their trashcan to the end of their driveway.  Snow fell all morning around here which afforded a day of baking and cooking for my parents.

Just over a year ago, I really started seeking out information on nutrition and the role food plays in the health of myself and my family.  I switched from white flour and pasta to whole wheat, white rice to brown rice, and from using vegetable oil to coconut oil or butter.  As soon as I arrived in St. Louis (after a nice splurge of Mexican food 🙂 ) I started researching good healthy food that would be the very best for my mom and her fight against stage 4 ovarian cancer.  I took my first trip to the Whole Foods Market and then a couple days later to Trader Joe’s.  We stocked up the refrigerator full of kale, leeks, endive, bok choy, cauliflower, peppers and onions.  We have Brazil nuts, coconut oil, whole wheat, plums, and talapia.   I am still learning a lot about nutrition and its role in our lives.  I have been having fun looking up recipes and cooking with my dad.  I am proud of my mom and her willingness to eat what we are fixing for her.  We made some cauliflower soup and multigrain bread.  My dad even took seconds on the soup!

Healthy eating is a journey.  It is never too late to begin. I still have so far to go.  I am glad sipping hot tea is considered a healthy activity, especially in St. Louis in the winter!

Hope Christian Church

Sunday morning I was blessed to attend church with my parents.  My mom was able to go for the first time since November, for the first time since her stage 4 Ovarian Cancer diagnosis. They are active members at Hope Christian Church in Waterloo, IL.  I followed them in through the front door where they were immediately hugged and loved on by the greeter and a few people in the foyer.  We went for second service with time to spare a visit to their Sunday School Class beforehand.  I stood back by the door and watched my mom and dad get many more hugs, conversations of treatments and concern, and much more love.  It kept bringing tears to my eyes, so I tried to busy myself by looking at the bulletin board and talking to a few people here and there.  Finally, we began to step out from the class and head to the service when the teacher called my mom back and gathered everyone around her for prayer.  After church, there was even more visiting and caring conversations taking place between my mom and dad and fellow Christians who love the Lord, and who love my parents.  There was even a pot of soup and a loaf of sourdough bread waiting in the kitchen for us to enjoy for lunch.

Later my mom said that she has never been prayed for like her Sunday school class prayed for her.  I love how God has placed my parents in a church that is actively seeking to be the church.  My mom is so blessed by so many loving, wonderful people.  I know that God has her right in the palm of His hand.  I am thankful that my parents are being so well cared for as I am going to have to return to Port-au-Prince all too soon.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!