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.

Step by Step

Recently, I started reading Francis Chan’s Forgotten God and completing the bible study workbook.  I thought I bought the dvd videos to go along with it, but turns out I really just bought Francis Chan reading his book aloud for me on cd.  I do know how to read and should have read the case that I purchased!  Oh well.

Galatians 5:16-26 is a passage that I have read many times on my Christian journey, but I love it that something new jumped out at me while reading yesterday. Paul is describing the always present internal battle of living by the Spirit vs the sin nature (or the flesh as it is in Greek).  There is always a struggle as to whom is going to win, sometimes we follow the Spirit and let Him lead us and other times we follow our flesh and do what we want, but it isn’t really what we want to do, because we really want to do what the Spirit wants us to do…yeah, that was my paraphrase.  Then Paul lists a bunch of examples of the sinful nature, of which, I am guilty of a few.  Next comes the fruit of the Spirit.  Now, here in verse 25 is what jumped out at me.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

Sweet Aimee just turned one year old on February 17th.  She started cruising around the coffee table around 9 months and has slowly been working the muscles in her legs to hold her wobbly body. Right before her birthday she started taking a few steps, but she didn’t really like it very much.  What she did love was to hold a hand and have someone walk with her.  When she went off on her own, she ended up on the floor.

Another image that comes to my mind is from back in the college days.  Krystal Jones and I had a couple semesters where we had all of the same classes.  While this wasn’t the best for my GPA, we had a LOT of fun!  Many a day we had to walk (semi) long distances to get to class.  I remember dreading those days when the frigid winter air would blow right through my coat (maybe I wasn’t wearing one?) and chill me down to the bone.  We would walk to class together, heads down in a kind of huddle all the while making weird “It is so freezing cold outside” noises.  While keeping in step with each other, we could face the daunting wind.  Funny how it wasn’t those winter days that made us skip class; it was the gorgeous spring days that always led us astray.

It was during those college years that Rich Mullins died in his Jeep accident.  I love his song Step by Step and would often have that song in my head on my way to class (way back when college students walked to class without an i pod).  …and I will seek you in the morning, and I will learn to walk in your ways, and step by step you lead me…and I will follow you all of my days.

My desire is to walk in step with the Spirit.  I don’t want to let go and try to go on my own.  I know I will end up on the floor.

This is Aimee walking in step with me!  I get to see this cute little face everywhere I go.  Mulling these thoughts over in my mind makes me want to be more patient when my kids are pulling me in different directions.  Well, as you know, one of the fruit of the spirit is patience.

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!

Here Piggy

Living in Haiti has afforded many different experiences that we never would have experienced had we stayed in good ol’ Missouri. One of which was the purchase of a pig!  We bought a piglet up in Fort Jacques in May of 2009.  Just after Thanksgiving of 2011, Eric had Macron (our piggy) butchered.  We learned all sorts of things through the process. In addition to an education, we have reaped the benefits of fresh pork in our freezer!

Way back seven years ago (or so?) when I received my Kitchen Aid from Eric’s mom for my birthday (for which, I am forever grateful!), Eric wanted to get the meat grinder attachment to go with it.  I wasn’t really sure why we would ever need it.  Apparently, he knew something I didn’t know.  And that pressure cooker that Eric’s grandma gave us 11 years ago was used for the first time with this pig, too.  I sure am glad that we decided to bring that pressure cooker with us to Haiti.

The story begins with Christa running down to the pig pit everyday to give food and water to Macron, a job she mostly enjoyed (especially when her daddy helped her).

Hannah with Macron, (more than) full grown

More to come about the Pig Adventures in the next few days…

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.