Author Archives: karamenger

Elizabeth’s 4th Birthday!

It is really hard to believe, but our little girl just turned four years old! Elizabeth is a bright ray of sunshine in our lives, and we are so thankful to celebrate four wonderful years with her.

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Originally I was planning a ballerina party for her, but a few weeks ago we were talking about it and she said, “No, Mommy. I want a rainbow party!” She stuck to it, so a rainbow party she got. Her birthday fell on a Sunday this year and she wanted just girls, so we had her party over lunch yesterday. There were 5 little girls that came, and they had so much fun together!

Here they all are, with the birthday girl in her rainbow dress!!

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We decorated everything with rainbows and rainbow colors.

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All the food was rainbow. Rainbow pizza, rainbow veggies, rainbow pinwheel cookies, skittles, watermelon cake (rainbow colors), rainbow kool-aid,  and of course rainbow cake!

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We did a LOT of fun rainbow crafts and activities. The girls used colored pasta to make rainbow sun-catchers, they played rainbow bingo while they ate all the food, and then they made Fruit-Loop necklaces (thanks to a box that my mom sent that made it JUST in time the day before the party!) before cake and presents. And then after stuffing themselves full, they went outside to play with water balloons and swing (and burn off all that sugar!).

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Happy Happy Birthday to my sweet Elizabeth girl!

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My Diagonal Life

I think that someone should come live in my house and study the different cultural viewpoints of objects in space. How’s that for a statement?

For example…

There is a little neighbor girl who lives across the street. She is eight years old and very sweet and kind and loves to play with our girls. Every day. Anyway… One of her favorite things to play with at our house is the little toy kitchen and table. And every time she comes, she rearranges everything. The exact. same. way. Every single time! It’s really quite amusing. Can you see my smile from there?

Actually, after my initial annoyance at having to put everything back after she leaves, I find it quite fascinating. She has such a different understanding of everyday objects and how they should be arranged. I would never ever think to put things where she does! Also, recently I rearranged our little toy area and put the little toy table and kitchen on a diagonal. Woah.

It took two whole weeks for her to stop straightening them. And I still have to remind her sometimes. 🙂

Really it makes a lot of sense. No Indonesian house that I have ever been in has ever had anything on the diagonal. Usually the furniture is pushed flat up against the wall all the way around the room. Very rarely a table will be in the center of the room. So my living room must really throw them for a loop. Actually, they probably have just as hard of a time understanding why I have a rug, chairs, sofa, coffee table, and end tables floating in the middle of the room (on a diagonal!) as I do understanding why the neighbor girl rearranges the toys the way she does. It really is a fascinating cultural study!

Actually, maybe I am crazy for putting things on the diagonal. At least, living here in this country. Such a mish-mash of culturally mixed up situations at my house! I hope at least that our daughters feel comfortable moving in and out of different furniture arrangements. If only it were that easy to move in and out of different cultures. But I guess they have a good shot at it since their crazy Mommy rearranges their toys to be on the diagonal, and then their sweet neighbor girl friend straightens them all out again.

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Things That Anyone Can Send Us Anytime

A long time ago I said that I would share with you the food items that earned a precious place in our luggage on this trip back. Now I think that this list serves a dual purpose – it is also a great list of things that can be put in a package and sent to us! Anyone?

Here is the list:

Pecans
Rotel Tomatoes (Original)
Bacon Bits or Ready-to-Eat Bacon
Kool-Aid packets
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
Black Beans
Craisins
Pepperoni (the non-refrigerated kind)
Pretzels
Cheerios
Marshmallows
Quart-sized Freezer Bags

I have a really hard time using this stuff up once I get it here, too. C’mon, Kara! Use those black beans and Rotel!

And fyi – if anyone is planning to send a package, could you slide in some stickers and a coloring book for the kiddos?

Getting ready for a 4th of July party here at our house on Wednesday. Should be lots of fun!

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The Difference Between 1 and 2

I think that anyone that really wants to know and understand their first child should have a second child.

While Elizabeth and Charlotte both have the two exact same parents, it is funny and bewildering sometimes how different they can be from each other. With just Elizabeth we took a lot of the little quirks of her personality for granted. Now I realize that a lot of those things really are quirks of her personality and not just the way that every kid is. And it is Charlotte that has taught me that.

Elizabeth is verbal. Charlotte is physical. Elizabeth is a morning person. Charlotte is a night person. Elizabeth is a visual learner. Charlotte is a tactile learner. Elizabeth likes to organize. Charlotte likes to be messy. Elizabeth is a lot like me. Charlotte is a lot like my sister. It’s pretty cool.

I’ll give you an example. I ran across this website that is full of creative ways to provide your kids with imaginative play at home. It’s really a great resource for me because we do a lot of stuff at home. One of the things she suggests is playing with shaving cream and food coloring. Fun, right? I thought so. I got it all set up one afternoon to keep the girls busy while I cooked dinner. This was Charlotte after five, wait no, three minutes.

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She loved it. Elbows deep loved it. She used all of the spatulas and whisks and cups and scooped and swirled and mixed and splatted. Just in case that one picture doesn’t give you a good enough idea here is another.

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Yes, she is using a spatula to smear shaving cream on her leg. She had a blast!

Now, for the sake of comparison I will show you the one picture that I got of Elizabeth.

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You see she has no shaving cream on her at all. Oh wait, one little spot on her side which, as I remember, was a source of great hurry to the roll of paper towels so that she could wipe it off soon after this picture was taken. She spent most of her time wiping with paper towels. You will notice that she has her foot lifted to step into the bucket. It was my suggestions and she only got that far. Then she was done with the whole activity. She would much rather sit at the table and color.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn from your kids? As mothers, we carried them inside of us for 9 months (or 10 months if you’re me) – shouldn’t we know everything about them? Yet every day I see a little more personality unfold as I wipe, answer questions, teach and correct. I understand a little more of how unique and individual we all are. And it makes me wonder again at God, who never makes any two things exactly the same.

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Seven

Today is our seventh anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Matt!

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In some ways these seven years have flown by, and in other ways we have done so much I wonder that it has only been seven years. We have both graduated with Master’s degrees, joined Wycliffe and done MORE school, had one precious little girl and then moved halfway across the globe to learn a new language before having another precious little girl. We have globe-trotted a bit in between and now we are charging forward in the next adventure that God has for us. Still trying to figure out exactly what that is, but we’re still charging!!

I was thinking this morning how different my life is from what I expected it to be. I remember a time in high school when I was pretty clear what kind of life I was and was NOT going to have. The list of things that I said I would never do is very comical for me to look back on.

I will never go to college for piano – now I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in piano performance.
I will never teach piano – started teaching just before college, and I absolutely love it. Really miss not having the opportunity to do that now.
I will never get married before I have my doctorate – I got married RIGHT after (like, two weeks) I graduated with my undergrad. What can I say – when you meet the right guy…
I will never be a missionary – ahem, obviously…
I will never live in a different country – also, obvious
I will never (be able to) learn a foreign language – I really thought my brain was unable. Stuck in English.
I will never live in the country (i.e. not in a big city)- we’re building a village house where there is cell phone signal, but electricity and water are sketchy. Most people that live there are subsistence farmers and fishers.
I will never be one of those crafty people – I now have a three year old, and it’s starting. Where we live, if I don’t do it, it won’t happen! Now I can’t throw away toilet paper tubes.
I will never bake stuff – I started baking out of necessity (can’t get good bread here), and now I really enjoy it. Yesterday I baked muffins just because I had a hankering to bake something.

Some of this stuff is really small, but I felt very strongly on what I would and would not be and do. Maybe I should learn not to be so opinionated…

At many points in my life I had everything planned out exactly how I knew it should be. And most of those times were when God started moving us in a different direction. It hasn’t always been easy to listen and follow those directions. Sometimes I have downright said “no” before slowly dragging my feet into sullen obedience. You would think that after all of the changes in direction we have taken I would learn not to say “I will never”, but now if I near those words come out of my mouth I start to get a premonition that the very thing I have jut forbade will soon be looming in my future.

The thing is that everything that I/we have done has been a testament to the verse that God’s plans are not our plans, and his ways are not our ways. Now, I can’t imagine a better life than the one that God has given to us. It’s not always easy, but God is always good. Every experience we have had has been used by God to get us ready for what he has next. Usually I had a totally different plan for it. But God’s plan is always better, even if it seems impossible or repulsive (or both) at first. And yes, I am slowly (s-l-o-w-l-y) learning to listen and obey with a ready heart instead of one blockaded against change.

But the best part is God gave me a partner. He gave this life to me to do with the most wonderful husband and best friend a girl could have. We love to laugh together, talk together, and just be together. I love you so much, Matthew Joseph Menger! Happy seven years!

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Peel a Tomato?!?!

Yes. Have you ever? I have. As of Tuesday I can now cross peeling tomatoes off my bucket list (HA!). More on the tomato peeling adventure in a second.

This week I only got to two new recipes. And I think that was the only two times that I cooked. It was a bit of a crazy week. Nothing in particular was crazy, but when you put it all together it felt really busy. We went somewhere almost every day which is not normal for me here in Indonesia.

And Friday was my birthday!! The big 29. It feels so strange to be in the last year of my 20s. I remember when my mom was 29, so now I feel really really old. Just kidding, Mom! I actually had a really great day. Matt took the day off and we just had lots of family time. I didn’t cook, and then in the evening I went to do karaoke with all my girlfriends here in our little city. It was SO MUCH FUN!! I didn’t have a camera with me, and I was really too busy having fun singing and dancing my heart out to tunes that really date me to take any pictures. Yay!

Okay, back to peeling a tomato. Do you know how? I started making this Tomato Bisque at about 4:45. We usually eat at around 6:00. After getting everything out for the recipe I noticed this tiny little word next to the word tomatoes, “peeled”. Okay…. no canned tomatoes here, so I had to figure out how to get my rather ordinary tomatoes on my cutting board naked. Quickly. So I did what every person my generation and younger does… RUN to Google! If you would like to learn how to peel a tomato, this is the website that taught me how. I also made these Biscuits to go with the soup. It was a frantic hour! Overall, Matt liked the soup and Charlotte, Elizabeth, and I did not. However, we ALL loved the biscuits. Here is a picture!

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The other recipe I made was Cheesy Spinach Macaroni. It was a really quick recipe and pretty good. I only had linguine pasta on hand and it probably would be better with a smaller noodle that could hold on to more of the cheesiness. Next time I might try adding chicken, too. I didn’t get a picture of this one so to console you I will leave you with a couple pictures of our cute little girlies.

So, have you ever peeled a tomato?

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Recipes this week – and Indonesian food!

I know you are all dying to know what I cooked this week. And so rather than keep you in suspense any longer, I will go ahead and disappoint you. I did not get to all four new recipes this week. (Sad face) I only got to three. We had so many leftovers from all the yummy food this week that I decided that we had absolutely NO more room in our fridge, and that consequently we must eat a dent into the leftovers before I cook any more food.

The first new recipe I tried was a delicious Creamy Carrot Soup that my friend Meagan emailed to me. It was absolutely delicious. And easy. And quick. Did I say it was delicious already? Matt kept going on about it and Elizabeth was very excited that we were eating Carrot Stew just like the Tawny Scrawny Lion! Because Meagan emailed it to me, I can’t link you to where she got it from, but if you would like the recipe, comment or email me and I can find out where the original source was. I did serve this soup with grilled cheese because I am never sure about soup with two little ones – will they eat it or will they not? Turns out they both loved it.

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The second new recipe was also a winner. For ease and for taste. It was really really really easy. I made this Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken. The only thing I would say about it was that it was really really sweet. Next time I might try cutting back on the honey just a tad. And possibly add a bit of soy sauce? I didn’t have any chicken thighs like the recipe calls for, so I made it with chicken breasts, but it was still nice and moist. I can see how the thighs would probably have absorbed more of the marinade/sauce in the cooking process, though. All those nooks and crannies. Oh well, next time!

The final new recipe this week was also quite tasty. But LABOR INTENSIVE. Especially since I didn’t make the tortillas the day before. I spent an hour and a half making 24 tortillas in the morning, and then another hour and a half cooking everything else in the afternoon. But now I have 12 tortillas in the freezer waiting for next time – yay! Oh yes, the recipe: Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas. I was tired by the time this meal got on the table. So tired, in fact, that I forgot to take a picture. Sorry! They were still really good, despite the fact that I dumped the entire tray of freshly rolled flautas on the floor while attempting to keep a crying Charlotte away from the 450-degree oven as I put them in. That was a low point. But rather than eat nothing, I salvaged what I could from the floor and they were still quite edible. And we are still enjoying the leftovers! Hopefully with no more dumping on the floor.

Now, I want to show you a bit of the yummy Indonesian food that we eat. My helper gets all the credit for this. She is a wonderful cook. I will try to share the recipe as best as I can. I don’t think it’s written down anywhere (in any language), so I’m going to approximate and hope for the best!

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Coconut and Tomato Basil Shrimp (I’m inventing the name on the spot!)

2 T. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed
4 small red onions, smashed
2 stalks of lemongrass
4-5 lime leaves
4-5 candlenuts, ground into a paste
2 lbs. shrimp (peeled, or whole in shells)
2 T. water
1 1/2 c. chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. – 3/4 c. coconut milk
small handful Thai lemon basil
1/2  green onion, thinly sliced

Heat oil over high heat in a large wok. Add the garlic and onions and cook until fragrant. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves. and candlenut paste and cook for about 1-2 mins.

Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink/red and begin to curl. While the shrimp cook add the water to the wok to prevent the spices from sticking and to help the shrimp steam a little bit. Add tomatoes.

When the tomatoes begin to soften add the coconut milk and bring to a boil. The amount of coconut milk that you add depends on how much yummy sauce you want to be able to pour over your rice. Add the basil and green onion and cook for 1 – 2 mins., until the leaves begin to wilt. Serve immediately with rice.

Hope you enjoy this little taste of one of our favorite meals here in Sulawesi!

This is Matt’s recommended drink with this meal. Coconut water with chunks of coconut. Fresh. He loves it. I hate it.

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Today…

…I put away the suitcases. We have been back in Indonesia for 5 weeks now. I unpacked in the first two days that we were back home, but just moved the 8 empty suitcases over to the side and let them sit in a pile. For a while I was leaving them out just as a visual reminder to myself that I shouldn’t expect to feel settled yet because we really did just come back. And then for about a week they were still out because I wanted to pack them up and go back to America. But for the past week they have started to bother me. Time to feel settled here, and happy here, and put the suitcases away!

There is a huge list that I made our first week back here and it includes house projects, cleaning projects, the cooking projects (from the previous blog post), and furniture that we hope to buy. Huge list. The cleaning and house projects are what I’ve been focusing on the most – when I’m not cooking. And taking care of the girls. As I’ve worked on things like updating family pictures, making a spot to store my makeup and hang my cosmetics, and rearranging small things here and there, I have been thinking a lot about why I want to make the things around me not just livable but beautiful as well. I really want to be creative and make the girl’s rooms cute and have order, creativity, inspiration, and beauty around me.

Then I came across a verse in Exodus. I started a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan in January and, yes, I know it’s May and I am just now finishing the February readings. But, hey, I’m getting there! Anyway, that’s not the point. The verse that I found was Exodus 28:2. God was giving directions to Moses on Mount Sinai for the temple and the priestly garments and after giving lots of specifics he said, “for glory and for beauty.” God is the great Creator of all things orderly and inspirational and beautiful. He wanted some of those decorations that way for the sake of glory and for the sake of beauty! As I have thought about why I want order and beauty I realized that practically no one comes in to see those parts of my house, so my sinful motivation of other people seeing what a great job I did at making something creative in the bathroom doesn’t get “fed” all that much, if you know what I mean. If I’m going to be completely honest that is usually my primary motivation. But what do I do with that? I have worked on confessing it to God and then offering up my creativity as an act of worship to Him. It is not a sin to want things beautiful and to look for creative ways to bring order to little things around my house. It is another way I can worship God for who He is.

Oh what a long way I have left to go. But realizing this has brought me some freedom in the “hum-drum” activities of menu planning, re-arranging the kitchen, and figuring out where to put toilet paper and hang my necklaces. How about you?

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Recipes!

Last week I began to feel settled enough to start back into the routine of cooking here in Indonesia. Cooking Western food, I mean. Which means my list of things I need to make (from scratch) so that I can cook said Western food includes:

  • Chicken stock – done!
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Pizza Dough
  • Yogurt – done!
  • Bread
  • Granola
  • Tortillas
  • Muffins – I made these, but they’re already gone. Yummy!

Tomato sauce is on the schedule for tomorrow, and I have to make tortillas before Thursday to use them in a new recipe so I had better get busy! I actually really enjoy making this stuff myself, but it’s just challenging that it ALWAYS has to be made from scratch and when I’m tired or the girls are cranky I can’t just whip out the box (or whatever) I have in the pantry from the grocery store.

Thanks to Pinterest, the newest apparent source of endless inspiration, I have come across some recipes that were pretty easy to come up with all the ingredients. So… I have tried some new recipes this past week. Three in fact! With some mixed results.

I made this Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb Shrimp. It tasted really good, but next time I’ll cut down on the oil a bit and not cook it quite so long. The shrimp that we can get here are actually REALLY REALLY fresh, but I overcooked them and they got a little rubbery. I’m still getting used to cooking in our smaller gas oven again. With Celsius… sigh. Here is a picture I got of the final dish. Will definitely be making this one again!

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I also made these Baked Chicken Fajitas ( I made a small batch of tortillas that afternoon just for this recipe). They were really good and easy (even easier if I had tortillas made already in the freezer). My spices are not the freshest (I really need to find replacements somewhere), and it would’ve been better still with chili powder that hasn’t sat in 90-degree humidity for 2 years. Keeping spices fresh (ones that I can’t get locally) is a real challenge for me here. More on that later. Will definitely be making this recipe again!!

Last new recipe this week was this Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken. Good, easy recipe, but again I overcooked it slightly. Chickens here are smaller than in America, so I think that it could’ve done with maybe an hour less cooking time. Also would’ve been better with fresher spices. But really, really easy!

Sorry I didn’t get pictures of the other two. It gets dark here at 6:00 every single day and that’s the same time that we eat (two very hungry little girls), so the camera is usually the last thing I’m thinking about until the food is completely gone.

On the menu for this week – 4 new recipes!! One of them was just sent to my by a friend from Houston. Making it tomorrow night, so Ill let you know!

It’s exciting to try new things here, but at the same time I am really trying to find recipes that are worth the amount of work that I put into them – i.e. they taste REALLY good.

That’s all for now from Indonesia! If you have suggestions of good recipes, comment or send me an email. Thanks!

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Easter

Since we had only been back in Indonesia for 4 days we did a few things for Easter but for the most part kept it pretty low key. I just wanted to post a few pictures of our girls and little things that we did for family to see. Keepin it simple these days. I’ll write a post about the traveling in a few days here for those of you who I know are just dying to hear how it went…

So we woke up (really early, because we were still getting over jet-lag) and let Elizabeth open her Easter basket. Charlotte was still sleeping until a bit later. Elizabeth was very happy, can you tell? Love that precious smile!

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Both girls got these goofy glasses in their Easter baskets. So silly!

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Me with my girls on Easter morning! (sorry a bit blurry)

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After church we did a little egg hunt in our front yard. Elizabeth was SO excited about doing this that I wasn’t even able to snap a picture of the two girls together before she was off finding eggs. Charlotte wasn’t sure what to do at first, but after she watched Elizabeth and then saw us pointing to the eggs and putting them in her basket, she thought it was so much fun.

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Happy Easter to you all!! Praise the Lord for a Risen Savior who has come to set us free from the power of sin and death!

P.S. – Thanks to Aunt Margaret for the adorable dresses!

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