Thursday, August 31, 2006

30 Days of Nothing

. 30 Days of Nothing. September 1 begins our family's 30 Days of Nothing. For the entire month of September, our family will buy nothing aside from the absolute necessities. There will be no running to the store for this or that. There will be no frozen lasagna or chicken nuggets. There will be no soda. There will be no checking out the clearance rack at Walmart. Our groceries will consist of the basics. I did our grocery shopping this morning for the entire month of September and spent $98.00 for our little family of four. I bought the biggest bag of rice I've ever seen. I bought 16 meals worth of ground beef, as this is what was on sale. Cheap stuff, yet nutritous. Frozen generic vegetables. Mind you, not the pretty bags of mixed stir-fry vegies. Just the basics. Canned soup- generic of course unless the large cans of Campbells were cheaper. Lots of spaghetti sauce- the kind in a can that costs $.88. Perhaps not as tasty, but we're doing just the basics and as cheap as possible. Powdered milk. (Please, before you turn me into the blogger police, my children actually prefer powdered milk. In their little minds, since Mommy makes it herself, it must be "fresher" as they put it. They get excited if Mommy buys "fresh milk.") And tons of eggs. Okay, maybe not tons, but several dozen! Also, yogurt- not the little containers of Dannon where you're really paying for the fancy little cups- the kind that comes in quart size containers and guessed it....Generic! My family will eat a healthy diet for the next month, which is more than I can say for lots of other people around the world, including my two Ethiopian children. There won't be much variety, but they won't starve either.

Why are we doing this? Are we gluttens for punishment? No, not exactly. The purpose is to fast from consumerism- the uniquely American ability to buy whatever you want at the blink of an eye. We want to end the cycle of taking our American affluence for granted. We want to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the burak (blessing) of living in America. We want to subject ourselves to this lifestyle for 30 days, knowing full well that as much as we are going to get tired of the inconvenience, that we are living better than so many people in the world. We want to understand how our children's grandmother feels as she daily faces her difficult life in Ethiopia. We want to allow God to reveal things to us that we haven't even thought of yet.

So what will we do with all the money we save? We are going to collect it in a jar. At the end of the month, our goal is to have $60.00 that we will use to buy a bike for a family in Kenya. (Yea, I know $60.00 probably doesn't seem like much, but please remember that stay-at-home motherhood doesn't pay much and for the past eleven months we've been paying $350 per month in fostercare fees for our Ethiopian kids) They will be able to use this bike to make deliveries for people, earning $3.00 per day. With this $3.00, they will be able to feed their children. More about this particular part of our 30 Days of Nothing in a future post.

Tonia over at Intent created this 30 Days of Nothing. I am inviting every person who reads this post to consider participating. Give the money you save to the charity cause that makes your heart skip a beat. Eastern Africa makes my heart dance. What's your passion? Sure, most American families could easily just write a check. Join us on this journey as we go even deeper than that. Dare to see what you might encounter during these next 30 days! Check back during September as I share my family's journey away from consumerism and into what makes God's heart break- widows, orphans, the poor, downtrodden, and oppressed.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Yakerb Wadadj- "Close Friends"

The name of my blog is burakaeyae, meaning "my blessings." I was reminded today of how much God has blessed me with a few yakerb wadadj (close friends) who are truly burakaeyae. I'm talking about the kind of friend who knows the intimate parts of your heart and who allows you to know the same in them. The kind of friend who loves you and accepts you exactly as you are in the moment, extending grace, yet at the same time, calling you to be more. The kind of friend who comes alongside you and lovingly calls out the secretly beautiful parts that hide inside all of our hearts. The kind of friend who never tries to be your savior by fixing the things in your life that are wrong, but instead listens patiently, then lovingly points you to God, entrusting you to the Father that will love you perfectly. The kind of friend who will allow their own heart to break with grief for you by letting you hurt alone before God where you will find the ultimate healing for a broken heart. The kind of friend where it's okay to be together and just be quiet. The kind of friend who wants to really work at the friendship to see it grow and flourish into all that God intends for it to be. The kind of friend where you know that regardless of what happens, God will always bring you back together as friends. I remember one time I got into a pretty heated argument with one of yakerb wadadjae (my close friends) and when it became pretty evident that it wasn't going to get solved that particular day, I told her we'd just have to settle it later, but that I knew it would be okay, and not to worry because I was sure we'd live to fight another day. Sure enough, we eventually hugged and made up, both revealing the secret reasons for why we'd reacted the way we did. Sure enough, we lived to fight another day and I'm sure we'll fight another day again. I am so blessed, that I have friends who will actually call me up and tell me when they see something in my life that they think I might need to examine and change. Now, that takes courage. The last time that happened to me was... well, it was this morning via an email! That's what made me start thinking about what a lucky girl I am to have friends like that. Lord knows how much I need people in my life to help keep me in line! Seriously, if I have an audience that thinks I'm funny, it's hard to know what might come out of my mouth. And as long as they keep encouraging me by laughing, I'll keep 'em rolling! It's a strength. It's a weakness. Isn't it always that way?! That's what the issue this morning was, and how thankful I am that one of yakerb wadadjae love me enough to tell me that I wasn't as funny as I intended to be. It wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last! Another time I had a yakerb wadadj call me up after seeing for months that I had allowed myself to become quite increasingly judgemental of a particular group of people that I was having to deal with on a weekly basis. I hadn't even realized it until she pointed it out to me, but I immediately saw it and was grieved. Actually, I was grieved over the thing that had happened that initially caused the judgement to start. As wounded as I was in the moment, I knew I could trust her even more after that because she had been willing to take the risk in lovingly confronting me with this thing. Anyway, I end this blog with two Bible verses that really sum it up for me. Even if you're not a Christian, or if you don't believe that the Bible is true, I think you'll still like and identify with these two quotes if you've ever had a friend like the ones I just described. (In case these quotes aren't clear, the Bible is actually a compilation of many smaller books. "Proverbs" is one of those smaller books. The first number is the chapter where the quote is found. Then each chapter is divided into "verses" so that it's easier to quickly find a particular quote. The second number that comes after the ":" is the verse)

Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Or in my case, one woman sharpens another)

Proverbs 27:6 says "Wounds from a friend can be trusted."

To all yakerb wadadjae, thank you for loving me (putting up with me!). :)

Kan Sost- "Day Three"

Well, kan sost (day three) of this whole back to school thing started off a little better today. I managed to get up early enough to get Kaitlyn ready without having to make her rush, though I did have to tell her kolo na (hurry up) a few times. I try to incoorporate Amharic into everyday conversation with the kids. I'm not sure she appreciated the kolo na though. I did say kolo na ebakesh (hurry up please). At any rate, I got her to school on time, AND I did it without acting mean and ugly to any member of my family! If I had a gold star, I'd wear it on my forehead today. Now mind you, it's 11:18 AM and I still don't feel like I've woken up yet. But, my mission was accomplished!

I had a funny/sad question in my email this morning from a member of the North Carolina Ethiopian Adoption user group. A woman who is waiting for the courts to reopen asked if anybody had to wait through the court closures last year. The reason is struck me as funny (ironic funny that is) is because we're sitting here waiting through the closures this year. But we also had to wait through the closures last year. For most Ethiopian adoptive families, this is unheard of. But not us. Nope. We're very good at waiting. In fact, we seem to have made a hobby out of it. I wonder if we'll still be waiting next year through the courts closing? I wonder what the record is? I have this little ticker on the top of my blog that counts the days since we received our referral. Today marks the 11th month since our referral. I never imagined that it would be this way. I hear that some very foolish people ask God to give them patience. I have never been that stupid in my life. There's only one way to learn patience and I am not so dumb as to specifically request that. Yet, God in His infinite wisdom seems to think that patience is a good lesson for me! Enough already! I am patient. I promise. I am patient. Very, very patient. Our agency either doesn't know or hasn't shared yet when the courts are reopening. A couple of other agencies are saying it will be Sept. 22 though. That's just one month away. Unfortunately, I don't know if our paperwork will be ready to go or not though. I asked last week if our paperwork was finished, but didn't get a reply. Whoever said that patience is a virtue?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Daradja and- "Grade One"

Today, Kaitlyn starts first grade, or as they would say in Ethiopia, daradja aund (grade one). She was so adorable with her "wheel backpack", lunchbox with matching thermos ($.99 at the thrift store- brand new!) new sneakers, which she informed me this morning hurt both of her ankles. I knew there was a reason to let her wear them before the first day! I put some gauze pads in her socks and loosened the laces. I convinced her to give them a couple of days to break in. Personally, I think that if shoes don't fit right in the store that you might as well not buy them. But, they DID fight right in the store! But, that was when she was in love with the pink and purple on them and just had to have them. Last year, one of my biggest weaknesses was that I am not a "jump up with a smile, ready to greet the dawn of a new day" kind of person. So, I would resist getting out of bed until the last possible moment, often dropping her off while still in my pajamas. Don't worry, I didn't actually have to get out of the car, but still! (PS If you are the adoption blogger police and you're reading this post, please don't turn me in to my adoption agency! There are people who wear even their big fuzzy bedroom slippers out in public. And these people don't stay in their cars. They walk right into the school, library, store! I at least put on shoes with my pajamas!) Since I didn't like getting up, our mornings were usually full of rushing around and getting her there just in the nick of time before the tardy bell would ring, or often 1-3 minutes late. Well, obviously, this is not the ideal way for a resonsible, loving mother to handle getting ready for school. So, this year, I am attempting to do better. I've asked God to please give me a special kind of grace to get up early in the mornings out of love for my daughter. I'm also asking a dear friend to keep me accountable to doing this for Kaitlyn. And now I've declared to all of cyber-space my intentions to be a better mother. I may not shine, but my goal is to at least rise!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Samaiyowi- "Blue"

This is my son, Lucas. A few weeks ago we were riding in the car when he announced to me that he no longer likes his hair. He wishes it was samaiyowi (blue). So, like any responsible parent would do, we bought him some samaiyowi hair dye and voila. Here is Lucas with blue hair!


We're currently wusha (dog)-sitting a little white Jack Russell for some good friends. I came home the other day and was greeted by Daisy jumping gleefully at the fence. Avery got home before I did. The wusha is samaiyowi. Need I say more?!


Well, I thought the wusha was hilarious. Lucas, however, was really really angry when he saw that the wusha had used the rest of his samaiyowi hair dye!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Amharenya- "Amharic"

How am I learning to speak Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, and the language of children adopted from Ethiopia? Well, I prayed one day and said, "God, you know that the desire of my heart is to learn the language of my children so that I can be completely fluent and teach my family to be fluent and I'll help our two Ethiopian kids to learn English, yet maintain their fluency in Amharic and we'll be this really cool bi-lingual family so that someday we can all go to Ethiopiaa as missionaries and be completely able to communicate!" And then I went to bed and slept soundly all night. When I woke up in the morning, I opened my mouth and when I began to speak, (feel the excitement building!).......... Well, I opened my mouth and I still only speak English with any degree of fluency! But I had you going for a minute, didn't I?! :)

To answer all of the comments and emails I've received recently about Amharic, I bought a program for the computer from that has been extremely helpful. To help you eveluate whether this program would be helpful to you, I'll give you my review of the materials.
We bought package #3 pictured here. It was kind of expensive, but we have been extremely pleased with the materials. However, unless you have the time to invest in seriously studying as though this were a college course, this probably isn't a very good program for you. In order to progress through this program, it is essential that you learn the Amharic alphabet. This was overwhelming at first, as there are 200+ characters in their alphabet. But, once I got started, I quickly understood the patterns and caught on more quickly than I anticipated. It was work though. Now that I can easily recognize most of the letters, I am very happy that I took the time to do this. It has greatly improved my ability to pronounce Amharic words that I have never heard spoken by a native speaker. The reason for this is that there is no standardized way of spelling Amharic words using English letters. For example, the word for joy is usually seen spelled in English as "desta." However, a more accurate pronunciation of this word is "des-a-ta." If you are able to read this word written in Amharic, you would know right away the correct way to pronounce it. This program is great for people who are serious about really learning the language. If you are looking to learn just a few basic phrases to help you with your travels and with your Ethiopian kids, I still recommend the "EZ" program offered at this site. The speaker on this program is a native Ethiopian, so the accent is perfect, which I found to be very helpful. However, there may be better programs available if this is the level of Amharic you want to learn.

Also, I am blessed to have an Ethiopian friend who is kind enough to critique my blog and notify me of errors in the language! She's actually helped me more than she probably realizes. Rosa, thank you! You are a gift! Knowing you has been a treasure!

Also, we occasionally visit an Ethiopian church in our area. Nothing can teach you a language like total immersion.

I have been able to understand a lot about grammar using the lonely planet pictured here. Our local library also has it. When I'm being consciencous about learning Amharic, I carry this little pocket-sized book with me everywhere. I talk to Kaitlyn and Lucas all the time, using the book to help me.

Just a word of caution about this book though: It says that "I love you" is translated as "A-feck-a-shallow." So, that's what we told our Ethiopian kids in the video and in every card/letter we've sent them. When Avery went to Ethiopia, he was notified by the director of their orphanage that he was actually saying something rather romantic to the kids! "A-wad-a-shallow" is a much more appropriate way to tell your kids you love them. Actually, that's for a female. "A-wad-a-hallow" is how you'd say it to a male. Other than that, we haven't found any other problems with it. In fact, I highly recommend this book, as it is packed full of cultural information for when you travel. It is full of useful phrases in traveling.

Also, on the rare occasion that I run into an Ethiopian, I am not shy to practice my Amharic on them. I admit, it's a bit intimidating, especially when I say something to them and they don't even realize I'm speaking Amharic! But, it's taught me so much by taking the risk. And when they find out I'm actually trying to speak Amharic, they're usually very happy to hear this.

And to be honest, I do pray and ask God to help me to learn the language. I've been kind of lazy lately with studying, but when I actually work on it, asking God to bless me in what I'm doing has actually helped to give me understanding and perseverance to not give up. I watched my daughter Kaitlyn learn to read and write last year in Kindergarten. What an inspiration that little five-year-old is to me! Good luck in your endeavors to learn Amharic to all of you adoptive families out there. And rest assured, your kids will learn English far faster than you could ever hope to learn Amharic! I know that those of you who have already brought your kids home can attest to this!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Emnat na Mihret- "Faith and Mercy"

You may have noticed I haven't posted much lately. The reason is two-fold. The first being that I 've spent more days sick in bed lately than not. I had a fever and chills that after four days turned out to be strep throat. Then I had half a day where all was well. Then the terrible headache, sensitivity to light, nausea, and vomiting started. I know- sounds like a migraine, right? Well, three times, doctors have diagnosed me as hypoglycemic. This following a massive drop in blood sugar that caused me to pass out with my infant son in a public place just one hour after my last meal. So, I've taken their word for it. But, on Friday, as the symptoms I've chalked up to blood sugar set on, my diabetic friend tested my blood sugar before I had a chance to eat and discovered that my blood sugar was 94, a perfectly normal healthy range. So, there goes that theory! I spent half of today in bed with the same throbbing headache and nausea.
The second reason I haven't posted much lately is because I've had an increasingly hard time with how long this adoption is taking. It's been almost eleven months now, and I'd just hit a point where I was just so sad and wondered if I could possibly continue to walk this thing out. One can't help but feel that God has forgotten them sometimes. I was feeling like God was remembering everybody except for our kids. I was just so tired and weary from the journey.
But, indeed, God is faithful, even when I can't see His goodness and faithfulness, He is still good and He is still sovereign. He so sweetly reminded me of his emnat na mihret (faith and mercy) this weekend.
It started with such a wild time at day one of the Enter the Worship Circle conference in Greenville, NC on Friday night. It was last year at this time that I first heard this group perform. It's not their music so much as their heart that captured me. They have such a desire to reach people with the fact that God is crazy in love with people like you and me. It seems like we so often get it backwards, at least I know I did for a long time. We think that God is so concerned about the things we do and say and the rules we keep and how good we are, etc. We get so caught up in trying to please God in an effort to earn His approval that we completely miss the point of life. The point is that God loves us so very much more than I can describe in this blog entry. He doesn't love us for the person we ought to be. He just loves us exactly where we are. He invites us to give Him our hearts in complete honesty. That's the God that was there for me this week as I turned to Him with disappointment, grief, and anger over the fact that I've been looking at my beautiful Ethiopian children, burakaeyae, for almost a whole year now, yet I have still not held them in my arms. It wasn't supposed to be this hard! The Father I have come to know doesn't get angry when I come to Him with such honesty. He embraces me and loves me in my pain. He restores hope to my weary heart. He give me just a little more so that I can keep walking on this journey of emnat (faith) because He is faithful and good. When I go to Him with questions and anger, He turns to me with mihret (mercy). Friday night was exactly what I needed.
I threw up twice on the way home from the concert, collapsed into bed, and woke up the next morning with the same nausea. I called every friend I have to pray for me because on Saturday night, we were supposed to go to see Steven Curtis Chapman in concert where we were going to get to meet him and thank him for the Shaohannah's Hope grant we received for our adoption. What an honor to get to thank this man for the countless lives he has touched. To date, over 900 families have received grants. He could have adopted his children and come home to America and gone on living his life. But he and Mary Beth have poured so much of themselves into meeting the needs of orphans around the world through Shaohannah's Hope.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The concert was wonderful too, particularly the song, "When Love Takes You In". Please visit the Shaohannah's Hope website for a most touching 5 minute video. You won't be sorry. Even if you're not a Christian, this will be a most touching video for all adoptive families. Well, he performed that song at the concert and God reminded me of the first time I heard him talk about adoption at a concert in Sept. 2000. Avery and I had already said we wanted to adopt from a third world nation, and at the time, China was the only thing on our minds. We went home from the concert and checked into adopting a Chinese orphan only to discover that we were too young and didn't make enough money by their government's standards. So we figured it wasn't the right time. But my heart had been captured and I began to pray for my daughter. I had already prayed for my child's mother since 1996, starting shortly before she conceived the boy who would oneday be my son. Well, after the concert, I began praying for my daughter too. (I didn't yet know that I had a son- I'm sure that story is in a previous entry, or will be in a future blog entry). My daughter was born in Ethiopia 4 months later. I was just reminded this weekend again of God's faithfulness. I have prayed for my children for their entire lives. My heart was first captured by Ethiopia when I was about 5 or 6 and saw the famine in television. Little did I know that the mother of my children was one of those babies that I cried for. She was born when my heart first broke for Ethiopia. Wow. That is the work of a sovereign God. As I listened to that song, my tears flowed as though a dam had broken inside of me. It was a good thing. God knew exactly what I needed.
Then, as though that wasn't enough, we got to go back to see Enter the Worship Circle again on Sunday night with some very good friends. We had such a blast! We took a "girl" car and a "boy" car. That alone made it all so much fun. :) Our kids really loved the concert. This group has an artist that does performance painting. Since Kaitlyn wants to be an artist when she grows up, she loved seeing this. She set up shop both nights with her paper and crayons and markers and drew pictures, sometimes out of her own creative design, and sometimes copying the pictures made by the artist. What a sweet girl. Lucas danced his crazy, wild "wock-n-woll" star dances. He calls it his "moves." He thinks he's so cool and I for one agree!
So, with renewed focus, I continue to walk down this loooooooong road. One of the things I felt like God spoke to my heart this weekend was, "The fiercer the battle, the sweeter the victoy." Indeed, the moment I hold my babies in my arms will be a sweet, sweet moment. It's a moment I dream of. Oneday soon, I pray that it will be a reality.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Is Injera Supposed To Turn Black?

For everyone who is more of an expert on injera than me, I was wondering if injera is supposed to turn black after a few days? More specifically, should it turn black with a dark green mold-like growth on the bottom and have a really horrible smell that is so bad you're afraid to taste it after a few days? More importantly, do you think it was a good idea to serve above mentioned injera to dinner guests on Saturday night?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Injera-what I Learned This Week

Injera- I've decided this flat sourdough Ethiopian bread is more of an artform than just a simple recipe! Last week I came up with a pretty decent injera by improvising with some seltzer water for extra ain (what Ethiopians call the bubbles- it literally means "eyes"). This week though, after consulting several sources regarding the science of breadmaking, I have come up with the perfect injera. Well, it seems perfect to me based on my experiences in Ethipian restaraunts in America. Avery, who just spent a week in Ethiopia also said that it tasted and felt just right. The only thing that's not quite right is the color. My injera is a little darker than most of what I and Avery have seen. I have absolutely no explanation for that. Well, actually, I have a theory about the kind of teff I used. I'll explain later. I was counting on my very dear friend, Rosa, to critique my cooking this weekend. Rosa is originally from Ethiopia, so I figured she'd know better than anyone if it was right! Unfortunately, her plans changed at the last minute, so I have nobody to critique the authenticity of my injera. Anyway, I am going to share in excruciating detail all of the things I learned about injera this week. If you have no interest in making injera, you probably ought to stop reading now because this post is probably going to get pretty boring. If you want to cut right to the chase, you can skip all the way to the second to the last paragraph where I start with "So, in a nutshell..." Otherwise, proceed with reading my ramblings about injera!

I am definitely not Betty Crocker, so perhaps the things I learned this week will be painfully obvious to some of you who are reading this! However, I know that there are others out there who have the same culinary expertise that I was born with, so I'm going to explain every little thing I learned. If any of my readers have anything to add, I sincerely hope you will post a public comment so that everyone else can learn from you too!

Okay, here we go. First, If you've ever made sourdough bread from a starter, you might know more than you think about injera! I've tried countless times that recipe that we've all seen on the internet about mixing teff and water and letting it sit for 3 days and supposedly, just like magic, the injera will be perfect. Well, in all of my trying, the magic just never happened for me! The finished product has always been either gummy and/or completely void of ain. However, after reading up on it, I understand in theory why and how that ought to work. I'll explain.

Again, this works in theory. I have not had success with this method yet, but in theory, the science behind this is correct. As with any artform, I'm sure this could be perfected with lots of practice and experimenting. You see, combining the flour (teff in the case of injera) with water is the first step in creating a starter. The starter is the first, crucial element in making injera. Without a proper starter, it will not be possible to achieve the same sour taste combined with the soft, airy quality that is characteristic of good injera. To make the starter, you combine 3 3/4 cups flour with 4 cups warm water. The water must be warm, 105 degrees is ideal. Warm tapwater is fine to use. This mixture of flour and water will naturally attract wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria over the next several days. I am going to once again try this method that does not include using commercial yeasts next week. If I ever get it to really work well, I'll share.

Thus far, I have not gotten injera to work without commercial yeast. I did however, produce some near perfect injera this week using commercial yeast. Here is what I did:

1. I experimented and realized that following a recipe precisely doesn't guarantee successful results. I realized that injera is more about the smell and appearance than about the recipe.

Injera needs to ferment. That's how it gets the sour taste. Since I couldn't get it to work by relying on natural yeasts, I used dry commercial instant yeast instead. As the dough ferments, the sour taste develops and the fermenting action causes carbondioxide bubbles to build up and cling to the gluten in the teff. When the injera is cooked, the heat causes the carbondioxide gasses to escape, hence the ain, or bubbles. If there's not enough yeast, the taste will be right, but the bubbles won't be there.

That's what my problem has been: the taste is right, but the texture isn't. After consulting with a couple of women this week who know far more about baking bread than I do, I concluded that adding some yeast to my fermenting teff and water starter might help. It indeed did help.

So, on the first day, I started with teff and warm water. The consistency should look like pancake batter (when you make thin pancakes, not big, fat, fluffy ones). I used about 3 3/4 c. teff and 4 c. warm water. You need to cover the container tightly so that the fermentation gasses will be trapped inside. I made mine in an ice-cream pail, which is working quite well. If you cover it with plastic wrap, this allows you to see what's happening to the starter without taking the lid off and releasing the gasses. Secure it with a rubber band though because as the gasses build up, it can cause even a tight lid to blow off the top of the container. Once I became familiar with the injera batter, I just started using the lid because I no longer had such a need to see it all the time to make sure it was right. Also, don't use a metal container. Use either glass or plastic. I have no idea why (like I said, I'm not Betty Crocker), but every book and baker I've talked to has said that, so I thought I'd just follow their advice!

You can stir the teff and water with a spoon, but I recommend using your hands for a couple of reasons. One, you can get it mixed a little better, as you can squeeze the lumps with your fingers. Two, there are natural yeasts and good bacteria on your hands, both of which are good for your starter. Three, it's good to know what the starter feels like, sort of like getting to "know" the bread. I'm not suggesting that you form an emotional bond with your bread, simply that you become very familiar with it, as this helps in developing good inejra!

For three complete days, do NOTHING at all. Don't take the lid off and don't stir it. It will start to look really gross. Perhaps slimy, perhaps black and watery, perhaps yellowish and watery. Or it may seem to become alive and grow large lumps throughout it that poke up out of the water. On day 2 or 3 it should start to bubble. This means that you'll see little bubbles coming up. If you move the container a little, this will release some of the bubbles. Try not to move it because you want the bubbles to be in there, but feel free to move it a little just to see what's happening to the starter. Sometimes, it may bubble a lot and become frothy. All of these are good. It will smell "yeasty" or like bread dough, but also may smell bad like...well... like rotting flour?! Again, the smell is good. I actually enjoy the smell, but my kids definitely do not!

The starter should be kept warm, idealy at 72-75 degrees. Basically, keep it at room temperature. If it's in a room that's too cold, the yeast won't do it's job. If it's too hot, you can kill it. Literally, the starter is alive. Yeast is a living organism. You have to take good care of it so it doesn't die. A friend told me that if you turn you oven on to 400 degrees and leave it on for one minute that you can then turn it off and stick the starter inside. This is the perfect temperature to help the yeast do it's thing. I put my bucket on top of a baking sheet covered with a towel so that I don't risk melting the bucket on the oven rack. Again, make sure it's not too hot in the oven though or you'll just mess it up.

Now, on day 4, the injera can actually be cooked for a successful result in theory. For me, this has not happened yet though. For me, there just hasn't been enough ain without using yeast. I know that the yeast consumes the sugars in the flour and this produces the carbondioxide which clings to the gluten in the flour, which produces the ain. I sort of overcame this problem by adding seltzer water, which gives it instant carbondioxide bubbles. This produces a passable injera, but this week I decided to find a real solution instead of this quick fix.

So, here's what I did. On day 4, I added commercial yeast. Now, bread snobs are highly opposed to commercial yeast! This is why I hated to do it. But, I can't argue with the results I had, so I think I'll continue to use commercial yeast. I will continue to try to raise a healthy starter using only the natural yeasts in the air, but at least I can now make decent injera. Here's what I did:

On day 4, when the injera just wasn't working out, I added yeast. I used dry instant yeast. I used 1 tablespoon of yeast for every quart of starter. I had started with a larger batch, so I used 2 tablespoons of dry yeast. You combine that yeast in a bowl with about a teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 cup warm water (105 degrees) out of the tap. This activates the yeast. The yeast starts to "eat" the sugar, which is what activates it. Supposedly, it's not necessary to activate instant yeast. I've tried it both ways though and I had better success with my injera when I activated it first. Perhaps it was a fluke. I don't know.

It takes perhaps 10 minutes to activate. You'll know it's activated when the mixture is sort of frothy or bubbly. At this point, stir the yeast mixture into the injera. Don't worry about the sugar making it sweet and taking away the sour taste. The yeast eats it up and you won't even taste that small amount. Once again cover it tightly. You always keep the starter tightly covered. Keep it warm. It won't be ready immediately, but in an hour or so, it should be ready to try and cook. We'll get to that later though.

You can go through this 4 day process each time you cook injera, each time starting from scratch. But, the way they would do it in Ethiopia, which is also the way that produces a more flavorful injera each time, is to save some of the batter as your starter. Just like when you make "friendship bread" you always save a little bit of batter for the next batch. In theory, you shouldn't have to add more yeast and the yeast in the starter will continue to grow and stay alive. I'm still working on this part. In order to keep it alive, you have to feed it. If you don't feed it, it will die and you'll end up with no ain in your injera. If you start making injera with no ain, you know your yeast has died.

To feed the injera, you have to give it a steady diet of more flour and warm water. I actually ran out of teff a couple of days ago and have had to use white flour, but the injera is still nice and sour. So, you can experiment. Maybe it's not necessary to use only teff, which as you know if you've ever made injera, is quite expensive. The "Bread Snobs" whose books I've been reading say you have to feed your starter 3 times a day. Others say you only need to feed it once a day. I tried the lazy approach and my starter died. So perhaps you do need to feed it more often. Like I said, I'm still experimenting!

To know how much to feed it, it takes simple math. If you have 2 cups of starter, you need to add 1 cup of warm water and 1 1/4 cups of flour. For the next feeding, double that amount. You would add 2 cups of warm water and 2 1/2 cups of flour. For the next feeding, double that amount. You get it, I'm sure!

If you know that you can't keep feeding it for some reason, you can put it in the refrigerater for up to a month. The coldness will slow the growing of the yeast enough that the yeast won't starve to death. Keeping it in a cooler room will also slow the yeast so you won't have to feed it as often. A warm room will require more feeding.

My problem is that the starter I currently have isn't very healthy because it seems to die each day. I revive it by adding more yeast, which enables me to create perfect injera. But, that's not the way it's supposed to work. I don't have the answer.

Now, when you cook the injera, the pan matters. I've had the best success using a non-stick teflon coated frying pan. I cook it on med-med high heat. You'll have to experiment with your stove. The injera needs to have airflow over the top of it and also the air has to be able to get to the edges, which gives it access to get up under neath the injera. So, if you pour the batter all the way to the edges of the pan, it will probably not allow enough air to get up underneath it and you won't have any ain. If you make just little tiny injeras in the center of the pan, they'll work out just fine. I bought a family size electric griddle for making injera. This way I can make big injeras. Since the griddle has no sides, it allows air to get to the injera from all sides.

So, in a nutshell, this is what I've learned this week: Injera gets the sour taste from fermenting for a minimum of 3 days. Injera gets bubbles from yeast. The easiest, fastest way to put yeast in it is by using commercial yeast. Don't be afraid to experiment. Add a little yeast, give it a few hours, and if it's still not turning out right, add some more yeast. It is through experimenting that you'll learn how to make injera.

Somebody this week said that I must be a great cook. It made me laugh so hard. I have a handful of dishes that I make really really well. I stick with what I know! Eventually, I'm going to master this injera thing. I like the concept of doing a few things really well rather than doing a bunch of things so-so.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Fidal- "Letter"

To my beautiful Ethiopian babies,

I have looked at your picture everyday for over ten months now. I've prayed for you countless times each day. You show up in my dreams, a bittersweet fantasy that leaves me so disappointed in the morning when I wake to find that you're still 10,000 miles away from me. It breaks my heart so much that I wish I wouldn't dream of you only to loose you each time I wake up.

My son, I was so sure that you'd be home shortly after Christmas last year that I bought and wrapped Christmas presents for you. The matching pajamas that I bought for you and Lucas will be too small by the time you get here. In the boys' room we just got a desk for you so that you will have a place that is all your own where Lucas isn't allowed to play. There is all kinds of Arsenal paraphenalia along with some school supplies on your desk. It's so empty, so neat and tidy. Not at all what the desk of a nine-year-old boy ought to look like. There are no little boy treasures hidden there. There should be. I wish you were here to make a mess of it, to play with the brand-new soccer ball that your grandparents bought you for Christmas last year, to make me laugh...I just wish you were here...

And my daughter, you are so beautiful. Your precious face is in my mind all the time. You and your sister have such a pretty, pink room with a bunk bed and matching Disney princess comforters. Kaitlyn's bunk is covered with dolls and stuffed animals and little treasures. And it's rarely made neatly. Your little bunk though has its blankets all tucked in very tightly with the brandnew chocolatey brown baby doll dressed in her Christmas outfit from last year sitting there begging for some little girl to play with her and love on her. I have forbidden Kaitlyn to play with it, as I want it to be brand-new for you. I've thought about messing up your blankets so that I won't feel sad everytime I tuck Kaitlyn into bed and see your pristine bed without a little girl to sleep in it. Sometimes Kaitlyn sleeps in your bed, as she feels like doing so is somehow showing you love from a distance, but she never sleeps under the blankets. We're waiting for you to come...

The last ten months have been so difficcult for me to figure out how to navigate motherhood. What is a mother to do when her heart is completely in love with her children, but time and space don't allow for the love to be expressed? The mother lion inside of me wants to tear to shreds anybody who is standing in the way of me getting to you. I want to demand answers, justice. You are mine and I want you with a fierceness that I've never experienced before. Yet the only answers I get all seem like flimsy excuses in light of the fact that I've watched you grow a whole year older through pictures. I should have made you a birthday cake. I hope that I will make you both birthday cakes in 2007.

Well meaning people tell me that as soon as you get here, I'll forget all about the pain. What good does that do to a mother's broken heart though when the only thing that will ease the pain is to have her children in her arms? I already know that the pain has all been worth it. Even now as I'm trying to traverse this strange, new place as a mother, my heart knows that this is worth it. You see, even if you never come home to me, I can say that it's worth it. You've already changed my life forever. Because I have loved you and been loved by you, even though it's been across a void of 10,000 miles, my heart has been forever impacted, made alive in a way I've never dreamed possible. With each of my children that have come into my life, I have been forever changed. Each time, the change is different. And the change starts taking place long before the babies have actually been in my arms, though in that moment of first contact, the change is forever burned deeper than ever before in my heart. There just aren't words that adequately express the longing of a mother for her children. I yearn for you. I love you with an anguishing love. I love you because you are mine. The paperwork hasn't yet figured this out, but you are mine. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I tell you that I have loved you with an everlasting love. Hang tight and don't lose hope my babies. Someday soon, I will be coming for you. I will love you with my arms at last, not just with my heart.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Injera- The Finished Product

Injera day 3 was somewhat successful, I suppose. The finished product doesn't exactly look right, but it's closer than it's been so far. The taste was actually pretty good. It seems that there's a real science to sourdough bread. I've been reading a book about this, and according to the book, it takes 14 days to get your starter batch going. Like I said, I'm determined, so I've already started my starter batch using just teff and water and relying on the natural yeast in the air to be captured by what the book calls this "living organism" called sourdough bread. Avery and I are going to be signing up for an Ethiopian cooking class offered by an Ethiopian restaraunt. Perhaps we'll learn the secret at our class!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Injera Day 3

The injera batter today looks just like it did yesterday. The last time I tried this, I had to do something that my dear Ethiopian friend calls "damping the whey." Now, I have no idea if this is an Ethiopian phrase, or if this is something that any American chef could tell you all about. All I know is that I can make a few meals very well, but I've never had to "damp the whey" before! At any rate, "damping the whey" means that you soak up or spoon off the liquid that has gathered on top of the injera. However, for reasons I cannot explain, there is absolutely no liquid on the top of my injera batter. It's the first time ever that there has been no liquid. What can I say? I'm an experimenter, not a chef! Tomorrow is the day that I cook the injera, so hopefully my little test will prove to be successful! I continue to leave it sitting on the counter covered with a towel for this last day of fermentation.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Injera Day 2

Injera Day 2
Originally uploaded by burakaeyae.
Day 2 of the injera, and I'm not sure if it's successful or not, because I really don't know what it's supposed to look like, but here it is! Today, I added the following:

3 cups pre-sifted self-rising flour, which I sifted again for no real reason
1 1/4 cup warm water

I stirred these ingredients very gently as not to release all of the gluten, as there is some highly scientific reasoning behind this. I can't explain it, nor can I remember it, but it has to do with diabetes and how teff is so good for diabetics due to the gluten levels. Or something like that.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Injera Day 1

Injera Day 1
Originally uploaded by burakaeyae.
Okay- today I'm starting another batch of injera, not at all deterred by the multitude of failures I've already experienced in my attempts to master this culinary skill! I thought I'd share with the world my little journey through the fermentation of teff. I'm very determined. At an Ethiopian restaraunt recently, the owner told us that if you have a room with 100 Ethiopian women that only one or two will be able to make good injera, and that out of those two women, they'll only be able to make it right half the time. Now, being a white American girl, I can't attest as to the truth in that statement. But it certainly does issue a challange to me. Furthermore, when Avery visited our kids in Ethiopia, our five-year-old daughter said that her favorite food is injera. I know I can just buy the stuff, but isn't it so special when your mommy cooks you your favorite food? So, after numerous failed batches, and much scientific study, I embark on yet another journey to create the perfect injera.

Today, I gently mixed the following, covered with a towel, and set aside until tomorrow:
1 package dry yeast
1 cup teff
1 1/4 cup warm water

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I realized this morning that I'm completely full of gugut (anxiety). It's not the bad kind of anxiety though where we become preoccupied with worrying over something. That kind of anxiety translates into Amharic with a different word. Gugut is translated into English as "anxiety", but it really means that you're full of eager desire for something. So, I'm full of gugut (eager desire) for my kids to come home today, yesterday, tomorrow, and everyday until that finally happens.

So, I was lying in bed this morning, sleeping in with Lucas who was unusually snuggly, when the phone rang. I jumped out of bed, thinking that maybe Avery had gone to work, checked his email, discovered that we had a courtdate, and was calling to share the good news with me. Yea, I managed to think all of that as I woke from a dead sleep! So, though my eyes were all squinty, I managed to answer the phone and it was some very generous guy from Sprint on the other end. He was letting me know that he was going to send me a cell phone in the mail for free! And what's better is that my free cell phone was only going to cost me $200 per month! Whoa! What a deal! I had to decline his most generous offer though, as I already have a cell phone and don't really need a new one. Otherwise, I would have jumped on a deal like that! :)

God is so faithful to us in the most unexpected ways. We so desperately wanted our kids' case to go to court this week, as next week the courts will close until sometime in late Sept or Oct. About half of the kids at our agency's orphanage got their courtdates this week, but ours weren't included. That leaves just a few other families who have waited as long as us. I was truly very happy that God had answered my prayers for so many other families, but also very disappointed that He hadn't answered my prayers for my own children. But, knowing how heavy my heart would be, He has brought people out of the wood work this week (both on-line people and real-life people) to say the most kind, encouraging things to and about our little family. It's actually been so overwhelming that I cry when I read the emails we've been receiving. It's just all come out of nowhere! It's been so much that I've started praying that God wouldn't allow pride to take root in my heart! I had started thinking, "Gee- I'm a pretty swell girl!" :) Then of course, God reminded me of how desperate I've felt and what a mess I've been at times, and that He is the One who has faithfully given me peace/comfort/assurrance of His love and sovereignty! hehehe How like us humans to take credit for the impossible things that only God could have done in our lives! Surely, God is faithful to the end of time; faithful to a thousand generations.