I Chronicles 29:11 "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Photoshop Elements

That elusive perfect family picture...with everyone looking at the camera, eyes open, smiling...can it really happen? Of course it can- with Photoshop!

We recently had family pictures taken. The one we liked the most was great- everyone was looking at the camera, eyes were open, and all of us were smiling...but the wind had just blown and forced my bangs into the middle of my forehead. Maybe you don't think that's a big deal, but it made me look like I was trying to see around them. Don't you agree?

So I decided that needed fixed. Everyone else looks pretty good. Hubby is kinda smirking, but I think it's a good look for him. He never does that, so I am glad to have a record of it. Haha, kidding. I copied my forehead from another picture in the set, and my eyes from yet another (since my hair is covering them here) and popped them in. And...voila!
No more peeking out from under my hair! 

Another of our photos, with our heads all smooshed together (which I love) was perfect. Except for the fact that Tina's eyes made her look drugged. Wanna see? Her eyes actually make me giggle.
 So I took her eyes from another photo where they look normal, resized them, pasted them in, erased the  unnecessary skin from around them, and here ya go- normal eyes!

A photo of friends' children was perfect, except their little girl had her eyes closed. See?

So I borrowed her sister's eyes, and, like magic- they're now all looking at the camera. Ta-da!
Now, the version of Photoshop I have can't make people skinnier (that I know of) so don't ask...however, if you have a photo you'd like me to fix, I'd be happy to try. It doesn't always work, because I am just an amateur that fools around on my own, and don't know all the tricks. But I am thankful for this technology!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gluten Free Baking

It's a funny thing in my life that God does. When I am in a circumstance that I don't like, or makes me nervous, I automatically think: "At least....(fill in the blank)....hasn't happened."

And then it does.

For example:

In elementary school I went to All-State Band competition. I was representin' for the clarinets. (NERD! YES! THANK YOU!) It was out of town for me (in Columbus) and all of us were in the gym of the school with name tags around our necks, waiting for our host families to come and get us. Of course I was meeting new kids, chatting, and watching the door to see who came in and out, wondering who would host me.

A woman with VERY thin hair (aka balding) came in the door. She had huge glasses, no eyebrows, and looked very nerdy. And weird. I had never seen a balding woman before, and I thought to myself: "At least I'm not going home with her!"

And then she walked up to me and asked if I was ready to go.

Um, [paste on fake smile] yeah! Of course!

Turns out she had been in a chemical accident at work and her hair would never grow back. Sad.

Fast forward lots of years, while hubby and I were on deputation to go to Botswana. Yes it was in Africa. Yes, it was far from home. Yes, there were things to be concerned about. But I could comfort myself with the fact that: "At least we're not moving to Johannesburg, South Africa- one of the most dangerous cities in the world."

And then, hubby tells me God has changed our plan. And guess what?

We moved to Johannesburg, South Africa.

The most recent of these experiences was when we got the diagnosis that Kat had Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. We started treating her with the medication Levothyroxine, and that was helping a lot (no more emotional breakdowns during school, she actually had energy to play...). And I was thankful that we would be able to get her meds for cheap in Johannesburg.

And then I found out God was moving us to Zambia.

Uh, Zambia? Ok. Maybe we could get her meds there. Our doc was willing to give us six months' worth of medication for her so we would have a good supply. I was ok with that. I was happy. And I thought to myself: "At least she isn't gluten free or have crazy allergies."

And then guess what? Our chiropractor said that she should go gluten free to help the thyroid antibodies reduce so her body doesn't continue to attack itself.

Awesome!! Love it when my worst thoughts come true.

So, we are gluten free. Not all of us, all the time, but Kat is. And I had all of three weeks before we moved to a new country to figure all this out. I will tell you right now, pretty much all I figured out was that gluten free baking was gross, and expensive.

Since we've been here, I've found several websites that have been very helpful in making our gluten free experience a success. I know there are a lot of you out there who are also gluten free, or may become gluten free in the future, so I wanted to share some of my favorite GF (that's short for Gluten Free for you newbies) recipes and websites.

Now, a lot of these bloggers have sponsors who make and sell GF flour blends. They explain the wonders of their flour as the best on Earth, blah blah blah. They don't sell GF flour blends in Zambia. So I have had to make my own, and I have learned a few things.

You do not need xanthan gum or guar gum in your recipes. I have read they are not good for you, some people who are GF also have sensitivities to these items, and everything I've baked without them has turned out perfectly. So save yourself the money and just cut them out completely. If you're worried your items won't turn out, you can use an equal amount of ground flax seed in place of it. (But I don't even do that anymore, since flax seed is not sold in my town.)

I would also warn you that oats or oatmeal that is not certified GF can be contaminated in the field from growing near wheat. Be very careful in what you use, especially if you're cooking for someone who has Celiac Disease. It can make them very sick and cause pain to eat gluten. So just a head's up.

Now for my GF flour blend. We are blessed to have Indian Muslims living in our town, and many of them use alternative flours: rice, chick pea (chana) flour, jowar (millet) flour, urad (black lentil) flour. We have experimented and we like jowar and rice flours the best. Chick pea flour is ok, but definitely more for breads and things instead of sweets like cakes or cookies.

I usually use a mix of rice flour, cassava starch (tapioca starch), and corn flour (corn starch). If I have jowar flour I use it in place of corn flour. The ratios usually work out like this (no matter what I'm making):

1 part rice flour
1/2 part jowar flour (OR corn flour)
1/2 part cassava flour

This works for me, and it is cheaper than anything else I've seen in the States too. You can give it a try if you like, or use a ready-made one. Most of those, however, will have xanthan gum already mixed in.

Let's move on to the websites and links.

1. Gluten Free on a Shoestring- She is my first go-to source for any recipe that I want to attempt as GF. She exclusively uses Better Batter flour, which of course, I can't get here. So I use my own mix like I mentioned above. Everything of hers I've made has been great. But I can only do the simple recipes because of the little availability of ingredients. But we're happy!

2. The Baking Beauties- This website has a lot of beautiful and delicious food too! I have made their monkey bread and we now use that as donut holes for us. Yummy stuff. Check it out!

3. Basic GF Muffin Recipe- These are GREAT muffins. If you want to add blueberries instead of choc chips, also throw in a little cinnamon. I've also omitted any add-ins except for cinnamon and sugar, and made a crumbly topping too. VERY nice.

4. Pie Crust- This is great for sweet or savory. If for savory (like quiche) then just cut out the sugar.

5. Pizza Dough- I, for the life of me, cannot remember where I got this recipe from. (I thought I bookmarked it, but I guess not.) We use it ALL the time for Kat's pizza, and it's VERY good. The only thing we do differently is to start out baking it on baking paper on a tray, then move it to the oven rack (still on the paper to prevent contamination from the other doughs). So yummy!
    1 1/2C GF fluor blend of your choice
    1T sugar
    1t baking powder
    3/4t salt
    1 1/2t yeast
    1C warm water
    2T olive (or other) oil
1. Mix all dry ingredients except yeast in a large bowl. Mix until well blended.

2. In a separate bowl, mix water, yeast, oil, and half a cup of your dry mix. Stir to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes until it smells yeasty.

3. Add the yeast mix to the dry mix and beat on medium high for four minutes.

4. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 425F. Prepare baking sheet with baking paper. Spread batter onto baking paper, thinner is better. Use two pans if needed. Rest 15 minutes.

6. Bak 8-10 minutes. Add toppings and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until as done as you like.


Hopefully this has been helpful for you. I'd love any suggestions you have as well for your favorite sites and suggestions. GF baking can be successful and tasty! Don't let a diagnosis keep you from eating well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homemade Christmas Decorations

Here in Chipata, sure, you can find Christmas decorations. Most of them are made in China, and aren't very nice, even if they have a hefty price tag. (Which isn't most of them, but some.) So the girls and I decided to make our own ornaments and decorations this year.

That wasn't a real big stretch for us, however, as we do enjoy a craft.

Or two.


So I thought I would just post some pics of what we've made so far. Christmas is a week away, I realize, so more decorations may not happen. And that's ok. We have to ease into this decorating in Zambia thing.

Enough with the chatting. Here's the stuff...

 Cute ice skates made of felt and paper clips.

 Beaded icicles from a kit.
(Along with paper dolls in the background from Kat.)

 These cool felt ornaments. 
 This one with beads. Fancy!

 More felt! Love that blanket stitch!

 Now for the trees on the tree...beaded...
Ric-Rac-ed. If that's a word.
(This may the worst picture I've ever taken.)

 Finger crocheted candy cane garland. For our tiny tree.

Paper snowflakes that will hang from the ceiling.

Felt circle garland that will also hang from the ceiling.

(And yes I realize these are not quite Christmas colors...I went with what I have, ok?)

And I won't be hanging all the Christmas colors together, either. Promise.

 Our Christmas corner in the lounge.

I didn't think you could handle a view of our entire tree at once. And is it possible that the staggered stockings take away from the fact that the top of our tree leans just an eensy bit?


Maybe if you squint one eye. 

And hold your breath.

While reciting the Preamble to the Constitution.

Or not.

Perhaps we could sell tickets to view the Leaning Tree of Chipata?

Or not.

And for those of you who are gluttons for punishment, here is the full view of our tree:

Go get your craft on.

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