Grocery Shopping in South Africa + Some New Foods I Tried While There

unnamedMy first dinner on the plane: cheese ravioli. It was surprisingly good. And the cake was yummy, too!

One of the commitments I made to myself before leaving on my trip to South Africa was that I would try everything offered to me. Now, you might think that sounds rather simplistic and obvious… but you have to understand that I’m not really that much of an adventurous kind of person.

Nope. I like sameness. I take comfort in foods that I know exactly how they’ll taste. I’m the girl who will eat the same thing again and again and again and again and rarely ever grow tired of it.

So for me to decide I was going to try everything offered to me was kind of a risky and “out-there” move. And it paid off… because not only did I get to experience more of the tastes of South Africa as a result, I really found that it was fun to live a little bit on the “wild side”, if you can call it that! ;)

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Lisa-Jo had recommended that we order Appletiser on the plane. It’s a true authentic South African drink — basically like carbonated apple juice. It was delicious!

One thing I noticed while in South Africa was that they drink a lot of juice and other non-water beverages. They also drink a LOT of tea but aren’t much into coffee. Well, some of the restaurants we went to had delicious coffee drinks, but they don’t have Starbucks there and I didn’t see many coffee shops. It may have just been the area, though.

I can tell you that the second night we went to over to one family’s house for a Braai and I saw an espresso maker at their house, I may have just heard angels singing. :)

I discovered that Morne (the host) was a coffee aficionado and he was thrilled to find someone else who shared his love of coffee. He saw to it that I had good coffee the rest of the trip — even bringing a thermos of hot coffee for us to drink while we were on the jeep driving through the Game Lodge.

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The night we got into South Africa, we had a fairly traditional dinner (lasagna, salad, etc.), but after dinner, Lisa-Jo’s parents pulled out some new-to-me foods, including Lychee (shown above). I’d never even heard of this fruit and thought it was delicious. We also had fresh mango, which was amazing!

And this was only a taste of what was to come. Throughout the week Lisa-Jo’s dad was constantly cutting up different fresh fruit for us, including the juiciest peaches I’ve pretty much ever eaten and fresh figs (I’m not sure that I’ve ever eaten fresh figs before. They were pretty good!)

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That night, we were also introduced to Biltong. The name and the look of it sounds a bit disturbing, but it tasted like really flavorful beef jerky.

Later in the week, Lisa-Jo’s mom took us to the meat shop where they actually dry the Biltong — it was hanging all over the place above the meat counter in long strips! — and we got fresh Biltong cut up right there for us.

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The first full day we were there, we visited the Reagaboka Drop-In Centre where they feed, play games with, and do afterschool homework help for over 100 kids every day. We got there right before they were getting ready to feed all of the kids.

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We got to see the Care Givers in action — serving lunch, working with the kids, etc. — and then they told us they had a special surprise: we got to eat some of what they served the kids plus some very traditional South African foods!

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This was our lunch spread: Pap, Samp & Beans, Morogo, and Mealies (corn).

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The Pap tasted really bland (I don’t think they put any kind of flavoring or seasoning in it because that’s typically how the kids eat it) and it was kind of overwhelming to realize that this is some of the only food that the poorer families have regularly.

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The Samp & Beans was very delicious and would eat it every day for a meal and not get tired of it. :)

The Morogo was wild spinach, they told us, and it tasted just like that — fresh, very green leafy, and like it had just been picked. “Mealies” is what they call corn. They had boiled it, but it was still kind of fresh and crunchy.

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The next day, we went on a sort of safari ride at a Game Lodge — where we saw elephants, cheetahs, a giraffe, a mother rhino and her baby, ostriches, dung beetles, and much more. All roaming in the wild!

It was kind of surreal — especially because we were about 10 feet away from two elephants at one point. (See the video here.)

We stopped for snacks and drinks and they suggested I try the Creme Soda. It’s not like our American cream soda at all. It’s green and very sweet. I basically never drink soda, so this was quite a leap for me.

While we continued on with our drive, Joy offered me some of her Skittles and I ate those, too. So there I sat, the non-sugar-and-food-coloring-eating, non-soda-drinking girl from Kansas drinking South African creme soda (that turned my tongue and mouth green) and eating Skittles while riding in a big jeep on the African terrain and seeing giraffes and elephants and rhinos and cheetahs in the wild. And I was savoring every minute of it!

I kind of wondered if I was okay because it was so. not. like. me!

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On the last day, we went to a South African grocery store — something I was very excited about. Because I’m weird and I think that grocery shopping is fun! Or at least it’s much more fun than clothes-shopping or shoe-shopping. :)

We went to Pick-n-Pay, which I am told is one of their less expensive grocery stores. They also have Woolworth’s Food, which I gathered was a nicer and higher-quality (and more expensive) grocery store.

The prices were very reasonable. At times, almost so low that we’d gasp. Not as low as they were in the Dominican Republic, but consistently quite a bit lower than in the states.

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What was so weird is that the grocery store looked very identical to a grocery store in the U.S., but when you looked at the shelves, so much of what was on them were things we don’t have, brands I’d never heard of, and food I’d never eaten. Such as the half of aisle dedicated to every kind of rusks imaginable shown above.

It was a strange feeling to be able to read all of the boxes and brands and signs but to not be familiar with almost any of them. In fact, you’d have to look for quite awhile to see any packaging/brand/label that was the same as what you’d find in the U.S.

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This is Annalien — an amazing South African woman who I absolutely adore and consider a dear friend now. She and her husband, Morne (the coffee-lover I mentioned above!) have two beautiful children and work closely with Lisa-Jo’s parents in the Take Action Ministry.

She used to work in a corporate job making a very good salary in Pretoria, but she recently left that job in order to work full-time with Help One Now and Take Action. She took a huge pay cut to do that, but by the fulfillment and joy the oozes from her, you’d never know. She was constantly beaming and is such a gracious and giving person. I want to live next door to her. But instead, I’m grateful for modern technology so we can keep up regularly!

We’re standing next to the Boerewors here — another very South African meat. It’s similar to what we’d call Brats in the states, only it’s more flavorful.

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South African money is called “Rand” and 10 Rand equal $1 USD. So this package would be about $4.47 in US dollars. These were large packages of meat and $4.47 for one of them seemed like a steal to me!

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After coming home and raving about the food in South Africa, Jesse found a local meat shop that makes Biltong and imports Appletiser. Without even telling me, earlier this week, he went there and bought me some Biltong and Appletiser. Then he came home and handed me this brown paper sack saying, “I have a surprise for you!”

I truly could not believe my eyes when I opened it up and found Biltong and imported Appletiser. I was one happy girl!

P.S. Many of you asked if Lisa-Jo’s 9-year-old son, Jackson, could share about his experiences on the trip. You’ll want to be sure to hop over to her blog to read the interview she did with him about his perspective on the trip and what he thought about it all. It’s SO good!

 

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4 Books I Read The Past Two Weeks + 1 Book I Decided Not to Finish

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So after starting this year out with a book-reading bang — and reading a book per day for the first 7 days, I definitely slacked off the past two weeks.

I had thought I’d get in LOTS of reading on my two 18-hour plane flights, but what I didn’t realize about international travel was that at least 10 hours of the flight they’d have all the lights off in the plane and the only polite things to do during that time are to sleep, watch a movie on the screen in front of your seat, or read something on a device. To read a real book — which is what I’m so partial to — would require me to turn on my over-the-seat light and probably wake people up around me.

In addition, I didn’t realize that if I took Dramamine, I’d be so tired that I’d sleep much of the flight and be groggy a lot of the rest of it! At any rate, my visions of reading 2-3 books (or more!) per flight didn’t happen. I ended up reading one small book and starting and deciding not to finish another.

unnamedEating dinner on the plane to South Africa while reading Growth Hacker Marketing.

Books I Read the Past Two Weeks

James and the Giant Peach — We enjoyed reading this book aloud, though I have to say that some of the language and attitudes has surprised me for a children’s book. I edited it a bit and used other parts as opportunities to have discussions on how our words can be hurtful and shameful to others.

Growth Hacker Marketing — I picked up this little book on the recommendation of a reader. While it was a short read and I would have loved more “meat” and examples, it did have some good advice and thought-provoking information.

Glimpses of Grace — While I thought there were some encouraging ideas in this book, truth be told, I struggled to really get into the book because I found the writing style kind of laborious. I don’t think the author was a bad writer, I just think that something about the style of writing didn’t draw me in. That said, I thought there were a lot of good reminders for us as women as we go about our everyday lives.

The One Thing — I found this book thought-provoking albeit a little confusing. The author encourages you to really drill down on the one thing that is going to make the most difference in your life right now and to make that your priority. The questions he encouraged you to ask really made me think and examine my priorities. However, I found it confusing then when he encouraged you to come up with your one thing in multiple areas of your life. It seemed to somewhat contradict his message of only focus on one thing and one thing only if you were supposed to have multiple “one things” in multiple areas of your life. I may be the only person who found this confusing, though, as most all the other reviews I’ve read of this book have been rave reviews. :)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie — Okay, so confession time: I just couldn’t get into this book. At all. It just was weird, plain weird, to me. I tried really hard, but after about 7 chapters, I decided that it was okay to just set it aside and not finish it as there are many, many more books I’d rather read and life’s too short to waste on making myself finish books that I’m not enjoying or benefiting from at all. Sorry, all of you Flavia de Luce fans!

Books I Plan to Read/Finish This Week

The Imagination Station: Surprise at Yorktown — We always enjoy the Imagination Station books. When this one came in the mail recently, Kathrynne and Kaitlynn wanted to pick it up and read it right away, but they said, “We’re not going to read it ourselves since we want to enjoy you reading it aloud to us!”

Long Walk to Freedom & Kaffir Boy — I didn’t get these finished before my South Africa trip — hoping to finish them soon!

Against All Grain — Multiple friends have mentioned this book to me and suggested I read it.

The Anxiety Cure — As someone who struggles with anxiety during different seasons of life, I’m on a mission to learn more about it and what I can do to help prevent or minimize it. I read Sleep: It Does a Family Good by Archibald Hart two years ago and learned so much from it that I picked up this title to check it out, too.

From This Day Forward — I saw an article about this book on Ann Voskamp’s site and was intrigued so I picked up a copy.

What did you read this past week? Any must-read book recommendations?

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Have you ever thought about writing a book?

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Have you ever wanted to write a book?

I had a dream many years ago that I’d one day write a book. Little did I ever guess that I would have written 3 traditionally published books by the time I was 33 years old!

My book-writing journey has been one filled with many challenges and celebrations. I’ve grown through the critiques (though there have been moments when I’ve thought, “If one more person says something harsh about my writing, I just might throw out my laptop and buy a one-way ticket to Timbucktu!”), I’ve learned a lot of marketing techniques that don’t work, and I’ve spent countless hours and hours writing and editing — many times when there are many other things I would have rather been doing!

It’s been grueling, at times, and exhilarating, at other times. But I don’t regret any of it. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s a whole lot more work to write and edit and market a book than I ever could have imagined.

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{Watch the video above for some strategies on marketing a book and mapping out a book launch plan, plus some of my honest thoughts on how much work goes into an effective marketing strategy. Oh and you also get to see my “fancied-up” hair and make-up — read the P.S. below to see what that’s all about! :)}

Wish Someone Could Walk You Through the Book-Writing Process?

If you are committed to the idea of writing a book, but you wish someone could walk you through the process of outlining, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, there’s a brand-new course called Author Launch that you might want to check out.

It’s very pricey, but if you are really, really committed to the idea of publishing a book and you just don’t know where to start, I think it could be worth the investment.

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I had the opportunity to participate in some of the filming for this 46-week course and I was very impressed with the caliber of the authors involved as well as the team who put the course together. It’s designed to take you through the process of writing your book from start to finish. Plus, you’ll be apart of a community of writers who are also working on their books at the same time.

Honestly, I think the community aspect of this course is what appeals to me the most. There have been many times that book-writing has felt like a lonely endeavor — especially when I was first starting out and didn’t know many other authors.

What Author Launch Includes:

  • 46-weeks of step-by-step instruction to help you write a book from start to finish.
  • Weekly emails with detailed help and practical steps for each stage of the book-writing process. These emails will include videos taught by 10 authors from different genres and backgrounds. {My videos are on finding time to write in the midst of a busy schedule and how to effectively market a book.}
  • A 50,000-word PDF workbook to guide you through the steps outlined in the course.
  • Detailed help and instruction for every part of the book-writing process: from writing an outline, writing your chapters, finding time to write, refining your work, self-publishing, traditional publishing, mapping out your marketing plan, and much more.
  • Access to a private community of writers who are also working through the course with you.

If you are interested in finding out more about this course, head on over to the Author Launch Page here. Registration for this course closes on January 31, 2015.

Get Some Sneak Peeks of the Course Here

To see a few examples of the videos and course materials, check out this video from Jeff Goins on Determining Your Field of Expertise, Sarah Mae’s video on Writing With Confidence, Donald Miller’s video on Finalizing Your Title, and Joshua Becker’s video on The Benefits of Self-Publishing.

Note: As I mentioned before, this course is very pricey. If you are just considering writing a book and not sure you’re ready to commit yet, I’d recommend reading this post of mine for some free advice on getting started.

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P.S. I hardly recognize myself with that make-up and hair… it’s a far cry from the usual quick make-up and pony tail look I often sport! ;) Sarah Mae’s sister, Keitha, did our hair and make-up for the filming and I was told mine looked great.

Since I’m not one to often get all fancied up, I’m still not sure what I think about myself with all that hair product, face product, and fake eye lashes on! But it’s always fun to try new things out. :)

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A Day In My Life (it wasn’t what I planned, but it was a GOOD day!)

A Day In My Life

A HUGE thank you to Tara from Deal Seeking Mom for sending over this post from her Feedly reader when I thought it had forever vanished into the deep black hole of cyberspace. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to read this post last night before I somehow completely deleted almost all of it this morning, here you go…

Yesterday didn’t end up like I’d planned, but it was a good day.

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. — partly from jet lag and partly because my heart was really burdened for a friend of mine. She had texted me before I went to bed and was really, really struggling. She’s going through a devastating life situation right now and my heart is pretty much just broken in two for her. So I woke up with her heavy on my heart and spent some time praying for her and trying to go back to sleep.

I had gone to bed before 7:30 p.m. the night before, so I went ahead and got up at 3:30 a.m.since it was clear I wasn’t going to be falling back to sleep. And I’m grateful I got up that early because of some of the unexpected things that happened later on in the day.

The next few hours were spent catching up on emails, comments/social media, scheduling out some posts, going through possible deals to post today, and writing blog posts.

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I then exercised and had planned to read my Bible and shower, but the kids were now up and Jesse had arrived home from the gym and the grocery store, so I went down to the kitchen to make breakfast, go over our plans for the day with Jesse, and hang out with everyone.

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We had Trim Healthy Mama Pancakes — and we rolled them like crepes. I love this recipe and so does everyone in our family, including Jesse.

I had taken a few pictures of my plate and then went over to get something else in the kitchen and when I turned around, this was what I saw:

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After he took pictures, he said, “I took 29 pictures for you, Mom. You can use them on your blog.”

It cracked me up and melted my heart. But not only that, this kid has some serious photography skills — or it was just a fluke, but pretty much all 29 photos looked like this –>

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After breakfast, the kids did their morning chores and Jesse put dinner in the crock pot (yes, he’s amazing like that!), while I cleaned up the kitchen and started in on getting caught back up on laundry. I also worked on getting some house projects done that I had shelved for the past few days since I was trying to get over jet lag.

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Jesse took Kathrynne and Silas to the dentist to get fillings. (Since discovering that all our children are cavity-prone in the past few months, we’ve switched over to following Dr. Ellie’s system and are so hoping that this will help significantly cut down on cavities in the future. It’s certainly been working well for Kaitlynn, so we’re hopeful it will work for all our kids. We’ll see!)

Kaitlynn and I stayed home and she worked on some projects and reading. I helped her and worked on laundry and finishing up my home projects/cleaning for the day. I then sat down to spend some time reading my Bible (I’m finishing up the She Reads Truth John Study) and write in my Blessings Journal.

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Kathrynne had been really nervous about going to the dentist and she ended up really having a hard there. So she was pretty exhausted/anxious/in pain when she arrived home. I went ahead and changed my plans for the rest of the day (I had planned to work on book edits for a few hours and do some writing) and spent the afternoon keeping her comfortable, making slushies, and reading aloud to the kids.

We read extra from our Morning Time Basket reads and finished up our current read-aloud book. It was such a relaxing afternoon and we had so much fun reading together and just hanging out!

Jesse took Kaitlynn and Silas to our Meaty Monday group and I stayed home with Kathrynne since she just didn’t feel up to going. I finally got to tackle the refrigerator.

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I told you it needed some TLC. And I wasn’t joking!

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So. much. better!

How was your day yesterday? Did you get any cleaning/household projects done?

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Where the A Day In My Life post went… your guess is as good as mine! :)

A Day In My Life

Update: Nevermind and yay! A HUGE thank you to Tara from Deal Seeking Mom who was able to recover the full post from her Feedly reader! You can read it here.

So, last night, I posted a long and detailed Day In My Life post full of pictures and tidbits on our day yesterday, as well as how my refrigerator cleaning went. Many, many of you clicked through on Facebook to read it and many of you saw it here.

This morning, I was reading through it and noticed a few typos. I went to fix those and clicked to update the post. I’m not sure what happened in the process, but the entire post — except for one picture and two sentences — completely disappeared!

I tried multiple methods to retrieve it and it appears to be gone forever. Sigh. Sometimes that’s just part of life — you spend a few hours on something only for it to be — poof! — gone.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know in case you wondered why it disappeared!

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Also: I had meant to choose & post a winner for the last Day in My Life giveaway and forgot to do so. So without further ado, the winner of the above prize package is HoosierMom (blueskyandsunshine2006@). I emailed you this morning with details on claiming your prize.

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How I’ve Found Balance… or not!

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I’m honored to be featured on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast again today talking about the subject of balance. I share how I manage my life, how I prioritize, and how I juggle multiple hats (blogging, mothering, writing, marriage, homeschooling, and having personal margin in my life).

If you’ve ever wondered “how does she do it?”, you’ll want to check out this post and podcast. I think you’ll be encouraged to know that I don’t do it all… and one of my biggest “secrets” to success is only focusing on a few priorities and seeking to do those few things well.

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