Category Archives: The New Country

Posts about the US — limited to our experiences living in Southern California, we admit. Land of great opportunity and candor (which we love), nasty foreign policy, and sometimes lack of socio-political complexity (love that part not so much).

On Feeding Our Neighbors

 

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If there is one thing that astounds me living in America, it’s that people go hungry, and that very few people seem to care. Did you know that 30 percent of all food ($48.3 billion worth) is thrown away each year in the United States?

All the farms, the supermarkets, the corner stores, the farmers’ markets, the restaurants and cafeterias, the dinner tables. One third of all that food is wasted. We are just not very good at getting it into the hands of people who need it.

A month or so ago, I started researching food pantries in my neighborhood to see if I could volunteer. I found only one in our area, an incorporated city of 50,000 people on the north-east outskirts of San Diego. Statistics say that one in six people in San Diego County do not have a stable food supply. By rough estimate, that means our neighborhood has one food pantry distributing groceries once a month, trying to meet the needs of a potential 9,000 people who might need it.

A few days later, I happened to be in my local Starbucks and saw an event poster for a day of service at Feeding America San Diego (FASD). So I signed up.

Quick Facts About Feeding America San Diego:

  • They distribute 23 million pounds of food annually in San Diego, serving 73,000 children, families and seniors each week.
  • FASD’s Farm2Kids, BackPack and School Pantry programs give kids basic food items plus three to five pounds of fresh produce to take home each week.
  • Their mobile pantries reach under-served communities, and FASD partners with food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across San Diego county.
  • Every dollar donated to FASD results in six meals. SIX!

Two Saturdays ago, Tau and I joined around 600 volunteers, mostly Starbucks employees, at FASD’s Mira Mesa warehouse. We worked on a team that sorted green apples, boxing them up for distribution. Our group also stripped the slightly moldy outer leaves off about 300 heads of cabbage and crated those too. Other teams stuffed backpacks, labeled cans and measured out family-sized packets of breakfast cereal from the mega packs that FASD purchases with donated funds.

Tau cleaning cabbages

During the three two-hour shifts organized for that day, volunteers prepared the equivalent of 31,280 meals, which will be delivered to our community. This organization is making a dent in hunger in our city, and I will definitely be volunteering again.

As for my kid, he learned in a very real way that not all children know where their next meal is coming from. He learned that food needs to be tediously hand sorted and distributed for people to eat. And he learned that both green apples (his favorite fruit) and cabbage (which he had successfully avoided up to that point) were key to our neighbors not going hungry.

God’s joke on us? That evening we got home to a meal prepared by Dave — a sumptuous one-pot pork dish with green apples and sauerkraut!

One Community: February!

One Community is a monthly photoblogging project where participants take pictures of their homes and communities with a theme in mind. The theme varies by month. The goal is to showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide.

Our cues this month come from Africankelli: Heirloom, Style, Heart and Warmth

Heirloom. I have my mother and maternal grandmother’s engagement and wedding rings. I also have my great-aunty Boo’s string of pearls, and a very solid silver filigree clip bracelet that belonged, I believe, to my great grandmother.

But do you know what my most valuable heirlooms are? My granny’s biscuit-colored mixing bowl, and the yellowed bone-handled knife and battered spatula that my mother always used when she made scones and cupcakes. When I cook or bake I feel as close as I possibly can to Mom and Granny Sylvia. They’ve both passed away in the last five years, and using their tools is one of the best ways I know to spend time with them.

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Style. Our home is not filled with a whole lotta fancy. It’s small, so we try to keep it simple and uncluttered. And we tend not to decorate with store-bought stuff — pretty much all the decor in our home is personal and holds meaning.

This little glass bird, for example, belonged to my dad’s mom, my Granny Grace. It was given to her by my grandfather after a trip he made to France, likely in the 1940s. It’s beautiful when the sunlight catches it on my bedroom window sill, and its delicacy reminds me so much of her.

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This vintage map of the Natal coastline hangs on our dining room wall, a reminder of where Dave and I were raised in South Africa and where we met before moving to North America. The place names remind us of different trips and vacations, and I love the simple framing.

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Heart. We love San Diego. Lovelove San Diego. But if there is another place on earth where my heart truly belongs, it is my Granny Sylvia’s family home in Johannesburg, at 60 Dunottar Street, where many of my happiest childhood memories are centered.

On the bookshelves in our San Diego living room, I now have the 80-plus year old house number off the gate at Dunottar street — the low gate and fence, which were replaced with tall concrete and barbed wire as break-ins and violent crime became more prevalent in Joburg in the 1980s.

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This number plaque, and those little wooden elephants too, come to think of it, are representative, and part of the few leftovers of all the years my maternal family spent in that heart-home where my grandmother and her sisters, and my mother too, were all raised.

Below is a picture of my Granny Sylvia in her early twenties, standing between her parents outside the Dunottar street house, her sisters Yvonne and Joy to the left.

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Warmth. Any skill I have with needle and thread, I come by honestly. Heh heh. My mother, grandmothers and great aunts all sewed, knitted and crocheted well. I could do all three by the time I was eight.

When my brother and I were little, my Granny Grace crocheted granny-square blankets for the two of us, and one for each of my four cousins. My mom loved what her mother-in-law had done so much that she did the same as soon as her grandchildren came along.

This blanket is Tau’s — insert link to adorable baby-Tau waking up picture here. It is perfectly matched to the colors in his bedroom, perfectly executed, as only my mother could.

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When Maceo came along, Mom asked for swatches of the colors I was using in his room. It was her way of ensuring that our adopted babe would be wrapped in the same granny-love from the other side of the globe.

Turns out, Mom never got to finish Maceo’s blankie. Rapid-onset dementia meant that she suddenly lost not only her cognitive abilities, but also the ability to see and work with her hands. So when I traveled to be with her, shortly before she died, I made sure that I found the unfinished blanket in her closet, squares neatly organized in a box with all the right hooks and yarn, and brought it home with me to finish. It’s been two years since Mom passed, and it’s finally time for me to take the blanket pieces out the box and learn to crochet again. It’s my project for the year, and it might take me even longer. So be it. My boy will need his blanket. And my Mom will want to know that it’s done.

Click the link below to read more One Community posts and join us!

The Rules: Post one or more photos interpreting the words for the month, and add your blog post to the link-up. Please include a link back to the link-up post on your One Community post, and take a look at some of the other links and comment on them. This link-up is all about building community!

A Very Canadian Christmas

 

A very Canadian Christmas

Except for the part where there was no snow, it was a very Canadian Christmas. We did all the things we love doing in Victoria—bundled up and went walking, took in an ice-hockey game, warmed up in good coffee shops, and visited with all of Dave’s family.

Perhaps because I was more concerned about cramming ALL OF CHRISTMAS (!) into our suitcases before leaving, I forgot to pack my Canon, so the pictures on Flickr are courtesy of my phone unfortunately. Still, I hope you enjoy them!

One Community: November!

A quick post this month for our One Community roundup!

Gratitude. This  summer, old friends of ours moved to San Diego. Steve and Vicki were grad students in Dave’s lab some fifteen years ago when we lived in  British Columbia, Canada. Since then, they have lived all over the United States and had three great kids! Not only have they moved to our city this year — they moved right into our neighborhood! Our kids get on extremely well and for the adults, it’s as if no time has passed at all. That kind of friendship is rare, and I am grateful for this unexpected gift!

Below, Halloween treats for our boys from Steve and Vicki’s three.

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Fun.  The long-awaited taekwondo party for Tau’s birthday was a huge success! The Plants Versus Zombies cake turned out well, and the kids had a blast. Best part of the party, I think, was the Chicken Grab, where each contestant has a rubber chicken tucked into the back of his or her belt. The object of the game is to spar and wrestle on the mat, and the first person to liberate the chicken from their opponent is the winner. Much fun had by all!

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Blue. This boy recently discovered the local library not only as an endless supply of books, but as a place where you can RUN without getting too lost or your mother freaking out too much. It is also the home of the FISHES. We love them FISHES!

It is in moments like this one, where I see him boost his small body up on tippy toes on the librarian’s step stool to seek out the fishes who are “hiding, Mom!” that I realize how just big he is getting. As he steps into those small blue Crocs, which used to be his older brother’s.

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Home. We had two other families over for the night of Halloween. We ordered in good pizza and served champagne with spiders in it for the adults, punch with eyeballs and witches’ fingers for the little people. And our home was suitably decorated for once!

Then we took the kids out trick or treating around the ‘hood, which because we live in a dense townhome development, makes for good candy bang for your buck. Our kids came home with loads of sweets! I told Tau the dentist would buy it all back from him for a dollar a pound, but he figured that he had about three pounds and that three bucks was not a good deal!

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See you next month, all!

One Community is a monthly photo project in which participants photograph their homes and communities with a theme in mind. The theme varies by month. The goal is to both showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide – and bring us all closer together in understanding through art.

Each month, one of the hosts picks four words for us to interpret through photographs of what we see around us in our daily lives. You can see my previous entries for July, August and September. Starting this month, we’re opening this project up to anyone who would like to participate! We would love to have you join us! The link-up will begin on October 5th and stay open for one week.

The Rules: Post one or more photos interpreting the words for the month, and add your blog post to the link-up. Please include a link back to the link-up post on your One Community post, and take a look at some of the other links and comment on them. This link-up is all about building community!

One Community: October!


October in San diego is a flippy-floppy month. Turning leaves, hot Santa Ana winds, barreling towards the holidays, still wearing open shoes. October has a hard time making up his mind.

October is also Tau’s birthday, which brings me to our first word for this month’s One Community post:

Plants. Versus Zombies. Even though the boy’s birthday party is at his taewkondo studio, and will entail lots of kicking, punching and shouting “Ai-yaaaaah!” he has asked, repeatedly, for a Plants vs. Zombies cake.

Plants vs. Zombies is one of Tau’s favorite games, so yes, even though it messes hugely with my obsessive need for birthday-party theme matchi-matchiness, I will be making a cake next weekend with pea-shooting plants and nasty-looking zombies on it. Below? Making sure the characters will fit on the cake pan I plan to use.

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Bake. Though, technically, these are no-bake. Last weekend, I whipped up a pan of crack. Chocolate Rice Crispie Square crack. The recipe? Here it is — you’re welcome!

Chocolate Rice Crispie Squares

  • 5-6 tablespoons of butter (a little more than half a stick)
  • 10-14 oz of mini marshmallows
  • Approximately 12-14 oz of chocolate rice crispie cereal.

Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray, or grease it with butter. Melt the 5-6 spoons of butter in a medium-sized saucepan on medium-low heat. When butter is melted, add the marshmallows and stir constantly until fully melted. Remove from heat and add the cereal, stirring gently until fully combined. You can tell that you need to add more cereal if it still looks gooey. When it’s the right consistency, it’ll be sticky and kind of stringy but still pliable.

Immediately spoon into the pan and gently press flat. Wait about an hour to cut, and store covered in the pan or on a plate once cut.

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Orange and Activity. This past weekend, Tau tested for his full orange belt. And the boy aced it. Booyah! Even though his arm has been in a cast throughout September, he continued going to the studio. In these pictures, you can see that he is still wearing a wristguard to protect his wrist while it strengthens. Their new goal word at taekwondo this cycle is perseverance. “That will be easy, Mom. I know about perseverance.” Yes, you do, hon.

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One Community is a monthly photo project in which participants photograph their homes and communities with a theme in mind. The theme varies by month. The goal is to both showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide – and bring us all closer together in understanding through art.

Each month, one of the hosts picks four words for us to interpret through photographs of what we see around us in our daily lives. You can see my previous entries for July, August and September. Starting this month, we’re opening this project up to anyone who would like to participate! We would love to have you join us! The link-up will begin on October 5th and stay open for one week.

The Rules: Post one or more photos interpreting the words for the month, and add your blog post to the link-up. Please include a link back to the link-up post on your One Community post, and take a look at some of the other links and comment on them. This link-up is all about building community!

One Community: September!


I was at a loss this month for our One Community post. Our words to photograph were work, gold, centerpiece and balance — and I had no upcoming celebrations where I might see a centerpiece to photograph or even put one on my own table. Centerpieces are all about Thanksgiving and weddings and Christmas for me. Funny how you can get stuck on something like that.

And then I realized, girl, you have 7303 photos in your Flickrstream. You mean to tell me there isn’t at least one centerpiece among it all?

Turns out there were many, along with plenty of work and gold and balance. And so below I give you a handful of my Flickr faves that speak to my family, my community.

Work. I am fortunate enough right now to work ten minutes away from home, close enough to drop and pick up kids, to take them to doctor appointments and after-school activities, to pick up milk, bread and fruit on my way home. And my kiddos are with me all day at work, along with Yoda of course.

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Gold. Why is it that pictures never do sunrises, sunsets and moonscapes any justice? This was the view from our front door the other night and the whole sky was on fire! Golden! The person who invents an app that can capture that? Will be my hero.

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Centerpiece. Before Maceo, when we were three not four, we used to have very civilized meals. With place settings and tall candles and the good napkins. Now we have rice-n-gravy smooshed into hair and projectile sippy cups and maniacal screeching. Lots of screeching.

And before we were three, we were two, just a man and a woman. And we bought those beautiful pewter figures you see on the table, which are actually a salt and pepper set. One day our table will look like this again, and we will look back and be thankful for all the crazy and the laughter that Tau and Maceo brought with them.

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Balance. Ahem! Talking about the crazy. You are not allowed to walk on the balance beam until you are in third grade. Third day of third grade? We lost our balance and fractured both the left elbow and wrist. We had visits to Urgent Care and the ER, multiple x-rays and a CT scan, and now we’re a week into four weeks of an awesome red cast. Go us!

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One Community participants include:

Sarah is a life-long Missourian who shares her home with her husband, two sons, and an old grumpy dachshund. Like every good Midwesterner, she can (and will) talk to you at length about the weather. Sarah blogs at http://www.beautyschooldropout.net.

Colleen lives with her handsome hubster and two feisty felines in Portland, Oregon. She loves rain and sun (in that order), words and pictures, and chatting up the neighbors. She blogs at: http://www.underaredroof.com

Rebekah lives in Kilkenny, Ireland with her husband. An American by birth, she’s discovering what it means to be an expat on the Emerald Isle. She blogs at: http://www.honeysucklelife.com

Kara is a cheerful nerd living in downtown Phoenix, AZ with her law-studying husband and an anxious pound puppy. She works full time in the mental health field but in her off time enjoys sunshine, great food and the occasional craft beer. She blogs at: http://www.sunshine-cupcakes.com

Teresa lives in Massachusetts with her husband, college aged daughter and two crazy cats. She is a creative spirit who tries to find the lesson, blessing and humor in everything and she blogs at http://laughteramongtears.blogspot.com/

Kelli lives in Phoenix with her dog, Willie Nelson Mandela. She is a novelist, public health advocate and United Methodist. She blogs at: http://www.africankelli.com

Stephanie is a lifelong Wyomingite with ranch girl roots. She has her own marketing and graphic design business and in her free time, she enjoys knitting, fishing with her boyfriend, and team roping. She blogs at: http://www.nowicanseethemoon.co

Eduarda is a curious, visual creature who believes all pictures tell a story. She hails from Mozambique, via Portugal and NJ, and now is desert rate living with her husband and two teenage daughters in Chandler, AZ. She blogs at: http://of-blue.blogspot.com/

One Community: August!


We’re away for a week with friends in Ojai, CA, just northwest of Los Angeles. And while I remembered to bring my good camera, I forgot my USB cable.

So we’re going to Instagram it this month for One Community, our monthly photo project in which bloggers take pictures of their homes and communities with four theme words in mind.

Today we visited close-by Santa Barbara, a city I love and that we’ve visited many times. Our friends were new to the city, so we visited the mission, ate fish tacos and walked State Street.

Anyhow, I managed to juggle my Canon (sans USB, so you’ll have to wait for those), my iPhone, the stroller and a gaggle of kids, and still got a few pics.

Our four words for August:

Ice cream. Well, really, frozen yogurt, and my favorite kind — Pinkberry. I chose chocolate thinking there would be nuts to add as a topping. But no nuts, and so I had to add strawberries and cheesecake balls. A bit much but I needed a luscious ice cream photo, right?

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Bright. A gorgeous tile mosaic in the entrance to Lululemon on State Street today. This Instagram photo? No filter. No filter, I tell you.

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Numbers. If you’ve visited Santa Barbara, you know the architecture has a heavy Spanish influence. And what’s Santa Barbara — hey, what’s Southern California — without Spanish ceramic house numbers?

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Finally, we wrapped up a long day of tourism with carne and pollo asado tortillas, and a soak under the stars and palm trees at the gorgeous house we’re renting. Dave snapped this one of Maceo and I in the hot tub — SPLASH!  Hope you’re all enjoying August friends!

 

Splash

 

One Community participants include:

Sarah is a life-long Missourian who shares her home with her husband, one (soon to be 2) son(s), and an old grumpy dachshund. Like every good Midwesterner, she can (and will) talk to you at length about the weather. Sarah blogs at http://www.beautyschooldropout.net.

Colleen lives with her handsome hubster and two feisty felines in Portland, Oregon. She loves rain and sun (in that order), words and pictures, and chatting up the neighbors. She blogs at: http://www.underaredroof.com

Rebekah lives in Kilkenny, Ireland with her husband. An American by birth, she’s discovering what it means to be an expat on the Emerald Isle. She blogs at: http://www.honeysucklelife.com

Kara is a cheerful nerd living in downtown Phoenix, AZ with her law-studying husband and an anxious pound puppy. She works full time in the mental health field but in her off time enjoys sunshine, great food and the occasional craft beer. She blogs at: http://www.sunshine-cupcakes.com

Teresa lives in Massachusetts with her husband, college aged daughter and two crazy cats. She is a creative spirit who tries to find the lesson, blessing and humor in everything and she blogs at http://laughteramongtears.blogspot.com/

Kelli lives in Arizona with her dog, Willie Nelson Mandela. A native Arizonan, she is enamored by the lush landscape, and looking to build community. She is a novelist, public health advocate and United Methodist. She blogs at: http://www.africankelli.com

Stephanie is a lifelong Wyomingite with ranch girl roots. She has her own marketing and graphic design business and in her free time, she enjoys knitting, fishing with her boyfriend, and team roping. She blogs at: http://www.nowicanseethemoon.co

Eduarda is a curious, visual creature who believes all pictures tell a story. She hails from Mozambique, via Portugal and NJ, and now is desert rate living with her husband and two teenage daughters in Chandler, AZ. She blogs at: http://of-blue.blogspot.com/