Friday, May 1, 2015

missionary cookbook // go bananas

Here in Honduras, we always have lots of bananas... and if you are gifted them, it's often an entire stalk of 40+ of them straight off the tree. And they ripen extremely fast, even with all the tricks in the world (separating each banana, putting wrap/foil on the stems etc, etc.). So I like finding ways to use them, like these two recipes, that are super easy and quick. It's also perfect if you're ever feeling defeated and like you can't bake anything (everyone has those days!), and it's really perfect if you have surprise visitors!


This is the very first recipe I made here in Honduras that has never ceased to go over perfectly with each of my Honduran friends, though so many never had heard of it before! Simple but great.

Perfect Banana Muffins
Makes: 12-15 muffins
Time: Prep - 10 minutes // Bake - 15 minutes
3 browned bananas (if you're feeling crazy, 4)
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mash the bananas but not too much, and then beat in the eggs, followed by the sugar. Then mix in the oil & the vanilla. (This is your liquid base.) Mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl together, then add to the wet ingredients and blend well. Bake in a greased muffin tin at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes or until brown and a fork comes out clean. You can do this all with a hand mixer, but it's really not necessary. Fork/whisk/mixing spoon/whatever works just fine.

Now this recipe is really not all that fancy, and baking powder and baking soda can be substituted in for each other (in different amounts) whenever needed with this, so that's great. Sometimes you can't find both! But please, whatever do, be patient enough to wait until your bananas have browned a lot. Overripe bananas make a huge difference. I might have learned this the hard way. If you want do want to be fancy though, you can either make a streusel topping or a simple glaze to finish! We almost always do one or the other. (Oh, who am I kidding, Jamey loves any excuse to have icing.)


Another similar, yet more dessert-like to way to use up your bananas is this great banana coffee cake. It's perfect for dessert, or if you want, breakfast! I love making this recipe when I want to be sure that I have plenty for however many people come over. 

Banana Bread Coffee Cake
Makes: 1 - 13x9in cake
Time: Prep - 10 minutes // Bake - 45 minutes
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
½ cup butter, room temperature
3-4 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk

Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas, then mix in the sugar. Next, beat in the butter. Beat in the eggs and vanilla together. Mix the dry ingredients well with the wet ingredients. Lastly, pour in one cup of milk. Mix well. It will be a lot of batter and it will be runny.

You'll also need to make a crumb topping and a glaze if desired (see below). I just make it in a greased 9x13 pan, pour in the batter, top evenly with crumb topping mixture, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.

*For a crumb topping, you can use anything from brown sugar, regular sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon to make it how you like it. I make it different every time. If it looks like streusel topping, I'm sure it will taste fine! The glaze is powdered sugar with a dash of milk to make it liquid-y enough to pour. If you pour too much milk, add more sugar to reach desired consistency.

This cake is really sweet, y'all. But not as rich as Truvy's Cuppa, Cuppa, Cuppa, so don't worry. It serves plenty and is perfect for a crowd!

Missionary Tips:

- The only mission field hard to find ingredient in these recipes should be vanilla extract. Remember that there is a big difference difference between extract and concentrate. Concentrate is fair more available here in Honduras than extract and I have to pay close attention to the labels. Best bet: ask for some in a care package or bring some with you from a trip home.

- Pictured above in my muffin tin are my silicone baking cups. Now I'm up to several different silicone items in my kitchen, and I love each one of them. They are SO useful anywhere, but especially in the mission field where cooking spray is expensive! You do have to condition them with oil the first few uses, but after that you can reuse them each time without oil. Talk about budget friendly and environment friendly!

- Want another tip for using up your bananas? Substitute eggs for bananas when making brownies. Yum!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

lessons // cultural physical gestures

I have been obsessing over reading expat blogs lately and loving the hilarious culture mixing stories and, honestly, how much I can relate to them. It's really fun to read something that isn't like what my life used to be back home, what my life could be like (again, at home in the US), or what I could imagine life as. It's stuff that we're going through right now, and it is quite the breath of fresh air. (Currently, I really resonating with this post, and definitely this one, and still laughing from reading this one.) Jamey and I seriously need more expat friends so they can tell us more funny stories like the ones we've experienced being in our host culture.

One of the things that I was recently laughing about was the differences in common physical mannerisms used here in Honduras in contrast to the ones used in the States that I was explaining in one of my English class lessons. Trust me, my friend that I was teaching was laughing just as hard as I was. I would describe a situation and ask her to show me how she would do whatever phrase without words. Knowing what her answers would be (very different than mine), I asked her to go first and said that I would show her the way I do it second. She was amazed at the results, simply because some things I did made absolutely no sense to her. She said "What are you doing? That means the same thing to you as what I just did?". Yes, the same thing.... just in different cultures.

So, I thought it would be fun to share a few Honduran physical mannerisms that were the topic of conversation, that over the last year and a half Jamey and I have learned to love to use here. We'll place the GIF before the description just for fun, so that you can try to guess what it is before you read about it. (Please excuse our not-so-high-quality GIF making. We put these together quickly!)

Example #1: The Lip Point

Thought it may seem like I'm blowing the most intense kiss ever to Jamey, I'm not. This is how Honduran's point! It's rude to point with your finger, unless whatever it is that you're talking about is rather far away. Instead, you purse your lips strongly and raise your chin in the general direction of the object. Sometimes it's not always extremely specific, but it can definitely get someone to look behind them or take another look more closely. It's extremely effective, and if done quickly, discrete as well.

Example #2: The Hand Slap

Now, yes, there has to be a better name for this one but, to me, it's not really able to be described in a few words. Though here it is show really fast and not exactly clear, what you do is put the tips of your thumb and middle finger together like you are going to snap with your index finger limp. Instead of snapping, you shake your hand rapidly, which causes you index finger to flap around and make a loud noise when it hits your hand. Jamey can actually do it well, but I still can't... mainly because I think my mind knows that my index finger might get injured and doesn't allow it to move like that! This motion is commonly done in moments where we might say "Ohhh ouch", "Ohhhhhhhhhh my GOSH", or "Holy crap!", like when someone says something that they shouldn't have, you paid a price for something way over the fair/reasonable price, etc. Again, very hard to explain but any Latino instantly recognizes it!

Example #3: The Elbow Tap

The elbow tap is another motion that requires absolutely no words, but carries a big meaning. If you tap you elbow like this, or maybe say something like "need a little oil for this spot?" while touching your elbow, this means you are calling someone tight, stingy, or a penny-pincher. Many people look to make jokes with this move.

Example #4: The "Come Here" Motion

So we're still trying to master this one, but to do a "come here" motion, you hold your arm out, make your wrist fall limp, then flop your hand up and down a little. Now, imagine this in contrast to our custom, which is to fold in our elbow, hold our hand upward, and move it away from us then towards us. My friend especially thinks the way we do it makes absolutely no sense to her. She laughed about our differences on this motion for a good 5 minutes and told me that ours looks like we are fanning ourselves!

We hope you enjoyed this post and our attempt to do this physical gestures correctly. Now imagine -- we have described here only physical gesture differences in culture!! There are so many other differences that you would never guess, that we will have to report on another day.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

personal // gracia -- easter conference 2015

As some of you may know from us talking about it last year, the whole week of Easter is celebrated in Honduras. Mostly everyone is off from work and goes on some sort of vacation or on a trip to see family that lives further away. Within GCLA, we celebrate "Semana Santa" (Holy Week) with an annual Easter conference that takes place from Wednesday to Friday in San Pedro Sula. It concludes on Friday, as Good Friday is the major celebrated day of the week (rather than Resurrection Sunday, as it is for us back in the U.S.).

The annual conference is really big; it gathers together various people from the over 30 churches in the network. 
This year the conference was called "Gracia" (grace). We especially enjoyed talks about how God can work in our lives when we live in humility, about how there comes a point in every lost person's life that only grace can truly save them, and much more. Obviously, grace is an absolutely crucial topic for our faith.

While we could list out all of the things we did on our trip, we think it is more important to be real and honest about our week. Missionary life is far from perfect and sometimes would not even be described as good. Any missionary will tell you that your purpose in being here is God teaching you about all of the ugly in yourself just as much as it is you attempting to be the hands and feet. But sometimes we feel that people expect a lot of of us (and sometimes we even expect a lot of ourselves) and for that reason, we can easily get caught up in listing all of the things we did. It can often be a product of our U.S. "do, do, do" checklist mentality.

But we are broken. Yes, even especially missionaries. So not only did we celebrate that Christ is Risen, but this Easter we took extra time to take moments to introspectively look at all of the other blessings and examples of grace in our lives. We'd like to share those moments of blessing and thanksgiving with you.

1) When we traveled on Tuesday to San Pedro Sula, a dangerous city in Honduras, we had something unfortunate happen to us and were able to be taken advantage of because of the large amount of corruption that exists in Honduras with the government, police, people, etc.

But we clearly felt the hand of God protecting us every bit of the way. Also, we were never alone, and felt so loved on by the extended large family of Hondurans we were traveling with. Each moment of being with them was an extension of the love of Christ.

2) This year we did not have English translation like we did last year, but instead listened to and experienced every moment of the conference in Spanish. There were rapidly-spoken skits/plays, session talks that lasted at least 45 minutes each, and so many people to reconnect with from all over the various churches. Our brains were so exhausted at points, which the hot, HOT weather did not help.

But, quite literally by the grace of God, we were able to understand! We learned beautiful new songs that we actually understood the meaning of and could genuinely worship, rather than just trying to hum along. We pleasantly surprised many people as we were able to actually hold conversations with -- some that we hadn't seen since last year -- rather than just nod and smile, say hello, and say "I'm fine, how are you?". We took dozens of notes in a constructive meeting for all of the children's development centers (CDIs) and we are going home more educated -- even though it was all back and forth conversation in Spanish. God is so good!

3) We were busy and there was a lot more going on for us this year. We felt like it was not really a time of rest and "a week off", but actually a time where we would crawl into the bed at midnight and immediately fall asleep. There were times when we felt out of our element, not in control, and we were internally conflicted once again by cultural differences about various things. 

But, we spent some really good time with great friends, got to help out friends, and even help put on a birthday party. We felt more like we knew what was going on this time around, but more importantly we were able to accept that wherever our time was spent is not always our call. It's always a good stretching experience when you have to practice giving up control especially for us as North Americans.  I think that God could teach us all something about that.  

Happy Easter everyone! We hope that you end the holiday feeling just loved, cared for, taught, and guided by Christ as we did.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

highlight // meet caroline

In Honduras, whenever someone stays in your house they are often referred to as your "kids" -- especially if they are the same ages or younger than you and especially if they need to go home in your car with you. It doesn't really matter if it could have been physically possible for you to have a child their age... ;)

With that in mind, we'd like to introduce you to our "hija" (Spanish for "daughter".)

There are lots of things that someone could say about their kid that we would say about Caroline, our intern. She lives in our home, we feed her, and we are generally responsible for her well-being (though we hope we've taught her to make her own good decisions!). She constantly brightens our lives and makes us laugh, and we're really glad to finally have more than just two players when we play games. She is a better surprise than we even thought she would be! (See what I mean about that daughter thing?)

All joking aside, our intern is actually just a few years younger than us. She went to Virginia Tech and New Life Christian Fellowship (NLCF) just like we did. We are thrilled to have her here and we feel like she is the perfect person to be helping us with both of our social projects.

Meet Caroline Stephenson!

1) Tell us more about you.

I was born and raised in Fairfax Virginia. I graduated from Virginia Tech this past December with a BS in Biology. I have three older sisters, two step brothers and a step sister. I like reading, outdoor activities, cooking... EATING and traveling. I especially love everything science/biology related which includes animals and creepy crawlers.

2) Have you ever had any other international experiences? Can you tell us about them?

I studied abroad my sophomore year in Quito, Ecuador. I lived with a host family and attended La Universidad San Francisco de Quito. All of my classes were taught in Spanish and I was able to take Ecology, Ecuadorian culture, Spanish and Andean Archaeology. The greatest experiences I had abroad was when I was able to visit Machu Piccu and the Amazon. While in the Amazon I touched a wild anaconda and a tarantula!

3) What are you most excited about for your time in Danli, Honduras?

I have two things that tie for what I'm most excited about. First, I am excited at the opportunity to build up the kids at the CDI. I have been lucky in that my parents and teachers have always been incredibly supportive of my interests and education. I would love for the kids of the CDI to be so poured into by us teachers that they have confidence in their own abilities and that they believe in themselves.

Second, I am thrilled to be a part to the health promotion classes with the water project. I have long felt a pull toward international health work and this is an opportunity to gain experience in the field. I can't wait to see the water project progress in the Urrutia community and to be able to see God's blessing happen before my eyes.

Picking Caroline up from the airport (left); Introducing her to Honduran pupusas (right). 
4) Tell us about something cool that has already happened or that you have learned about.

This past week we had a visiting mission team from Virginia Tech. I went out evangelizing with them and spoke to an amazing woman named Leticia. Her daughter wasn't able to live with her because the child's father was dangerous and threatened to take the girl away. Leticia now lives with her new husband and fervently prays for a way that her daughter can return safely to live with them. Among all the trials in her life, Leticia's faith is strong and she seeks to give thanks to God every chance she gets. This kind of thanksgiving and faith was amazing to witness and such an encouragement to me. I have so much to learn about finding my joy in Christ amidst any circumstance.

5) What's your favorite thing about Jamey and Lesley?

My favorite thing about Jamey and Lesley is that they seek to make me feel welcome every chance they get. Whether that is inviting me to play card games, introducing me new Honduran places or checking to see how I'm feeling. I feel supported and cared for while living here because they go out of their way to make sure I'm doing well. Oh and they're hilarious...

6) How can we be praying for you personally?

I would love prayers for God's guidance in my life and that I am sensitive to hearing His voice. I am at a place now where big choices need to be made about my future career path. For that reason, I want to make sure that God is at the center of my decision and that I'm following His call.

Hear more from Caroline personally about her time here on her blog.