Archive for ‘food’

June 8, 2014

Furlough Anticipation

by mendibpng

IMG_6039 crop
Along with the grieving comes little moments of anticipation of things we are looking forward to enjoying in the first world.  It’s pretty common that one of the following comes up in conversation in family discussions:

  • seeing family and friends who we haven’t seen in four years (of course this is the TOP one)
  • buying baked goods (like bread) that I won’t have to make unless I really want to!
  • having a hot shower anytime of the day or night
  • being able to buy grocery items at about 1/4 of what we pay here (cereal, peanut butter, cheese, meat, etc.)
  • buying presents for our kids’ birthdays/Christmas right away, instead of planning 6-8 months ahead and figuring out how to ship them overseas…
  • grocery shopping at NIGHT and on holidays (ie the freedom to pop out for something)
  • using a clothes dryer
  • smooth roads
  • going to church
  • being able to eat out at a restaurant. Eating at Portillos first is one of our traditions!
  • enjoying fruits that we can’t get here: grapes, plums, blueberries, pears, etc.
  • taking the kids to pools to swim, museums, parks, and other fun activities
  • catching up on movies, shows and books we’ve missed out on while out of the country
  • foods like BACON and PEPPERONI
  • holding hands in public with Ben
  • highspeed/inexpensive internet
  • sidewalks

While I wrote this, I consulted my family. Noah piped up, “don’t forget to say ‘pizza.’ I love American pizza, and foodwise, basically just meat.” Then Ellie added, “shops…I can’t wait to get new clothes.” This is by no means a comprehensive list but it’s just a few things that popped into my mind. As I use up things in my kitchen, I keep thinking about the new memories we are going to make with family and friends and it is a wonderful feeling. (smiles)


April 26, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: traditions, why??

by mendibpng

Last year we celebrated a Passover Seder for the first time, thinking we would want to make it a family tradition in years to come. However, Easter just happened to fall after three weeks of meetings and our Branch conference and also on the weekend before our family planned to leave for a short vacation before heading to our village in Arop for a translation workshop.

The elements required for a seder: parsley, salt water, bitter herbs, boiled eggs and lettuce.

I thought and thought about it, and something drove me to do a Seder, even with the other stresses lingering. Last year, it was all new to me but I had kept all the recipes and lists I needed to pull it off. I decided this year to make things as simple as possible.  But the ‘day of’ our anticipated Seder rolled around and I wasn’t feeling great. Ben asked me if I really wanted to do this thing and as soon as I hit the kitchen I knew I did. It felt like some inner force compelling me to go ahead. I’m so glad I did…here are some pictures from that night.

Luke looks on while Jenny Beth dips parsley into salt water signifying the Israelites’ tears and bitterness upon their slavery in Egypt.
“Pass the Matzah bread, Noah!”

Our festivities weren’t over, though! Sunday morning we all traipsed down the hill for a Easter sunrise service and potluck breakfast.
One of the fun Ukarumpa traditions on Easter is for everyone to come with a flower to decorate the cross during a short worship service.

When we got back from the sunrise service, I worked on our lunch of ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted broccoli and hot cross buns.

Ever since the Seder, I’ve been asking myself why do I make such a big deal about holidays? I have to admit that I do not stay up all night cooking the day before, nor do I require people to dress in their best clothes—we’re talking more of casual traditions…I do what I can and what I want to do in the moment.

For my important disclaimer: I am NOT a homemaking goddess. I dearly wish I was less of a messie and more of a perfectionist in all things. And yet, I would very much prefer to throw something together without a recipe, unless I was making it for the first time. It doesn’t always come out the way it’s supposed to!  Even of they aren’t perfect, the things I can manage to throw together at the last minute mean something to me.

Since I love making lists, here are the reasons I came up with, starting from the most important:

  1. The deeper parts of me, being a ‘homeless Third Culture Kid’ is a big part of why traditions are important to me. Creating memories with my family gives me a sense of belonging and satisfaction and I hope it serves that purpose for my TCK kids and husband (he misses home too!). I think it effectively acts like a balm to the grief of separation from loved ones.
  2. Traditions make our family more cohesive. We’ve all got a comfortable feeling of “this is what we do.” We’re a unit.
  3. I do traditions because I enjoy it. I remember someone give me good advice: “keep on doing things that you enjoy even when you are overseas—this will help you be there longer.”
  4. Traditions make me feel closer to those we are separated from. Some day, we will be back in the U.S. celebrating Christmas with both sets of grandparents after a separation of four years.
  5. Celebrating traditions expresses to those around our table that they are worth the effort of whatever we have done to celebrate the occasion. I suppose food is always a big part of these things, and food must be one of my love languages to others.
  6. It’s a chance for all of us to do something together. Often someone’s helping me in the kitchen to stir the gravy or Ellie’s out picking a beautiful bouquet for the table. The twins, now three, especially feel like Big Kids when given a job to do.
  7. We often have the chance to celebrate with friends, who essentially have become our family whilst living overseas. I love making memories with friends!
  8. Traditions give us a chance to stop and think about the significant event that we are celebrating (someone’s birthday, Jesus’ birth, how much we love each other…in this case, how the Israelites escaped Egypt and how their story relates to Jesus’ death and resurrection….)
  9. Ben gets into the festivities just as much as I do and so it’s something fun we enjoy doing together.
  10. Doing ‘tradition’ with littlies is really fun for all of us big people. The joy that crosses their face at a chocolate Easter egg, for instance, cannot be matched anywhere.
March 6, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: bread making and being impatient

by mendibpng


So last week I made English Muffins for the first time. Correction: second time. The first time I didn’t read all the directions (to grill on top of the stove rather than bake in the oven!) and so they turned out to resemble regular bread rolls. They were fine and we still ate them…but if I had taken the time to read all the directions they might have turned out better! This week a friend of mine sent me her English Muffin recipe and I decided to follow it by the book, except to multiply it by 3 because we consume so much food in a day. The muffins turned out good but I did wonder later, if I had let the dough rise the 2nd time, and if I had started them on lower heat (thus taking longer time to cook) would they have been even better? In general, I think my bread would always turn out better if I let the sponge (yeast, water, sugar) go a little longer, let the dough rise longer or leave it in the oven longer. I am in such a hurry to get to the next step!

My bread baking is really a reflection of my personality. I can be impulsive and quick to act without thinking, particularly when life seems overwhelming to me. There are too many things to accomplish in a day and my brain frequently feels like a ping pong table! In recent years and months, I’ve tried to take some lessons from others who take time to think about things before doing them. I’m not saying that I expect myself to be perfect but I do like to keep making progress in character issues, and this is one of my ‘biggies’. I love James 1:19 (New Living Translation)

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

So for today, I’m praying for the grace to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Interestingly, when I do slow down enough to listen I find that there’s more opportunity to let God into my conversations. I’ve just gotta get out of the way.

February 23, 2013

Confessions of a missionary wife: on hoarding and other stuff…

by mendibpng

jacob and cargo

(above) Jacob helps add to the cargo pile after we landed at Lumi on a Kodiak airplane, and waited for the helicopter to take us in three shuttles to our village. Note that only part of our cargo is pictured here!

What do malaria (and other) medicines, mosquito nets, school books, cameras, computers, clothes, food and toiletries all have in common? These are the things we pack to take to the village every time we go.

We have no stores out there and no way to replenish cargo if we run out. So I spend a great deal of time planning ahead to make sure that we don’t run out of something essential, like toilet paper!  It means that for our family of eight (including an intern this year) I ask Ben to book at least 200 or more kilos (440 pounds) of space on the airplane and helicopter if we are using it.

Here is a small sample of the list I use: (this is based on my next village stay of 6 weeks) As you can imagine, the list is fairly extensive although I do save a lot of space by dehydrating vegetables, meat and beans from the market here.

Item: Needed per week Total


11 lb

66 lb


8 lb

48 lb

Canned tomatoes



Canned corn



Cases of 2 minute noodles


3 cases


2 lb

12 lb

Peanut butter

1 medium jar


Packets of Tang



Rolls of TP



Although I always make a effort to take just the Essential Items, I inevitably end up feeling like I am going overboard when I see the GIANT pile of boxes and other cargo ready to be picked up by aviation. Once I’m in the village, however, I am always glad for the things I brought out with me. This happens every single time, even though I’ve been going to and from the village for 10 years.  Ben, bless him, doesn’t complain about how much food I pack for our family so that helps tremendously.

Which leads me to the wonderful passage that I learned as a child:

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

There have been times when we’ve gotten to the end of a village stay with very little food left but we’ve never gone hungry! I do have a tendency to ‘hoard’ items when we are out in the village (HIDE the chocolate everybody!) just because I want to make them last the whole time…but if I run out of specialty items, it’s really not the end of the world. Our heavenly father has always provided everything we need.

I won’t lie, I do obsess about food items sometimes, especially when an item I like is either not available or too expensive for me to buy. Or when a village trip is looming ahead. But I am resolved to keep the “do not worry” in the forefront of my mind, as seeking first His kingdom is really where I want to put my focus.


September 6, 2012

Manna in the wilderness

by mendibpng

OK, so I’m not exactly in the wilderness…just the jungle..

and these beauties aren’t manna…

they are small mandarin flavored lemons. We buy them for 10 toea tu tu (5 cents for every two). They are about the size of a U.S. half dollar coin, and are easy to use.  Our three year olds are able to squeeze the juice out of them! We use them in lemon meringue pie, lemonade, Peruvian lime soup, and anything else we need lemons for.

Here are a couple of other unexpected ‘food’ blessings we had this week:

Aupa, the green leafy vegetable in my large cooking pot, is one of my favorite greens here. It has a mild flavor and I use it as a substitute for spinach in omelets, quiche, lasagna,  stir fries and curries. p.s. I have it in water because I don’t have refrigeration. It keeps for a couple of days that way. This aupa turned into Malaysian curry.

And finally, the snake bean and long wrinkly green beans. Both of these are wonderful in stirfries/fried rice/curries. The snake bean has the flavor of a green bean but it is hollow inside. I scoop out the seeds and dice it up like a green pepper. The long wrinkly green bean can be a bit tough but I cut it up really small and it is yummy.

In the last few years, I had heard that our market (once a week) was closed. It was rare for us to get much of anything fresh here except what children came to sell us at our door.  Now there is market two times a week about 30 minutes walk away, and a friend of ours generously offered this week to go for us. We can totally survive on the dehydrated beans, meat and veggies that I brought with us but it’s fun to have something fresh to cut up once in a while! Yay.

July 23, 2012

Are you weary?

by mendibpng

Tonight I heard Ben singing songs and reading a Bible story to the twins, and I thought about how wonderful it was that he was doing that while I cleaned up the kitchen. I literally haven’t read them anything today. After I cleaned the counters and mopped up the spills on the floor, I thought grumpily, “I’m just gonna have to do this again tomorrow.” I didn’t spend hours cooking today (that was yesterday!) but I did spend a lot of my waking hours taking the twins to use the potty.

It’s easy for me to go from being thankful for the abundance in my life to letting the mundane things of life overwhelm me. All it takes is one of the twins crying for a drink, and the other one pipes in…while they are crying, another child needs something and pretty soon it appears that all five of them need something at once. To be fair, school started last week so after 8:30 in the morning on school days all I have left at home are the twins.  Today, however, was a school holiday so all of the kids were home. One of my children (who will remain unnamed) began whistling. Another one left papers and trash in an area where I had just cleaned and all of my emotions started going haywire. With each annoyance, my internal frustration mounted. I thought to myself “I’m overreacting. What is wrong with me??” It finally hit me. I realized it was nearly 11:00 am and I hadn’t eaten anything!!  Funnily enough, when I started telling Ben the story at lunch, before I got to the epiphany, he asked “did you forget to eat?”  We both started laughing.

A little splash of grace came when a good friend of mine stopped by unexpectedly just as I finished making my omelet.  She’s the kind of person who doesn’t care about my messy house and really just came to see me. So when she showed up, I realized that having another adult to tell my ‘mundane’ story to made a huge difference in my outlook.

Here is the crux of the matter for me. It’s rather simple. Eating and sleeping are essential to me being a happy mother. When my basic self care measures are in place, I feel more equipped to deal with any adversity and yes, even silly things like whistling! I apologized to one of my kids, and I realized he had no idea what was tumbling around in this head of mine…I was a time bomb that nobody besides me knew about!  Added to the self care plan is just plain old thankfulness. If some small thing can send me spiralling into self pity, then one of those things or all of them are usually the culprit.

A friend of mine recently gave me a devotional called “Jesus Calling” that I would highly recommend to any mom of small children. I keep it in the bathroom because that is the one place I have at least a couple of minutes to myself every day. Here’s an entry I loved:

Rest in my presence when you need refreshment. Resting is not necessarily idleness as people often percieve it. When you relax in My company, you are demonstrating trust in Me. Trust is a rich word, laden with meaning and direction for your life. I want you to lean on, trust and be confident in Me.  When you lean on Me for support, I delight in your trusting confidence.

Many people turn away from Me when they are exhausted. They assoicate Me with duty and diligence, so they try to hide from My Presence when they need a break from work. How this saddens Me! As I spoke through My prophet Isaiah: In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.   (Sarah Young)

Proverbs 3:5, Isaiah 30:15

And with that, I’m heading to bed because I need to get three kids off to school bright and early tomorrow and get those twins to the potty every 15-20 minutes. Or I might take them to our lovely little daycare and start potty training again in the afternoon.



June 27, 2012

You know you are in Ukarumpa when…(a mom’s perspective)

by mendibpng

My friend Clare helped me come up with a few of these… J

  • Seeing liquid dish soap (or some other item you’ve been pining for) in the store makes you excited
  • A package from your home country is the highlight of the week…or month…or year!
  • All of your friends live within walking distance.
  • Your kids have dried mud on their legs from the knees down
  • You know when to expect your children home from school because you hear the school bell from your house
  • You encounter people from many different nationalities at the store. I once counted seven nationalities from one trip alone!
  • Herbs and veggies grow year ‘round in your garden.
  • The sun coming out means you can have a hot shower and get your laundry dry.
  • You buy a crazy supply of the thing you love to cook with because next week it may not be available for several months. (I have 3 bottles of Hot Wings sauce in my pantry.)
  • Bible study is your ‘night out’ with your husband.
  • A trip to the nearest town (30 minutes drive away) is the first outing off center you’ve had in months. We call it ‘retail therapy.’
  • You try to sneak out to the fruit and vegetable market at 6.30 am, but your children all wake up and want to come with you.
  • A sun shiny day means you can get the baby pool out but you have to add several buckets of warm water so that the kids lips don’t turn blue.
  • You take the time to roll out tortillas and make pizza from scratch because food from your home country is comforting.
  • A girl’s night out can be a sleepover at the volunteer center, a trip to the sauna or a movie night at someone’s house.
  • A ‘date’ night with your husband is putting the kids to bed early and having a late candlelight supper at home because there are no places to eat out.
April 27, 2012

my struggles with weight loss and stress eating

by mendibpng

In the midst of packing for the village and getting ready to go to Australia, I thought I’d do a little navel gazing about one of my favorite topics: food!

I spend a great deal of time thinking about, preparing and eating food. Because we live in a country where we can’t eat out or buy much pre-packaged food, I find myself working hard to make things from scratch. It activates the creative itch I have and it settles a basic need for me to feed my family of seven. I usually don’t know what I am going to cook until the day of because I have to have an urge to cook something before I can make myself do it. I usually try out at least one or two new recipes a week just to keep things interesting. I also make large portions of food because my kids are eating more as they get bigger.

I grew up in Indonesia and Malaysia, where flavorful food is plentiful and delightful. In my years here in PNG, I’ve worked on learning to cook my favorite dishes and it makes me feel a teeny bit less homesick for those faraway lands.

One of the consequences of loving to cook and eat is gaining weight (sigh) Before I had children, it seemed like I could eat anything I wanted and the pounds never added up. I added weight with every child and the pounds are a lot harder than I ever thought to lose! I would do it all again, though, for the chance to be a mom to my beloved children.

With missionary life comes a share of transition, culture stress and just general living stress (these are topics which I seem to cycle back to regularly on this blog). I often find myself stress eating…a little chocolate here, a few bites of leftovers there and voila! I’m back where I started. I think cold weather also makes me want to eat more, since when I am in our hot village sweating profusely I hardly wish to eat at all. Ukarumpa is located in the highlands so we have chilly nights…which means I want my comfort food!

One of the things I have appreciated over the past year is encouragement from my friend Kristen, who is a successful Weight Watcher. I tried doing South Beach but got fed up trying to figure out how to do that here with the lack of ingredients. With Weight Watchers, I learned that I could eat vegetarian food for a lot less points AND not go hungry. Also since coming back from furlough, the price of groceries has gone up and so losing weight and keeping my store bills down has led me to work on increasing vegetarian foods in our diet. I found that not only is it serving those purposes but I’ve also felt better physically since doing this. We still have meat but in smaller portions and I limit my carb intake. Additionally, I’ve been working hard to get myself to the market at 6:30 am several times a week so that we have plenty of fresh fruits and veggies…veggies are free on WW.

So far I haven’t lost much weight because I need to start exercising. But, one step at a time, right?

November 26, 2011

Last thankful post…Happy Chicken Day!

by mendibpng

Here’s a typical PNG chicken, like the ones we cooked today. We got ours from pastors who are raising money for their children’s school fees.

Many of us here in PNG celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday because we don’t get a long weekend like we would at home in the U.S. It gives us the chance to cook our yummy traditional food and spend time hanging out with friends afterwards.

Earlier in the week, I felt a teeny bit down because I had really wanted to make an apple pie to take to our gathering but there were no apples in the store. Somehow I remembered someone saying that they had tried a zucchini mock apple pie and found a highly rated recipe on It went over really well, some saying they didn’t even know it wasn’t apples! I guess that goes to show that the really important part is the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Thank you, Lord, for little blessings like “apple pie” in Papua New Guinea.

As I prepared food this morning, I remembered how my mom taught us to cook when we were young girls. I could hear her advice in my head all those years ago as I was rolling out the pie crusts and was wishing we could have done that together today.

In the absence of family, though, we had a wonderful time with friends…eating, playing touch football, having dessert and then playing table games. The best thing, I thought, was watching our kids laugh and have a good time with their friends playing the hilarious game of Quelf. Also our two year olds did well, and only started to get fussy when we were getting ready to leave for home. If you have twins, you will know the huge sense of relief I felt for that. 🙂

On another note, with the multicultural course in mind, the thing that struck me today was how smoothly the food was served (no concerns about who would go first and how much they could take), how easy it was to converse (not worrying about offending someone by saying something ‘American’) and how easily we did the dishes together afterwards. I am facinated by cultural differences in eating, visiting and cleaning habits. I spend a lot of time here feeling concerned about people from other cultures and being careful not to offend, but it was nice today to be able to revert to my home country’s way of doing things and be able to relax at my friend’s house.

Thank you, Lord, for a holiday focused on giving thanks and for good friends to share it with.

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