My Little Shopping Helper

Warning: this blog post is full of 3-year-old cuteness! 💕

Every Thursday afternoon I run all our errands and go grocery shopping. Today was Naomi’s turn to come with me, while Abigail got to spend some special time with Dad. We picked up our friend Ashley and into town we went, where every street vendor wanted to sell us strawberries!

But first, since this is special “Naomi and Mom Time,” we went to my new favorite place, Round and Square.

To say that she likes the Chocolate Cloud Cake would be an understatement! The sugar high hit before she finished the piece of rich cake, so we left the rest. Yes, we walked away from some of the best chocolate cake ever… the gleam in her eye and the increase in energy, chatter, and giggles were warning enough!

Off to Akbanies culinary store next. My little helper was better than a shopping basket in the narrow aisles.

She even paid for her items and collected the receipt!

These stores look beautiful and shiny, and yes, they have wonderful things in them… with better selection than most people think we have in Africa, but this is still Africa! Ashley and I were talking about Naomi being born in Malawi, and we decided that since the term “African American” was already in use elsewhere, Naomi would have to be considered an American African. The term fits her perfectly – she feels right at home in this country of contrasts!

Part of the goal for the day was to show Ashley a few of the lesser known stores in town. As Tutlas was just around the corner, we stopped by to show Ashley the largest selection of spices in town! (And they had thyme! Yippee!)

Last up, our mainstay grocery store: Chipiku. I do about 80% of our shopping here, and even have my grocery list organized by aisle. The girls like it because I get them a little Energade (like Gatorade) and I let them ride in the cart. The cart is such an important part of shopping for them that they have serious culture shock when we go to America and they see signs on shopping carts that say kids can’t sit in the cart! We live dangerously here in Malawi!

After 3 hours of errands and adventure shopping, my helper and I are tired and ready to head home. Our last treat of the day was to drive home into a beautiful African sunset.


We have a pretty good tailor here in Lilongwe, but sometimes it just works better to fix your own clothes. Besides which, I like sewing!

Over the last couple days, I worked on tailoring Matt’s dress pants and cargo pants. If you know Matt, you’ll know he is slender. Clothes have a tendency to look baggy on him. So we fixed that!

My 1941 Singer sewing machine is pretty simple compared to modern sewing machines, but it gets the job done.

Once we have the fit right, my more modern Brother overlocker machine trims the excess and gives us a reinforced seam.

You don’t have to know how to sew to be a missionary, but it sure does help sometimes, especially when you know it will be something like a year before you can shop for clothes again! Four pairs of pants tailored, two waiting to be re-hemmed, and two more in the optional pile. One satisfied customer and a happy seamstress!

Splashing in the Puddles!

The dry season here in Malawi runs roughly from the end of April to the end of November. However we do live in the tropics, so every once in a while we get a day or two of rain in July or August. Like yesterday and today!

I would have expected about 15 minutes of light rain, but it rained fairly steadily for over an hour today! Enough that it was rushing down the gutters and pipes!

The girls begged to put on rain coats and go splash in the puddles of our driveway, so I sent them off to have fun. Matt had a little fun too and set up an impromptu photo shoot. Here's what I got:

And here's what he got:

Clearly he's a better photographer than me, and I happily enjoy the benefits of that all the time! ☺️

It was getting cold outside (69 degrees F when I took these pics), so I headed back to the warm kitchen to finish dinner and make some hot chocolate for my family.

We never know what surprises await us each day, so we enjoy them as they come – rain or shine!

For the Love of Toast

We have British outlets and plugs here in Malawi, leftovers from the days when Malawi/Nyasaland was a British Protectorate country. They're big and chunky, but generally work well.

The tricky part is that we live closer to South Africa than England, so most electronics come to Malawi with South African plugs: two round prongs instead of three rectangles. They fit, but it takes a little work. You have to use a small object, say a key, to depress the safety button in the top hole so that the bottom two holes will open for the South African plug to go in the outlet.

Don't let your children see this picture! Yes, I'm putting my keys in the outlet! But it's ok. The outlets here are switched, as in the red button next to my finger can switch the outlet off and on. And the hole my key is in is the ground, so there's no power going to that hole anyway, even if the outlet is switched on. Honestly, it took me a couple years before I was willing to do this with keys – I would always run and find a chopstick… just in case!

So with all the issues with South African plugs in British outlets, we really like it when we can get a good appliance that has a British plug. For instance, a toaster. We have had an American toaster oven for years. I love it. But, we do have to run it on a transformer here, and it only toasts 2 pieces of bread at a time. That's ok until you have more than 2 people in your toast-loving family. Enter the British toaster.

Isn't she a beauty? Well, she is to me! When I was getting ready to go to England in May to hike Hadrian's Wall, Matt and I realized that this was our chance to get appliances with British plugs – from England! So Matt bought this beautiful red toaster, and a new hair dryer, on Amazon UK and sent them to a "parcel pick-up" (American: locker) location. After the hike, I found the parcel pick-up location near Kings Cross Station, tossed my new toaster and hairdryer in a duffel bag, and took the Underground to Heathrow to fly home.

This pic was proof to my family that I had the toaster and was on my way home. And the extra effort has been worth it. Did I mention that we are a toast-loving family?!

Adventuring in Town

Before we had kids, Matt and I did a lot of adventuring in Lilongwe and were really familiar with what was available and where to find things in town. We even adventured in town when we had only Abigail. But it's been 4 years since we really looked around the older part of town and could say we really knew what was there. So we did it today!

We did need a few things, so headed first to Select & Save, an old favorite. This place is fascinating! It's very well organized, but there are parts and pieces, and tubes, and generators, and metal sheets, and 6 types of roofing nails, and 85 different types of hammers… EVERYWHERE in this store! Matt found the lock he needed, and I found the little screw I needed to fix my old Singer sewing machine.

We continued through town as the streets started to fill with the morning crowd. This is seriously such an interesting part of town. I forget how much I enjoy exploring, looking for that gem in the dusty streets and crowds of people. You never know what you will find! Case in point:

Who wouldn't want to sit comfortably in the grace of God?!? And who, especially the mother of two little girls, wouldn't love a room full of ribbons?!?

The town is bustling, but many of the stores are the same as they have been for years. It was nice to know that some things stay the same, even if they have a fresh coat of paint.

Before we headed home, we had one more piece of adventuring to do. We had heard of a new place called Round and Square, and were curious about a place that was advertised as a little coffee shop that promoted art and local artisans… in a sketchier part of town. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice coffee shop, filled with books on art, design, cooking, gardening, etc.

Such a cute place! We really enjoyed it, and are hoping it stays in business for a long time! I'm already planning my next visit there!

As we drove home, Matt commented "It's places like that that keep us exploring." And he's right. Every once in a while, you do find a gem. Maybe the one you've been looking for, maybe an unexpected one. But you have to be out there to find it!

Drinking Water

Remember summer days of drinking straight out of the garden hose? Well, we don't do that here in Malawi! We have a great water filter for our drinking water and for years we only filtered. However, about 9 months ago the city stopped treating the water for a period of time and we started researching the boil and filter option.

Ugh. Boil water every day? Not me, not in my house. I don't want to pay more for gas to boil 20 liters of water every day, and I REALLY don't want to heat up my house every day with 2 huge pots of boiling water! This is Africa, in the tropics, we're already hot enough! I'll just clean those filters again, and we should be fine!

But then I learned the difference between how to get bacteria out of your water and how to get viruses out of your water. Our Katadyn Gravidyn filters remove something like 99.95% of all chemicals and bacteria from the water. But viruses are so small they just go straight through the filters. Boiling kills viruses. Done. End of discussion. I became a firm believer in boiling AND filtering water that day! I'm not even going to get into the details of the sewer pipe that leaked into the water main of the neighborhood just north of us… Boil and Filter is my new mantra!

So we fill up our two 10L pots with tap water almost every evening and bring them to a boil (which takes about exactly 67 minutes). We crack the lids and let them cool overnight, and in the morning we pour the cooled, virus-free water into the top part of our two filters. Over the next couple hours, the water works its way through the filters and stores in the bottom of the unit for easy access. Is it a process? Yes. Do we have fewer tummy bugs now? Actually, yes. Do I carry the water on my head. Um, yes… a 10L pot of water is too heavy to carry in front of me without spilling, so I lift it up on top of my head to carry it across the kitchen. Sorry, no selfies of that – I'm not that coordinated!

And that's how we get drinking water here in Lilongwe! We drink it, cook with it, and wash fruits and veggies in it. I'm thankful for the modern technology of such great filters, and for the ancient technology of fire that now rounds out our water treatment process. I do think that all that work makes the water taste just a little bit sweeter!

Bananagram Date

There are significantly more restaurant options for date night than there were when we first moved here. However, going out to dinner is still about the only thing we can do here for a fun night out. So tonight we tried a new place. Mum’s Table is a cute little place that serves Korean food, and it gets serious bonus points for being on our side of town! We took our order to go, and headed home to eat by candlelight. The candlelight was more out of necessity than for romantic reasons, but we’ll take the bonus points for a romantic setting! We wrapped it up with a great, very close game of bananagrams, and went to pick up our girls. It was nice to have fun with the one that I love!

Church Family

We had a church picnic yesterday!

This was the second time during the school break that we got to spend a Sunday afternoon with our church family, picnicking on the lawn.

It takes a lot of hot dogs to feed this crew, so we've learned a few tricks. Did you know you can cook 60-70 hot dogs in a crockpot? The ones on the edges even get a nice sear!

I brought some bunting for a festive look, but needed a little help to tie it up. You never know when your husband's tree climbing skills will come in handy!

It's always good to spend time with church family, but this day was especially sweet. Just before the picnic, one of our elders, Gideon Manda, had preached on the unity of the body of Christ from Ephesians 4:4-6. For such a diverse church, this was an important reminder, and made our fellowship time a reminder of our unity!

As I looked around at the people on the lawn at lunch, I thought about how some of them are more comfortable eating their lunch with forks and spoons, some with chopsticks, and some with their bare hands. It's the times when we focus on those differences that we miss the beauty and eternality of the unity Scripture says we have as the body of Christ. One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.

This picnic was just a foretaste of heaven, when people of every tongue, tribe, and nation will join together to worship the Lord!

Cheap Lunch

At $1.23/pound, crocodile tail is the cheapest meat in town. We usually eat more beef, chicken, fish, and pork, but every once in a while we have crocodile. Like when my 6 year old asks for it.

And in case you have the idea that we go hunt crocodile, skin it, and eat it, I'm sorry to disappoint you. We buy it at the grocery store!

There aren't a lot of recipe blogs that tell you how to cook crocodile. A few years ago I found a few adventurous cooks who gave some great pointers and came away with this: crocodile is like pork. Cook it quick and fruity. So until today I've done just that. Barely defrost, cover in fruit chutney, and fry in a skillet or grill it.

Today, I decided to do a quick sear and finish it in the oven. Power is off (no defrosting), and we don't have much chutney. So, a little experimenting.

This shot give you a good idea of the cross-section of the bone in crocodile tail, as well as the rings of fat that run through the meat sections.

The verdict:

It passes the 3-year-old test! We decided it is good with mustard, and really great with homemade barbecue sauce!

My favorite part? The timer. Seriously. My hands were full with 9 crocodile steaks and two kiddos, so I told Siri to set a timer for me:

Just another lunch in Lilongwe!