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Mtori in the Crockpot

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

One of the signature dishes of my husband’s tribe, the Chagga, is a beef and plantain soup called Mtori. This is a soup that is popular with everyone but its best known use is to restore the health of postpartum women. Traditionally women are kept home for the first month, waited on by other women in the family and fed mtori.

I have tried my hand at preparing mtori a number of times with better or worse results. Recently I was planning to make a pot and mentioned this to one of our Chagga friends. She asked me how I prepared it and I mentioned a recipe I found online. She was aghast. Tomatoes? Onions? In Mtori? She wouldn’t hear of it. She told me emphatically that the only thing that should be in Mtori is beef, green plantains, potatoes, salt and pepper. OK, then. So with this try I followed her advice but did use my secret weapon: the crock pot.

Part of the reason that Mtori is so nutritious and fattening for the postpartum moms is that it uses a beef bone broth as the base of the soup. It is the same base as pho but without the star anise and MSG. While some recipes suggest boiling for a few hours, the best way to get every speck of marrow out of that bone is to cook it in the crock pot overnight. I cook it with salt. If you want to get fancy you can brown the beef but me being me, I had just pulled it out of the freezer.

I do like recipes that allow me to use frozen solid meat. I added the beef bones to the crock pot and filled it with water to about half full. Looking back on the consistency of the final soup, next time I will definitely fill it three quarters full as this soup was really thick.

Will add more water next time

The bones cooked on low for about 18 hours. These were very meaty bones and the meat easily separated from the bone. Here is what the bones looked like when I took them out. As they say, “Dry as a bone”


When I took out the bones I then added four thin sliced plantains, four very small potatoes (probably the equivalent of one regular sized Yukon Gold) and another pound of cubed beef. I cooked the meat, plantains and potatoes for another hour and a half.

The meat looks much redder in the photo than it was. It was very cooked at this point.

Once the plantains and potatoes were very soft I made another change at the recommendation of our friend. A lot of mtori recipes recommend blending the soup in a blender or with a blending wand. Usually they remove the cubed beef, blend, then add it back. Our friend and my husband were adamantly against this. Tanzanians did not have blenders and mtori was not a blended soup. It was like suggesting to blend clam chowder. In Tanzania the soup is mixed with a stick that has a propeller-like end but they agreed that a potato masher would suffice. So, I mashed the Mtori, making it a soup with some texture but still soft.

The final product!


Now go find some postpartum women to feed! A little goes a long way.


Buy Crazy Cheap Glasses Online at Zenni Optical (An Updated Review)

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

One nurse I work with has an insane number of glasses, matching every pair of scrubs she owns. I figured she just wore non-prescription glasses to keep stuff from splashing in her eyes. One night I commented on the bright orange frames that she had on and I was shocked to learn that her prescription was as bad as mine. “Haven’t I told you where I get my glasses? I order them online from the best website.” She then showed me the site which listed hundreds of prescription glasses priced between $6.95 and $46. This is not the frame price – this is the price for frames, lenses, everything. There is a small charge for bifocals, anti-glare and tinted lenses but the price is still insanely cheap. I had my doubts that the glasses would work as well as my current pair and that the prescription would be exactly right. However, my toddler had bent my current pair and I had some health care saving account money to blow so I figured I would try it out. At this price I could afford to be disappointed.

I uploaded a photo of me (a wedding photo, one of the only days I wasn’t wearing my glasses) and started to virtually try on pairs. It was really fun. I ended up ordering four pairs but I had to hold myself back from ordering more. I didn’t want to get a whole bunch and have them give me headaches. I entered all my prescription information into the form for each pair of glasses. They require a pupil distance which apparently some opthamologists don’t include on the prescription (because it makes it very easy to order online!) but luckily my guy at Costco did. Otherwise you can call your eye doctor and ask for it or they show you how to measure it on the website.  Shipping was only $4.95 (no limit on how many you can ship for that price). I got three regular glasses and a pair of sunglasses all for $50.

The Verdict

The glasses came after about two weeks or so. The prescription was right on. No problems with switching from pair to pair. No headaches or any other sign that the lens wasn’t made correctly. They all fit well. I am not going to lie, though. I can tell these are not expensive glasses. I ordered at the bottom of the price range. They are stylish and cute but are not going to withstand tons of abuse. However, things might be different when you order the $46 ones. They do look a little more high end. You definitely get way more for what you pay for when you compare how much glasses cost at Costco or a private optical store.

I would definitely recommend this site. It is perfect for people who are broke without insurance but need a new pair of glasses or for people who want a different pair for each mood and outfit (I know you are out there).  I have also recommended it to friends and families with kids in glasses and they are absolutely thrilled by the results. A friend’s daughter broke her $200 glasses after a week and she decided to try Zenni. She ordered her 3 pairs and they fit and worked great, for less than $20 each! A cousin has 4 kids – all in glasses and a few with very complex prescriptions. She was paying over $1000 out of pocket for one of her sons. On Zenni they cost about $100 and worked great. Note that they do recommend getting thinner (high index) lenses if you have really bad eyes and that does cost more. My eyes aren’t too bad and they will usually encourage me to upgrade to the next thinner lens, but since I prefer thick frames I stick with the free ones and they work fine. If you have to get thinner frames at the optical store then you will be best to do it here, but instead of a thousand of dollars in upcharge it is about $80.

Below are my four picks.  I was having fun with Piknik photo editing on Picasa so pardon the colors.

I love these! I wanted the biggest frames possible as that is the trend. $12.95!!!

This pair is green with red snowflakes on the side. I like the half frames and will likely order more in this style with different colors.

I call these the Rachel Maddow Pair. Super nerdy, like the pair Maddow wears off set. They overwhelm my face a little but are fun for something different

I didn’t like this pair at all when I first got them. I didn’t think they fit right Now that I am used to them I really like them.

This was an order a few years back. They had a big sale and I got all 6 for $60!

This was an order a few years back. They had a big sale and I got all 6 for $60!

MP3 of Diane Rehm interview with Mr Rogers

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

I have been on a Mr Rogers kick as of late. Now that I have a preschooler I am back to watching his show. PBS digital studios released a delightful autotune remix. I have  been checking out his books from the library. All are heartwarming and affirming. I love Mr Rogers. All this reminded me of an interview that I heard in 2009 of Diane Rehm. She was being interviewed about her 30 years on radio. She was asked about her most memorable interviews and she mentioned the interview she did with Mr Rogers the year before he died. During the interview she asked him what he did when he felt sad and he said that he played the piano. He mentioned that he has been playing the piano more lately and she asked why. He said he had a stomachache. She said she was too afraid to ask anymore questions about this. He was dead of stomach cancer(a disease only a few people knew he had) three months later.

I went to find this interview with Mr Rogers and found it on the Diane Rehm Show website on NPR. Unfortunately, unlike recent shows that are all podcasted in mp3 format, old shows can only be streamed on Real Audio (remember that?). I downloaded the software but the sound was poor. There wasn’t an option for buying a CD. I wanted to be able to take the show with me and save it. With the help of multiple editing programs I managed to convert and save the interview as an MP3. The interview is a delight. Rehm is practically giddy and people calling in tell the most heartwarming stories about how Mr Rogers changed the lives of them and their children. I wanted to post this interview so that others can hear it in a good format and take it along with them. We can’t forget the man Mr Rogers was and how he loved us just the way we are.

Click Here to Download File

Tightly Curly Technique, 6 Months Later

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

It has been six months since I started using the Tightly Curly technique on my toddler, developed by Teri LaFlesh and written about on her website and in her book “Curly Like Me“. I had no idea how to manage Esther’s hair and this technique seemed to be a good place to start. All this time on the method and we are still going strong. Having a child with super-curly hair is no picnic, you are going to have to spend time on it no matter what. However, the tightly curly method definitely gets you the best results for the least amount of time and for the lowest price. To see the step by step instructions you can read my first blog post on the subject. Here are a few lessons and photos to show how things are going now.

1. I have switched from the Tresemme conditioner to Aussie Moist. I like the smell a little better and it is a little thicker. Good hold with her hair. Both are really cheap and can be bought everywhere.

2. I can’t emphasize the importance of satin pillow cases enough! We have them on her bed pillows and on the car seats. It really helps prevent the matted fuzz on the back of her head.

3. I braid her hair most nights but lately have been lazy and not prepping it for bed. There is so much conditioner that builds up over time, it usually can be fixed in the morning.

Esther's bed head when she didn't get braids the night before

Esther's bed head when she didn't get braids the night before

Whether I use braids or not, I either spray it  with a water bottle if she isn’t getting a morning bath or lightly wet it in the tub.

Esther's hair lightly wetted

I then add a good glob (but not a big handful) of conditioner to it.The big handful is reserved for the twice a week super-condition and comb out.

A small amount of conditioner to spruce up the hair in the morning

If the hair managed to get frizzy overnight I have to brush it out, but if it stayed relatively intact then I just run my fingers through it for a few minutes to separate all the curls and break a few light snarls.

Esther's hair with the conditioner finger-combed in

Then I leave it alone. No touching it!! If you tinker with it while it is drying  it will become frizzy. With putting in braids overnight there is a benefit of being able to use less water with the conditioner because the curls aren’t as nappy in the morning and they are easier to style. This is a plus in this cold, damp city where it takes forever for hair to dry. When we were in Tanzania it was fantastic! Her hair dried in minutes. The other benefits of braids overnight is that the hair is a little softer looking when it dries after restyling it since you are able to use less water and conditioner.

Here is the hair about halfway through drying. Again, no touching! :)

Esther's hair about halfway dry. It looks a little jeri-curl but don't touch it! Wait to lightly fluff itafter it dries

Finally, here are pictures of her hair after a full day of playing, riding around in a car seat etc. The car seat does have the satin pillow case where her hair rests which helps prevent the rats nest in  the back. I also have been using barrettes a lot more these days. Nothing screams “I’m a Girl!” like a couple flowers pinned in in your locks. I am amazed at how pink her outfits can be and still have people think she is a boy.

Esther's hair after a full day

Esther's hair after a full day of abuse. Looking pretty good!

Another photo of Esther's hair, using a flash to see the details in the curl

Make a Costco Ready Christmas Card Photo Collage in Picasa

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

My mother sent a Christmas photo every year of my life and continues to, although we have now been bumped off the card and replaced with grandchildren. When we started a family I wanted to continue the tradition but choosing the perfect photo seemed impossible.  Before Esther was born we traveled around the world and splurged on a great Snapfish photo collage card for the following Christmas. It wasn’t cheap but it was the only way we found to share a large number of photos.

The first post-Esther year we made our own card with a background I downloaded off the internet.

Our first Child-centric Christmas Card

We used one photo that year. It was cute, but I realized that I was spending about as much as I would have been if I had bought the (much larger) Costco Christmas cards. I am all about saving money. How can I take advantage of the super cheap Costco cards while still making an original card? Also, how can I stuff as many photos as possible on it? If we managed to take a thousand photos of our daughter, shouldn’t we add a few more to our holiday letter?

My problem was solved when I started using Picasa. Picasa is a photo organizing software owned by Google and available for free download. Picasa has a photo collage feature in the software that automatically makes a photo collage out of however many photos you choose in whatever size you want. Costco has odd shaped cards but I figured out that the card is exactly half of a 8×10 size. If you make an 8×10 dimension collage it will fit the costco holiday card exactly.

Here is the card we sent out in 2009

Our First Christmas Card Collage

It turned out so well and was so simple, I wanted to share with others who use Costco for their cards how to do it. Below is a step by step demonstration using screen shots. I love screen shots!

Create a Folder

Next, open up Picasa…

After you finish in Picasa, open up your internet browser and go to the Costco Photo Center website.

The rest of the steps are just to double check your card then order them. You can then pick them up at your nearest Costco!

Have a happy Holidays!

Yogurt Recipe from the New York Times

Monday, August 9th, 2010

After Esther was old enough to eat I figured I would try my hand at some basic yogurt recipes. Organic yogurt is insanely expensive and all yogurt is is milk with a little starter. I looked through some recipes online and settled on a technique I found in the New York Times. I had to tweak it a little so here is my formula:

1. What you have to start out with is Milk (we use whole milk since it is Esther’s yogurt, plus it makes it extra delicious) and starter yogurt. The NYT recommends a basic grocery store yogurt as a starter, nothing too fancy. Just make sure it has live bacteria in it. You will want 2 Tbs of yogurt for every quart of milk.

Pour milk into a pot and heat at a high heat. Make sure to use a thermometer because temperature has to be closely watched through the whole process.

Cold milk ready to heat.

2. Heat milk on high heat until it reaches 180-190 degrees. Watch it closely! Any hotter it will boil over. You want it to just barely start bubbling.

3. Take pot off heat source and allow milk to cool to 120 degrees.

4. Take yogurt starter and mix in a half cup of milk from the pot to  to thin it out. Add it all back in to the pot of milk and wisk the yogurt and milk together.

5. I use my crockpot for the “setting” step, the step that allows the bacteria to multiply and turn the milk into yogurt. The key for setting yogurt is to keep it between 110-120 degrees for 4-6 hours. There are many techniques for doing this that you can find on yogurt making web sites. This has been the best one for me. I add water to the crockpot up to about an inch  – enough to just touch the bottom of the pot when you place it inside.
Level of water in the Crockpot

6. Place pot in the crockpot. I use a two handled pot for this reason. I don’t like it to touch the sides of the crockpot, just have a little of the water touching the bottom.

7. The crockpot needs to be on the WARM setting (not high or low, you want to maintain the temperature, not raise it). Depending on what the temperature is doing, I either put a lid ajar on the pot or not.

What the yogurt looks like after setting for 4-6 hours. Note is it still at the same temperature.

8. The longer you set the yogurt for and the higher the temperature (ie 120 as opposed to 110), the tangier the yogurt will be. Experiment to see what you prefer. DON’T stir or jiggle the yogurt. It won’t set well.

The Yogurt Out of the Fridge

8. Put yogurt in fridge to cool. If you want a very solid yogurt (less liquid whey) you can strain it through a cheese cloth. I don’t, but it is an option that the NYT article goes into more. The photo above is what unstrained yogurt will look like out of the fridge.

Final Product!

Delicious!! Add granola and honey, or in Esther’s case, applesauce and fruit. Happy eating!

Podcast Obsession

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

For the past few years I have become a devoted listener to podcasts. Podcasts are audio files that are best compared to radio shows. Most shows have new episodes weekly and some post new episodes daily. Some are actual radio shows that want their content to be more portable (for example, NPR’s Marketplace, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me or This American Life) and others are podcast-only, like The Moth or Grammar Girl. Many churches have their sermons available as podcasts. Podcasts are interesting and absolutely free! It is a great way to fill up your iPod on a budget.

If you listen to some episodes of a podcast and enjoy them, you have the option of subscribing to that podcast. I subscribe to podcasts using the iTunes store, the easiest software if you have an iPod (and pretty darn easy, even if you don’t). The iTunes store (reached through iTunes software, not on your web browser) has a podcast section that is easy to search through. They list the most downloaded podcasts of the day as well as the most downloaded episodes of the day. They also list “Up and Coming” podcasts and editors picks. It is also very easy to search for any topic that interests you. You can choose to select some episodes of a particular podcast just to try it out (I do this frequently). If you like what you hear, or you find a podcast of a favorite radio show that you know you like already, you can subscribe to the podcast. This will add the show to the Podcast section of your iTunes library and you will see when any new episodes of the show appear. You can set your iTunes software to either download all new episodes as they become available or just alert you so you can choose whether to download it or not. Apple has a helpful video tutorial here. One thing they don’t go into but is worth mentioning is to make sure to delete the episodes (not the podcast itself – that is done by unsubscribing) when you are done listening to them. A prompt will come up and you do want to send the episodes to the recycle bin when you delete them. Otherwise they will live hidden on your hard drive and take up loads of space!

People like me who are obsessed with podcasts are always discussing which shows they are subscribing to. I have never made my complete list public before so I figured I might as well do it here on the blog.

In order of favorite:

WNYC’s Radiolab

I love Radiolab. Radiolab is a show hosted by Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich that looks at the deep questions in science and philosophy with such fabulous guests and stories I can hardly stand it. The hosts are amazing. The editing is tight. I have to give a shout out to my podcast listening cousin Salwa for introducing this one to me. Everyone I have introduced it to becomes obsessed with it. If this was the only podcast you listened to, it would be enough. The great thing with this show is that, unlike other popular podcasts, they have every one of their shows back to 2007 available on iTunes. The regular show is the one broadcast on NPR and the “Shorts” are on the podcast only (although I sometimes hear them on All Things Considered). To hear a short introduction, check out the Bus Stop short, one of my favorites. As far as the full hour ones, I have so many favorites I just can’t pick. Try Parasites, Morality, Mortality, Memory and Forgetting, Musical Language. They do introduce some musicians in a few of the “Short” shows that I am not crazy about, but the majority are interesting stories that will have you pondering all day.

This American Life

Everyone who listens to NPR knows and loves This American Life. This radio show is the most popular podcasts on iTunes. Because of its popularity it only makes one show available at a time, so you have to be watching each week for a new show to appear in your podcast library.

Slate Magazine Daily Podcast

Slate Magazine is one of my favorite online news sites and they started a podcast years ago. The main shows in this podcast are the Gabfests. They are basically Slate editors and columnists sitting around talking about the current topics of the week. The first (and my favorite) is the Political Gabfest, released every Friday. The hosts are smart and the topics interesting. It definitely has a left wing bent if that is your thing. The other gabfests include the Cultural Gabfest, the XX (Double X) gabfest on women’s issues and the Hang Up and Listen Gabfest on sports.

NPR: StoryCorps Podcast

Storycorps is a non-profit that takes an airstream around the country and records people interviewing their loved ones. The best are played on NPR Morning Edition and put out as podcasts. This is the tearjerker podcast. They manage to find a story each week that is so sentimental, so touching that it restores your faith in humanity.

The Moth Podcast

The Moth is a non-profit storytelling organization that hosts storytelling shows in New York and all over the country. The rule is: true stories told live without notes. People tell fascinating stories from their lives and the best ones are featured here on this podcast.

Krulwich on Science

Robert Krulwich is not only the host of Radiolab, he is also a popular science coorespondent on NPR. All his segments for Morning Edition and All Things Considered show up on this Podcast.

Talk of the Nation

Talk of the Nation is a daily 2 hour call in show on NPR that releases each of its segments as a separate podcast episode.This allows listeners to pick and choose the segments that interest them. The topics are so diverse and interesting, it is often the first podcast I go to when I fire up the iPod. I am not usually a fan of call in shows but this one handles crazy callers so well. Plus, it is my husbands’ favorite!

PRI’s The World: The World in Words

PRI’s The World is an hour long show on public radio that is a co-production between BBC and WGBH in Boston. It is an interesting show that I just don’t have time to keep up on. For people like me they separate out the segments of the show and put them in topic specific podcasts as well as having podcasts that expand on stories in the show (or play stories that didn’t make it in). The World in Words is a podcast like this, it is produced by The World and hosted by one of its reporters but it focuses strictly on Language stories. Even though I am not a successful language learner I find the topics of linguistics fascinating. This podcast definitely feeds this fascination. Some stories were on The World and others never made it on the show. He also does a Top Five Language Stories show every month. All 122 episodes are available.

NPR: Economy Podcast

I am a bit of an economy nerd and this show highlights segments on Morning Edition and All Things Considered that report on this topic. If you go to the NPR section of iTunes you will find lots of podcasts that focus on different general topics.

NPR: Most E-Mailed Stories Podcast

This show highlights the most emailed radio stories on from the day before. Thousands of listeners can’t be wrong.

Marketplace Money

This show is a weekly NPR personal finance show for regular folks. American Public Media also has a podcast of  their daily show Marketplace which focuses on the national economy.

The Diane Rehm Show: Friday News Roundup Podcast

When I first heard Diane Rehm late one night on my local NPR station I thought “How on earth did this woman get her own radio show?” Her voice was so halting and slow it was painful to listen to. Years later my husband talked about listening to her show while driving home from work and how much he enjoyed it. He especially loved the Friday News Roundup. When I found out that there was a podcast of the show I decided to check it out. After a few weeks I was converted. I read more about Rehm and learned that she developed spasmodic dysphonia 25 years into her career as a successful radio show host. She had to learn to talk again and it was still a struggle for her to get words out. What fans of her show know is that this makes her a much better listener and ringleader of the pundits she has on.  No one interrupts her, everyone nicely takes turns. Most of the time she uses the tactic of making a statement then “calling on” one of the panelists like a professor in a classroom. It is wonderful. This video shows how she runs things. Her guests are pragmatic and I learn a lot on topics I wouldn’t have looked in to (especially during the international hour). I confess that once the callers come in I sometimes flip to a new podcast. Some are real wack jobs and blow hards and she isn’t quite fast enough to cut them off. The first half hour is where the episodes really shine.

The New York Times Ethicist

This short podcast is an audio version of the popular New York Times advice column. The letters are read by interesting guest readers each week and I like the advice that he doles out.

NPR: Planet Money Podcast

This is an NPR show but was their first podcast-only show. It started at around the time of the economic collapse in 2008 and its purpose was to explain the economy in layman’s terms. They do such a good job that I totally understand all the weird Wall Street stuff that made the economy topple down like it did. Also make sure to check out the joint shows that they did with The American Life; “The Giant Pool of Money,” “Another Frightening Show about the Economy,” “Bad Bank” and “The Watchmen


Risk’s motto is “True Stories, Boldly Told”. These are live stories told without notes like on The Moth podcast but they are ones that the tellers never thought they would be recounting in front of a large audience. I am always shocked that people will tell these stories out loud in public. Hilarious, but not a podcast to listen to with grandma.

Stuff Mom Never Told You

This podcast is from the website “How Stuff Works” which has articles explaining just about anything. This podcast explains topics pertaining to women. The hosts have such a great rapport and great podcast voices which really sold the show for me. I am a trivia nut and this show teaches me a lot about things I knew nothing about.

Stuff You Should Know

This is the flagship podcast of the “How Stuff Works” website. These hosts also have great podcast voices and great rapport. All the shows are available on iTunes going back for years so it is best to pick and choose whatever topics strike your fancy.

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Everyone wants to to use perfect grammar and this podcast discusses all the common mistakes that are made in American English. What really sells grammar girl for me is that she has the best voice on any podcast that I listen to. She sounds so polished – I wish I could sound like this!

Freakonomics Radio

Anyone who likes the book Freakonomics will like this podcast. The two economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner discuss totally random topics and while I don’t agree with all their conclusions, they are brutally honest in what they think. They bring up a lot of opinions that most people wouldn’t put out there. Very thought provoking!

NPR: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Podcast

This is a very popular weekly quiz show on NPR that I would move my schedule around to catch on my local station. Now I can listen to it anytime.

Scientific American 60-Second Science

This show is exactly what the title says – a science news show that covers the story in under a minute. An easy way to keep up on the new discoveries in science.

Rick Steves’ Europe Video

I keep this one on my iPod just so I can watch a video clip of my favorite European sites from time to time. He keeps all the shows up so there are tons of cities to “visit”.

Timothy Keller Podcast

Timothy Keller is a popular pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He preaches on tough topics but speaks to the mainline Christians of the world like me. Sermon podcasts are all over iTunes but this is probably my favorite.

Sherlock Holmes Adventures Podcast

I love Sherlock Holmes and this classic radio show features most of the mysteries from the Sherlock Holmes books. 130 episodes available on iTunes.  There are many shows like The Whistler, The Inner Sanctum other radio shows from the 1930′s through the 1950′s.

The Shadow Podcast

Old Radio Shows are a passion of mine since my parents stuck a cassette of The Shadow radio show in my stocking one Christmas (I think I was 13).  I collected the shows for years but when I discovered iTunes I found thousands of episodes of old radio shows. My favorites are the mysteries and and scary shows. I like to listen to these as I go to sleep, as I have done for the last 20 years.

A History of the World in 100 Objects

This is the highbrow podcast on my iPod. It is a podcast from the British Museum where the curators go through 100 items in the museum from spear points of Olovai Gorge in Tanzania to the Easter Island statues. Not the most engaging podcast in the world but it is the equivalent to have James Joyce or Kierkegaard on your bookshelf. It makes you and your iPod look smarter.

The Dave Ramsey Show

The Dave Ramsey Show is a synicated call in show praising and teaching debt free living. He takes calls and gives out advice through the shows. It is a three hour show but only podcasts one hour of it. It is also one that is available one show at a time. The callers all have the same issues but it is an interesting look into the lives of Americans and their bad money decisions.

Tony Campolo Podcast

Tony Campolo is a very popular left-of-center evangelical pastor but this is definitely not a sermon podcast. He gives his opinions about current events and the church and has a lot of interesting insights. This show is actually a radio show broadcast in the UK called “Across the Pond”

NPR’s On the Media

This is another NPR show, one of the first to release their show as a podcast. This show critiques the American media and definitely has a left wing bent to it.

Al Jazeera Listening Post

This is a video podcast of a popular show on Al Jazeera English. It also critiques the media but has a much more global emphasis. Video podcasts are good for those commuting on public transport but since I walk to work and usually listen to my iPod while doing other activities I don’t keep to many in my library. This is one I hope to watch on an upcoming plane trip.

1 Year Daily Audio Bible

This is a recent addition to my podcast library. I admit I have a lot of trouble keeping up with it – the entire bible in 365 days! It is a lot of listening. The reader has a great voice, though and he does a good job making the Old Testament stories interesting.

BBC World Service Documentaries

This is another podcast that has all its episodes available from the beginning and the list is gigantic! I have picked a few and they are great but I may delve into them when I have more time, like if I break both legs or end up on bedrest with triplets.

Mars Hill Church: Mark Driscoll Audio

Mars Hill is a mega-church here in my neighborhood and has a very dynamic pastor who gives great sermons. He is definitely in the conservative evangelical camp but I listen to his sermons once in a while for something different.

NPR: Hearing Voices Podcast

This is a show along the line of the BBC documentaries podcast above but is an American version. Hour-long documentaries on a wide variety of topics. Some look interesting and some do not so I listen accordingly.

Podcasts I am Dabbling With and Still Deciding On

Ted Talks (Audio and Video)

I have this on my iPod and have yet to listen to any episodes! Ted Talks are apparently invitation only conferences that share big ideas that can change the world. Friends are obsessed with them and they are even featured on the blog “Stuff White People Like” . It sounds high brow but very interesting. I bet it will be like that netflix movie that sits around for months then when I finally watch it, it turns out to my awesome.

This Week in Africa BBC

I tried a daily podcast of African news from BBC but it was way too much to keep up with. I have added this one recently hoping that I can keep up with a weekly one.

World Football

Julius knows everything about football so this is my attempt to keep up with him!

Hadithi Hadithi…

This is a podcast of children’s stories in Kiswahili. The audio quality is terrible but the stories are told in a simple way that helps me with my never ending quest to master this language.

VOA: News 0300 Kiswahili

Voice of America’s morning news broadcast in Kiswahili. A recent find!

VOA: News 1630

Voice of America’s Kiswahili afternoon news

Phew, quite a list! Happy Podcasting, Everyone!

Mastering a Toddler’s Curls (How I learned to tame the fuzz)

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Early in my marriage a patient of mine spied my wedding photo on the back of my badge.

“Where is your husband from?”

When I told her Tanzania she said “If you have a daughter one day you are going to have to learn to do her hair. You can always tell the ones with white mothers who never figure it out.” She was half black so I figured this was a topic she knew and cared a lot about. To drive her point home she whipped out her digital camera and flipped back to some photos of her daughters’ friends whose mothers’ did their hair all wrong.

Esther's hair with just oil, cute but fuzzy and only works with short hair

The lesson stuck with me as I raised my daughter, especially as her curls began to appear and fill in at around a year and a half.  I tried all different products and techniques recommended to me. One patient recommended rosemary essential oil mixed with jojoba oil to strengthen and moisturize the curls; then an olive oil lotion. I liked the oil, which I applied after her bath and before she went to sleep. The lotion smelled so strong, though and was a little stickier than what I was wanting. Plus, I couldn’t get it to define the curls.

Esther with the Olive Oil lotion, good hold but a bit sticky and not as defined

Softer curls work well for short hair but her hair is getting longer and it is getting out of control. My search continued until I came across the website Tightly Curly which was started by a mixed race woman (black and white) who lives here in Seattle. Her technique looked easy enough and cheap so I thought I would give it a try. Better yet, she had just released a book that I was able to pick up from the library called Curly Like Me.

On her website and in her book she goes through 7 steps for taming the curls. She gives different options in each step so I will go through the ones that I use.

1. I quit using shampoo on her hair. Hair this curly is so dry, it does not need anything else to dry it out. She recommends using a light conditioner to wash out dirt (and as is often the case with us, food). I use a kid conditioner because it is light and I had it on hand, but any light conditioner will do.

Fuzzier curls which were good with shorter hair but easily went unruly quick

What I use on Esther's Hair - about $5 a bottle

2. Once the hair is wet, pour out a handful of conditioner (at least filling the palm) and rub it through the hair. It will look like too much conditioner but a whole big glop of it works really well. In the book and on the website she recommends conditioners with the right properties for this step. I tried Tresemme’s Smooth and Silky. It works great and is cheap.

3. Once the handful of conditioner is massaged through the hair, take a Denan Brush (a very well made British brand) and begin combing through the curls, section by section. I usually pinch the section in my fingers and start with combing the tips so there is no painful tugging. There will be lots of white conditioner in the hair and some may come out with brushing but don’t try to brush it all out. You want quite a bit left in there. It will disappear as the hair dries. You are not rinsing the conditioner out. That is the key to this technique!

3a. Most of the time Esther has a bath before bed and I don’t go through this whole technique since she is just going to sleep on it. I will condition and comb it in the bath then either rinse it and put rosemary/jojoba oil on (a few days a week) or I’ll comb a smaller amount of conditioner through and leave it in. When she gets up in the morning what I do is re-wet it with a washcloth (she isn’t a fan, but I try to do it when she is playing with something good) then put the big handful of conditioner in it. With shorter hair it doesn’t have to be soaking wet before the conditioner so the wet washcloth works well enough.

4. Once we finish the combing it is time to define the curls. With Esther’s thinner toddler hair the finger separating method works fine, just running fingers through to separate the curls (see the 7 steps page for more details). I am still getting the hang of separating the curls well enough so I don’t get a “chunky” look like in the last photo below. The most important point – once the curls are separated do not touch them while they are drying!! What a lot of white moms miss (because it is not the case with our hair at all) is that super curly hair should not be played with or really touched much at all, especially once it is styled. Even with this technique if a section of Esther’s hair gets rubbed into a frizzy mess, I reapply conditioner to that section and carefully comb the conditioner through it. I know, it is a hassle and requires me to carry a small bottle of it and a small brush but I hate those sections that get all fuzzy – like on the back of the head. All you moms know what I am talking about!  The main problem time is in the car seat and taking a nap. I started putting a satin scarf on the back of the car seat and using satin pillowcases on her pillows (an easy find at a thrift shop). These help, but usually a little touch up is on order if I am taking her somewhere where I want her to look presentable. So far I have had OK results with sun hats if I use enough conditioner and really let it dry.

5. In the book the author recommends braiding the hair into little twists to sleep in then unbraiding and touching up the curls in the morning. Braiding little twists into a two year olds hair as she is running around the bathroom and getting into everything is such a hassle, I don’t usually bother.

Esther with braids before bed

Addendum: As Esther’s hair has gotten a little longer I have tried out this technique of twisting it at night and have had good luck with it – better than I expected! I used to just re-wet and reapply conditioner and re-comb each morning but it became a hassle to air dry. Now I can fit about 5 twists in her hair and hold them with little rubber bands. I take them out in the morning, spritz with a little water and rub a small amount of conditioner through. The curls look thick and great.

Esther's hair twisted up before bed.

While I don’t do this technique every single day, I have a feeling that as she gets older and her hair becomes thicker it will be the only technique that will work. Does anyone else use this technique on a toddler? What are your results? She gives more advice and examples on her Tips for Little Ones page

Here are some example photos of Esther. Note that her hair has been dry for hours in these photos!

Esther's Curls well defined with this method

Esther's Curls, well defined.

Defined curls, but I didn't separate the sections well enough. This won't be as much as an issue as her hair grows thicker.

Esther's hair after having it twisted all night then spritzing with a little water and running conditioner through it in the morning. I like how thick it is the next day!

My Favorite Flickr Feed – Obamas at the UN

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

One of my favorite websites of the Obama administration is the Flickr feeds where they publish all the official photos. My favorite remains the Department of State photo stream taken at the UN General Assembly. The Obamas posed for a photo with every interested world leader or government representative who attended the assembly. I learned a few things from this photostream.

1. The Obamas are incredibly photogenic. How can a couple hold a smile for so many hours? This is the first photo of the night

President and First Lady of Senegal with the Obamas

And this is 135 photos later

Minister of Foreign Relations for Nicaragua with the Obamas

2. The Obamas are tall. In fact, they are taller than almost all of the world leaders. I like this. This height difference with the president of Vietnam is not unusual.

Obamas with the president of Vietnam

This guy is the Prime Minister of Montenegro and is one of only a handful of leaders taller than the Obamas. Plus, his wife is hot! Great dress and shoes.

Prime Minister of Montenegro and his wife with the Obamas

3. Most of the first ladies and wives of ministers are very attractive. Most are wearing great outfits. I love when they dress up as they would in their own country. West Africans do the best job pulling this off. This is because they have some of the best fabric in the world. Liberia’s foreign minister looks great

Liberian Foreign Affairs officer with the Obamas

My favorite is the First Lady of Burkina Faso. I want her dress!

President and First Lady of Burkina Faso

This First Lady from the Comoros definitely had a bold look with her dress, as does her husband with his outfit. I love it!

President and First Lady of Comoros

3. It is fun to try and guess what country each leader comes from before looking at the caption. To see the names and countries of the leaders while watching the slideshow (and you should view it in the slideshow, it is mesmerizing) click on “Show Info”. It will list the position of the person and the country they come from.

Minister of Foreign Affairs for Indonesia

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and his wife with the Obama

President and First Lady from Tuvalu

Obamas with first couple of Tuvalu

Some other photos that caught my attention

The president of Finland was placed next to Barack which tells me that the order in the photo is not by gender but by status

President and First Husband of Finland

This one creeped me out but then I read that it was the Foreign Prime Minister of Laos and his daughter. Phew.

Prime Minister of Thailand and his Daughter with the Obamas

This is the only one with a third person and it turns out it is the interpreter for the President of Kosovo. That is sweet for them to have her stand in and get a photo with the Obamas.

I love how in this one the Foreign Affairs Minister’s wife is holding Michelle Obama’s hand. Also very touching.

Foreign Minister of Malaysia and his wife with Obama

Two photos got the most comments in the photostream. This one is the president of Cameroon Paul Biya. A lot of comments were left by Cameroonians criticizing him and criticizing Obama for posing with him. The rest of the comments were left by Americans asking what is up with his wife Chantal Biya. Upon further investigation I learned that she is 38 years(!) his junior and he is, in fact, very corrupt. To stay in power in Africa from 1982 takes a bit of election rigging. Perhaps he deserves such a ridiculous looking wife.

President and First Lady of Cameroon with the Obamas

The photo that got the most press in the whole feed (and was taken down soon after it was posted) was the photo of the family of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. He had his daughters photographed with him and his wife and the goth-style outfits they wore created quite a stir on the blogosphere.

Finally, the president of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete was also in attendance, minus his wife. It would have been fun to see her.

Tanzanian President Kikwete with the Obamas Click to continue »

Scary Santa

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Esther never seems to mind who is holding her so she was relaxed for her Santa photo. I got these photos in an e-mail and found them hilarious. It takes me back to my days working at Santa Village as a college student. Good times. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Esther and Santa

Esther and Santa