Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

We're celebrating as befits our year - quietly and gratefully.  Aaron and I enjoyed an in-house date this afternoon watching Miss Marple and munching on lime cookies.  Tonight, we'll gather with our SITAG family still in Honiara (fourteen of us, nine of us thirteen years and younger) to play games and chat.

2011 has been a year of building relationships - with the Lavukal, with friends and family across the ocean, with our SITAG family, with each other, but most importantly with Jesus.  Our goals for 2011 will be similar to our goals for 2012:  to look more like Jesus today than we did yesterday, quietly and gratefully.

Lime Cookies (from an old BH&G magazine)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 TBSP finely shredded lime peel
2 TBSP lime juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sugar topping

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; beat till combined.  Beat in lime peel and lime juice.  Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer.  Stir in remaining flour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten to 1/4-inch thickness with the bottom of a glass dipped into Sugar Topping.  Bake about 10 minutes or till edges are golden.  Transfer to wire racks and cool.  Makes about 48

Sugar Topping:  Stir together 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 TBSP green decorating sugar, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (we found that leftover sugar topping is excellent on top of whipped cream in coffee!).

And the winners are...


(please e-mail me at joanna underscore choate at sil dot org)

My quality control team (my kids) make sure that all drawing of names is as scientifically accurate as possible!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wearing many hats...

My husband is the best!  Not only does he work hard to learn Lavukaleve and serve as an advisor to the Lavukal translators, he has also been producing "picture books" that the translators prepared during our last trip to Marulaon.  These books will be used in the Kindys around the Russell Islands, and our hope is that the books will also get people used to reading Lavukaleve in preparation for readng the Bible.  Right now, the only reading material they have is portions of the Prayer Book.

One of the books is about a hungry giant, but it's also a counting book.  This page says something like "I could eat three fat tuna"...

And this one says, "I could eat five big houses."

The other book is about a fly who meets his demise on the end of a coconut broom.  I like this one because I can trace the same verb as it changes tenses throughout the book.  When Aaron was deveoping these books, he told the translators that this "easy reading" level was exactly right for him!  We're excited to take these books, along with some others, back to the Lavukal people in just a few weeks!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


It's time to say thank you again for your prayers, packages, letters, financial support, and encouragment for our family.  We have a multitude of people who make living here in the Solomon Islands possible.

I am so excited about my recent find!  Not one, not two, but THREE beautiful handcarved bracelets.  I was able to buy them at only 25% of the regular price because each one has tiny imperfections.

This bracelet's only flaw is a tiny hole on the inside - you can't even see the hole when you wear the bracelet. 

Two of the bracelets have chips out of the wood next to the shell inlay.  But, if you are willing to wear something beautiful, yet a little less than perfect (hmmm, like each of us!), leave a comment by midnight CST, Friday, December 30, and we will draw three winners.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Just a normal Tuesday morning here in Honiara.  When Aaron and I walked this morning, I felt like I was swimming through the cream of potato soup we had for supper last night.  Now, I'm watching the line of rain come from the wharf toward us and hearing the pit pat of raindrops as they begin to fall.

I'm also listening to a recording of my friend Kiko telling me a story (got to get my fifteen minutes of Lavukaleve) while I work on updating the Lavukaleve Bible stories and creating our January prayer calendar.  Drinking some toasted almond decaf coffee from "Wicks and Wax" accompanied by a tiny piece of fudge from a SITAG friend. 

The kids are writing Christmas thank you notes, but when they finish, I have a flower scavenger hunt planned for them.  I just found "Tropical Blossoms of the Pacific" in SITAG's Educational Resource Center (ERC), what a great little book! 

Bougainvillea catching the sun's rays

In between bursts of rain, I went outside to snap some pictures of the flowers for which I had the kids hunting.  God must have had fun when he made all of these gorgeous flowers!

Wish you could smell the frangipani - wow!

We call this one a "Christmas Tree", but it's really a delonix regia,
and the bees were loving the blossoms.  The kids love the seed pods!

Can you see that a tiny spider got here before me? 
It built it's web on this beautiful orchid.

The rain is pouring again, but I could bore you and post pictures of flowers all day.

Another SITAG mom and I worked in the ERC for several hours yesterday inputting only the A and B books from our tiny biography section into our new computer database.  This job is going to be bigger than I realized, but when we're finished, it will be so easy to look up books.  I think we might be meeting every afternoon for the next couple of weeks. 

Time to get back to work...what are your plans for today?  Hope you have a happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Honiara Woman's Daybook

For today...Monday, December 26

Outside my window...cloudy, hot and muggy; bright red lorikeets screaming in the tree tops

I am's time for another blog giveaway.  Any requests?

I am wearing...purple flowery pajamas. I do love slow days.

I am thankful...for bloggy friends who minister to my real life friends when I can't be there.  Thanks, Lisa.

I am creating...the rest of Katherine's curriculum for this school year.  Growth cycles of animals and plants, winter and spring books and crafts, honing those fine motor skills, sounding out easy words, rhymes - I love this age!

I am try to listen to 15 minutes of Lavukaleve every day and study my notes more.  Don't want to be embarrassed when we go back and I can't remember very much Lavukaleve.

I am grandparents' 61st anniversary today.  Thanks for sticking together through the ups and downs, Grandpa and Grandma!

From the learning school until we return to Marulaon in three weeks.

From the start the day, pumpkin bread & cream cheese, along with some Cowboy coffee from my aunt and uncle's shop "Wicks and Wax", Christmas leftovers for lunch, and comforting potato soup tonight

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly." ~Andy Rooney

Around the house...piles accumulating for Marulaon, candles still being added to our advent wreath as we count down to Epiphany, a little cleanup from presents yesterday

Something I want to remember for later...a little girl whispering secrets to her big brother

On my mind...our (Joanna, Sarah, Olivia, and maybe my sister, too) big hair donation day for Locks of Love in May.  If you are going to be in Central Arkansas on Memorial Day Weekend, come join us as one of my former cello student's mom cuts our hair at her salon!

Noticing kids do better with structure, which usually means they do better when school is in session.  Meal plans on the fridge, scheduled days to wash each child's sheets, they are so very good to be flexible while we are packing and moving (again), though.  I'm so proud of them!

Pondering these words..."Missionaries are very human folks just doing what they're asked.  Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody."  ~Jim Elliot

One of my favorite things...yummy ginger orange soap from my sister sitting in my shell dish

A few plans for the rest of the and play today (watching "Amahl and the Night Vistors" & playing hearts) , working on the "card catalog" for the Educational Resource with another SITAG colleague, and kicking in the packing and planning for our time in Marulaon and continuing to prepare for furlough.  Chipping away...

A picture thought I am sharing with you...Katherine has been enthralled with Mary and Baby Jesus lately.  I hope her love for Jesus only grows.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

"A personal Jesus accepted means salvation; a personal Jesus obeyed is sanctification;

a personal Jesus followed is a life of brotherly kindness and true philanthropy;

a personal Jesus reigning in the heart is the fullness of peace and joy and power.

The bells of Bethlehem ring one note; the Christmas carols are all calling aloud the same note: Back to Christ! Back to Christ!"
~ T. L. Cuyler

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Break Joys

Inspired by the great ornaments posted by Wild Olive and the stash of felt and sequins in SITAG's Educational Resource Center...

the kids and I are certainly enjoying our Christmas Break!

Friday, December 23, 2011

This afternoon...

Now that cyclone Fina has died out, we have hot, bright sunshine.  Perfect timing to wash mattress pads and sheets!  Here's the view from our current SITAG house this afternoon...isn't it lovely?

So this afternoon, I'm keeping the laundry going, Aaron is at another meeting, and the kids and I are playing hearts while drinking gingerbread spice tea and eating gingerbread friends.  When Aaron comes home, we'll finish watching "It's a Wonderful Life"  (I can't believe my kids have never seen this movie!) and eat supper.  Looking forward to sleeping on clean, sunshiney sheets tonight!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Book Basket

“When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas everyday.”    --Jean Fritz

We've had to make our own Choate Family Library here, and one of our favorite Christmas traditions begins the first Sunday in Advent when we pull out the Christmas picture books.  Each day, one more book goes into the book basket, and I'm as giddy as the kids as we rediscover our "old friends".  I always save my favorite books for the last week before Christmas, with sweet stories and lucious illustrations, so here's what I'll be adding to the basket this week:

-The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, pictures by Barbara Cooney (one of our favorite illustrators)

-Christmas Poems selected by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

-A Little House Christmas:  Holiday Stories from the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams (Aaron gave this to me on the first Christmas after we married)

-Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner

-Apple Tree Christmas written and illustrated by Trinka Hakes Noble

-Christmas Tapestry written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Around Town

Our family drove into town to spread a little bit of Christmas joy this afternoon.  First, we stopped by the hospital and walked down to Dr. Elizabeth's ward to drop off a big container of cookies (green Christmas tree shaped spritz and gingersnaps) to tell her and her staff thank you.

Then, we purchased some rice to send out to Marulaon for their Christmas feast since we won't be there.  The Bikoi was leaving around six o'clock, and it was about four o'clock, so we figured we could find somebody we knew headed out to the Russells.

While Aaron looked for somebody, I found a smiley baby to play with.  I wouldn't have minded bringing this cute one home!

Aaron never did find anybody from the Russells, so he found somebody else willing to make sure the rice got dropped off in Marulaon and went ahead and paid the freight charges.  We were a little disappointed not to find any friends.

However, as we pulled from the wharf onto the main street, Aaron spotted Julie and Atkin walking.  I hollered at him to pull up on the sidewalk, and I hopped out to visit for a few minutes.  They are also staying in Honiara for Christmas and trying to finish their Christmas shopping to send gifts out on the Bikoi to their kids in Marulaon.  What a gift to us to have a few minutes with friends from our village!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Know Your Lavukaleve Answers

Here are the rough translations.  Now you can practice and prepare for a trip out to Marulaon Village!

1) Your hair looks good.

2) Sun hot.  I am sweating.

3) I am washing lots of clothes.

Happy Birthday, Benjamin!

When my boy was five, he sure was a cute bundle of energy!

But today, my boy-quickly-turning-into-a-young-man finished his eleventh year and began another with breakfast in bed and opening presents.

We tried to watch Monday Night Football (Go Steelers!) in a hotel restaurant, but their satellite was down.  And we tried to have a pool party at the same hotel, but the pool had been drained.

So, we came home and watched the colored lines move across the screen and happily shared caramel brownies and ice cream with our SITAG family instead.

Oh, my Benjamin.  He's still a cute bundle of energy (how I love his dimples!), but he is growing into a mature and creative young man who loves Jesus and has music oozing from his pores like his daddy (that viola will have to wait until we get back to the States).  Happy 11th birthday, son!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Honiara Woman's Daybook

For Today...Monday, December 20

Outside my window...gray, cloudy skies following three days of rain; clothes hanging to dry on the porch because of all the rain

I am thinking...about being in labor during an ice storm in Little Rock eleven years ago

I am thankful for...a great link for ideas about how to pray for missionaries.  I need to print this out and post it on the fridge.

I am praying for...a friend in Georgia who is going through one family tragedy after another and for Naomi as she adjusts to living in Australia again with her family.

I am creating...Christmas embroidery and Christmas cookies

I am host a SITAG Christmas cookie exchange on Thursday afternoon.  Just four ladies with Sarah and a friend, no fancy packaging, just sweet fellowship and sweet treats.

I am reading...Christmas picture books with the kids

I am hoping...that my back heals soon so I can start exercising again.  Got to get ready for those races on furlough!

I am hearing...Olivia practicing her whistling, dogs barking outside, driving rain pounding the driveway

I am remembering...the last two Christmases out in Marulaon village: carefully monitoring the amount of gas we used to bake; carefully doling out the remaining eggs (and using the "float" test to see if they were still good); dropping everything if somebody came by the house, joyfully dancing, singing, and cooking with our sweet neighbors

From the learning school this week, but that doesn't mean we're not learning

From the kitchen...aebelskiver (pancake balls) for breakfast (made by Olivia), leftovers for lunch, and sloppy joes for supper

Around the house...tomatoes ripening on the windowsill, the big beetle (yes, it stinks, but it's soooo cool) slowly being dismantled in a frisbee on the porch rail

Something I want to remember later...Benjamin's amazingly creative acrostic poems, he's been writing quite a few lately about Christmas

On my mind...still preparing for furlough.

Noticing that...Deborah was the only person to comment on the Lavukaleve phrases.  Guess she gets her pick of Solomon Island goodies! 

Pondering these words..."First ,have peace in thy own breast, then thou wilt be qualified to restore peace to others. Peacefulness is a more useful acquisition than learning." -- Thomas a Kempis

One of my favorite things...Envirosax

A few plans for the rest of the week...a slower week, full of book-reading, cookie baking, and carol singing.  We are planning to take cookies down to the hospital (to Dr. Elizabeth's ward) and to host SITAG's cookie exchange on Thursday.  Saturday evening, we'll celebrate Christmas Eve with our SITAG family and a few other guests from Honiara with a candles and carols service.  Cultivating peace and focusing on Christ's birth - those are the goals.

Here's a picture thought I am sharing with little wooden German man that burns incense and blows smoke.  I bought him when Aaron and I went to Germany with our college choir, and this little guy is very much part of our Christmas traditions.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweet Sabbath

"I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips....Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together....This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles....Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."  from Psalm 34

From the NIV text notes:  "Here, as often in the Psalms, poor characterizes not necessarily one who has no possessions, but one who is (and recognizes that he is) without resoureces to effect his own deliverance (or secure his own life, safety or well-being) -- and so is dependent on God."

Recognizing that I'm "poor", yet so very rich...

-real life science experiments as weaver ants take apart a huge dead beetle Olivia brought home a few days ago.

-Ghirardelli chocolate chips that finally arrived in a care package after seven long weeks (thanks, Ann!)

-an amazing husband who tells me things that are hard to hear and loves me more every day

 -playing new games with my family

-new shower gel, just right to pretend it's winter (thanks, Oma!)

-God's grace, that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:8)

-trying new recipes (like cheese tartletts from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book)

-finding friends at the wharf to take a care package back to Marulaon with gingham and yarn

-a far-away friend who writes words that are hard for me to read, but much needed (thanks again, Ann)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Candy Canes (thanks, Mama)

Candy Cane
by Valerie Worth

Hot wintry
Mint, striped
Round with
Fire and snow,

Sweet icicle
That melts
And burns
And chills,

And fills
The mouth with
Fumes of frost
And flame,

hot chocolate is much better when you drink it through your candy cane!

Crackling cold
On the tongue,
Like the word

Friday, December 16, 2011

More goodbyes

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Naomi.  After more than four months, she has become quite the fixture in the Choate family and we are so sorry to see her go back home.

Even though the last several months didn't go exactly as we had planned, our lives have been impacted by this sweet young lady and her cheerful, creative heart.  A big thank you to her family who allowed her to come to the Solomons Islands!