Living on Less

Family Fall Extravaganza: 2016

We celebrated our 2nd Family Fall Extravaganza the last weekend in October 2016.  We are in the states this year, so we made the most of the “fall-ish” things to do!

If you haven’t read Family Fall Extravaganza from last year, our family started a fall tradition to spend a weekend doing “fall-ish” things.  (1) Because that’s my favorite season and it means a lot to me. (2) We have a family we can start traditions with. (3) I LOVE FALL!!!!

We had a short weekend because My Love was gone Friday and we had meetings Sunday, but we made the most of it!!

Without further ado, here was our itinerary for the weekend.

Second Family Fall Extravaganza

Collecting Colored Leaves

Last year, we cut out leaves because the leave don’t change colors in Africa.  But this year we only had to go to our back yard and collect many colored leaves.  Friday evening, My love was still out of town so we had the kids’ Nonna come over and help us start our celebrations.

Pumpkin Coloring Pages
Colored some pumpkins with Nonna.

Thank-FALL Gifts

One of the blessings we’ve enjoyed greatly being state-side is family and friends.  I wanted to make a point to show them our thankfulness before we got into the busy holiday season, where gifts often feel obligatory. So we decided to make Hot Chocolate Mixes and Cinnamon Rolls to give to our families and close friends.

Thank-FALL Labels

I made up some tags and printed and cut them out to put on the jars and pans.  (Click and print the labels here!) Only later did I find out I didn’t have any cute string to attach the labels…so I used tape 🙂 So fancy..HA!

Hot Chocolate Mix

My mom has a great Hot Chocolate Mix recipe she’s used for years.  So I got that from her and made a double batch of it.


5 1/3 c. Dry powdered milk

2/3 c. powdered sugar

3/4 c. coffee creamer

1 lb. (4 1/2 c.) cocoa mix (I used Nestle)

1/4 tsp. salt

**Add 2 heaping spoonfuls to 8oz hot water & enjoy!

Isn't she so cute?!
Isn’t she so cute?!

I had Honey-Bear and Bub help me out.

Making Hot Choc

They each did a full recipe. I wrote the instructions of the back of the tags that I had printed.

Cinnamon Rolls

We HAD to do these again!! I made The Pioneer Women’s Cinnamon Rolls.  They are SO amazing! We made two 9×13 pans for our family then filled nine small foil pans to give out.

The Cinnamon Rolls
Whom ever said, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” was totally talking about these rolls!

I started the dough on Friday night then cooked them all Saturday morning.

Making icing with Honey-Bear
Making the icing with Honey-Bear.

I think they will FOREVER be a part of our Fall Traditions! SO good and SO worth the time.

Corn Maze/Farm Fun

My Love really wanted to go to a corn maze this year because we are in the states.  So we did some looking around and found one near us that had that and more.

Corn Maze

They had a whole farm of hayrides, pumpkin patch, tire swings, slides, farm animals, a big bouncy inflatable, and more!!  So we hit the road Saturday morning and spent the whole day out there.  It was a BLAST!

Family selfie
Family Selfie
Family selfie take 2
Take two

We almost needed more time to play, but when it hit 3pm the kids were so tired and slept all the drive home. 🙂 yay!

Yummy Dinner

A meat I crave often is Little Smokies and they can’t be found in Africa…yet! So I decided to make that the main course of our Yummy Dinner.  I added mashed sweet potatoes, which are a favorite of Honey-Bear’s.  Then we had peas and potato salad already in the kitchen so it worked out. I added some classy, candle light which the kids enjoyed and finished their plates just to blow them out. Ha–what ever works!

Yummy Dinner

I didn’t realize till I filled my plate that this Yummy Dinner was also Fall colored themed! We had the  green, yellow, red/brown and orange all in one meal–perfect!

Fall Movies

I didn’t do any looking around this year for movies, so we did the same from last year.

Curious George--A Halloween Boo Fest

“Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest” was on Netflix this year.

Amazon--You've Got Mail

And, “You’ve Got Mail”.  We rented it from Itunes to play on our AppleTV.  But My Love said we could buy it if it going to be a yearly tradition! Yay!


This isn’t a part of our Traditions, but since our Extravaganza weekend and Halloween were the same time I thought I’d add in our Family Halloween Picture.  Really, I just wanted to show it off!! 🙂

My kids LOVE Zootopia and Bub was SO excited to be Nick!  Honey-Bear liked the idea but once in costume, would not wear the ears. And look at our Little Brother!! So cute!!!!

Zootopia Halloween
We were the cast of Zootopia–Chief Bogo, Assistant Mayer Bellwether, Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps, and Baby Toot-toot.


It was a great weekend of fun and tradition making!  We enjoyed being able to do more “fall-ish” things this year! We are grateful for our family and friends and the blessings we have!

I wonder what we’ll find next year?!

Tay’s Bacon Wrapped Chicken

My sister-in-law makes these drooling Bacon Wrapped Chicken strips.  For our Family Fall Extravaganza, I wanted to make these as part of our family’s new Fall Traditions.  Here is her recipe below:

Tay’s Bacon Wrapped Chicken


Garlic powder
Chili powder
Chicken–cut into strips
Brown sugar
**All amounts depend on how much you want to make.


  1. Cut the chicken breasts into strips.
  2. Season the chicken strips by sprinkling salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder on both sides of the chicken strips.
  3.  Take a strip of bacon and wrap it around the chicken strip, use more than one strip of bacon if necessary. Try and cover the chicken completely with the strips of bacon.
  4. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken wrapped in bacon with brown sugar. The more you add the sweeter the chicken will be.
  5. You can now choose two options. You can either put it in a 9×13 pan, cover it with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes (time may vary); or put some foil on a grill and grill the chicken.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

This is how ours turned out when we did our Fall Extravaganza!  I cut my chicken into thumb size  (**Maybe could do with Turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving?!) You should try these out and let me know what you think. 🙂

Laundry: My Therapy

I just found this picture when I was scrolling through old pictures with the kids.  We do that sometimes to remember and try to solidify those times into the kids’ memories.  Anyways, this is me doing laundry at our Homestay. 🙂

Laundry on the roof

Yes,  I am using a plastic bag to take the clothes down.  hahaha! I laugh when I look at this picture because I remember what it was like to live with so less. We didn’t own a laundry basket.  We didn’t own clothes pins.  I had to share the washer, line and clothes pin with our Homestay family.

We got to do a load of laundry about every other week.  If Honey-Bear had a blow out or spit up, I washed those by hand.  If our clothes had anything extra than normal dirt, I had to wash it by hand because our Homestay mom was very picky about her washing machine.

A couple times I took laundry to a friends’ house while we visited and did it there.  That friend wasn’t picky about her washing machine.

Though washing by hand was hard, I came to enjoy it.  It meant time away from the kids.  It meant quiet time.  It meant working hard with my hands, which was a good release on the days I was so frustrated with language and culture.  It also meant that I knew my clothes and stains were cleaned out. Washing by hand became good therapy for me!

Now, we have a wash machine we share with our apartment building and a normal tall, white laundry basket we’re given.  And I still hang clothes on the line and take my time, enjoying the beautiful creations around me!


Five Check Bags


If you don’t know me, you’ll soon find out that I am a planner. Since we were asked to go to Africa (a year before we left) I started my ‘To Do List” and “Packing List”.   Two months later, we found out I was pregnant and our leaving date got pushed back till after delivery, but I simply adjusted my lists.

So over the year, I slowly down sized our house and belongings. When we got our official ‘Green Light’ we were given all the last details. And one of those details was: 2 bags per person. That didn’t sound too bad, but when it came down to the airline and tickets, we were only allowed five check bags and four carry-ons total.

I’m a minimalist (at least I strive to be). So I was proud to take up the challenge. We could always buy things there. Family could always ship stuff over to us (is that cheating?). But the hardest challenge by far was the bottom-line WHAT to pack.

What do you pack for a 2-month-old for the next 18 months? Or for an 21-month-old for the next 18 months? What do you pack for two winters and a summer?

We finally decided we’d take the basics: 10 outfits and 4 pjs in every size for the kids. We would buy our big items in Africa: coats, boots, & blankets. Anything electronic (movies, music) we put on an external hard drive.   We changed as many books as we could to Kindle versions. Minimized our toys to a Wal-Mart bag.

Every month I re-went through my closet and added to the box of “Not Going.” Most of my wardrobe went into that box because it didn’t meet the dress code of our new African culture or was a maternity idea I wouldn’t be wearing anymore.  Everything we weren’t taking or giving away, went in a labeled tote in the basement of our house.

I got in trouble a bit from My Love because I started packing up the kitchen two weeks before and he couldn’t find the utensils he needed 🙂 Oops!!

The night before we left, I sat on our hardwood floors and re-packed every bag. My mom came by to help and ran some last minute errands for me. With a few adjustments and having to choose one thing over another, we were done. We had all we needed to live for a year and a half in—

5 check bags, 2 carry-ons, 1 diaper bag, 1 computer bag, & a stroller.


Count Your Blessings


Before we left for Africa, I read Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts.” It was a gift from a friend, and a good book to remember to be thankful for everything. Through easy and hard seasons being thankful keeps your spirits up and keeps your attitude from becoming bitter, grumpy & all about-self.

About two weeks into our Homestay, I started my own thankful list. I only got to 18 before I forgot about it 🙂 ha. But it was a good thankfulness check for my heart to stay positive about the things I did have and not get down and negative about the things I didn’t have.
*I’ll explain some of them for you so you can understand it all.

Oct-Dec 2014

Counting Our Blessings

  • No prego nose! God’s perfect timing. (We were supposed to move to Africa when I was still pregnant with Honey-Bear, but the dates go pushed back. Thankfully we didn’t, because the new smells of sewage, dead animals, live animals, etc. were a bit overwhelming.)
  • “B-I-B-L-E” (Bub just learned that song and was going around singing it and singing it. He even taught our host family how to sing it—though they didn’t know English.)
  • Lillian’s smiles!
  • Our Lamb’s sacrifice—after watching cow video. (Our family slaughtered a cow as a part of a big holiday. Watching that cow die made me so thankful for our Lamb’s sacrifice.)
  • Peanut Butter!!
  • Eggs!! Thank God! (Bub was not eating well the first 3 weeks of our Homestay. One evening our Host mom made eggs and Bub gobbled them down! What relief! He started eating after that.)
  • $ leaving home (As we left our goodbye party, many people gave us money on our way out.)
  • A friend’s call on Friday 03/10/14 (We do DD/MM/YY in Africa).
  • Our babysitter—Mia! She’s GREAT!
  • Homestay chosen—3x. (After arriving, we learned our first Homestay was given to another family. The second wanted to charge us more money, so the company said no. Then we were placed with a third family, which work out so well.)
  • Internet Stick (they sell Internet on UBS sticks. We were given one. It was SO nice to be able to connect with family and friends back home.)
  • Pinterest to connect w/ friends & ideas for here, like holidays. (I’m always reminded of someone when I see something on Pinterest, so its nice to just sent it and share it with friends.)
  • Hair conditioner (No, I didn’t have any for a month or two. I almost cried when I used it the first time…being able to run my fingers through my hair without tangles. It enhanced the Bucked-Shower experiences immensely.)
  • Crap-less toots 🙂 (We all had about a 3-4 day stent of bad diarrhea…self explanatory.)
  • New friends! (We met an expat family down the street from us. CRAZY world…my dad and her dad were college roommates!! WHAT!?!?!?! Needless to say, we became good friends!)
  • A & L—friends from Ireland
  • Big cup of coffee. (In any café here, you ask for a big coffee and all they give you is a shot glass size with double the espresso. Over Thanksgiving My Love had his first REAL big cup of coffee.)

My Love's BIG coffee

  • Shower!! (Also over Thanksgiving, we traveled to Work City & got to shower in a real shower!!! Wow—talk about refreshment. We apologized if the water bill was high next month.)

It’s funny to me now to look back and laugh at the ‘simple blessings’ we had at the beginning. What joy it is to remember where we came from and the journey we’ve been on!  Let Bing Crosby remind you to, “Count your blessings instead of sheep.”


Family Fall Extravaganza

I remember the first Holiday Season after we were married (2009) telling My Love I wanted to make some Family Traditions. His answer was, “We can start that when we have kids.” Ha! So I have been patiently scheming in my head for a couple years of Family Traditions! To my surprise, two weeks ago My Love announced to me, “We should do a Family Fall Extravaganza.” 😀 In sheer joy I yelled, “YES!”

Fall is probably my favorite season: the change in weather, trees, school activities, sports, pumpkin everything, etc. But in Africa the trees don’t change colors, I’m not in school activities, Futball is the sport here, and they don’t even have orange pumpkins!! The weather does change—thank goodness—so we can escape the heat. And they do have pumpkins, they are just green on the outside.

So we compiled our list and this is what we did last weekend!

First Family Fall Extravaganza


We can’t find applesauce here so it has to be homemade and luckily 2 kilos of apples are only $4.  My Love found a great recipe here. We didn’t have enough juice left over this time for apple cider, oh well.

Cut out colored leaves

Fall leaf cut outs

My Love cut out leaves from colored paper.  Bub picked out what kind of leaf he wanted.  To our disappointment they weren’t too interested in coloring on them, but oh well, they’re always next year!  We hung them up on our door.


S'more supplies     Roasting Marshmallows

S’mores are My Love’s FAVORITE!!  This is what we found.  The marshmallows were not marshmallows, but it worked. You had to burn it to make is swell! HA!

Bub with s'mores               Honey-Bear with s'mores

Bub didn’t like that his hands were sticky, but Honey-Bear didn’t seem to mind!

Cinnamon Rolls

My mom used to bake a ton when we were little and I always loved her Cinnamon Rolls.  I couldn’t find her recipe but I found this one and let me tell you…they are AMAZING! The original recipe is from The Pioneer Woman. And the icing is killer!

Cinnamon Rolls--makes 48

This recipe makes 48 rolls, so I made half and froze the other half for a later date.

Bub helping with the icing.

Bub wanted to help! So he poured the icing over the rolls!

Yummy Dinners

Over the weekend, we made two fall meals (did you notice most of the things on our list are food?!).

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Saturday Night we made some Bacon Wrapped Chicken (a recipe from my sister-in-law) and mashed potatoes.  It was SO yummy!! Bacon is real treat here so we made the most of it.

And on Sunday night, we had a traditional Pumpkin Soup.  It was my first time to make Pumpkin Soup, and it was pretty good.  A spoon full of plain yogurt on top added some good favor.

Fall Movies

Curious George--A Halloween Boo Fest

We found “Curious George: a Halloween Boo Fest” in Amazon and in Netflix for the kids to watch.  Bub is a fan of Curious George.  I’ll have to look into some more fall movies for kids next year.  Any ideas?

When I thought of fall movies I could only think of football!  So…

Amazon--Remember the Titans

“Remember the Titans” was a must and we found it in Amazon too.  And with some investigating I found…

Amazon--You've Got Mail

“You’ve Got Mail” in Amazon. Which was great! They have beautiful fall and festive scenes that help ‘make the moment.’ What great movies, and CLEAN!

Lots of dishes
There were so many dishes, but it was worth it!

It was a fun weekend for our family to stop, enjoy intentional time with each other, and the wonderful gifts fall brings! Making Family Traditions is really fun!! What does your family do?

No Car, No Car Seats

When I told my sister we were not taking a car seat, she flipped out!!

It sounds crazy, right—International travel with two babies and no car seats? But we were not going to have a car.

In our hometown in the USA, we don’t have taxis (well there are, but you don’t use them). There are always friends or family to take you somewhere if you don’t have a car. Needless to say, I had some cultural & practical adjusting to do. When we got to Africa we used trains, taxis, buses, and walking as our modes of transportation. We had our stroller for Bub and our baby carrier for Honey-Beart, which worked out great.

Trains—were for traveling long distances. Think “Harry Potter train compartments”.  🙂 Pretty cool. We used these to travel between Lang City and Work City for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Petit Taxis—they are cheap and we use them most often. The down side of the taxi is that they are only allowed three people, so we always have to take two. Yes, Grandmas and Grandpas, the kids sit, facing forward (or looking out the window) and are VERY safe!!

Grand Taxis—these travel in between cities. We’ve used them a couple times as a whole family. They pack you in like sardines: 7 people/taxi. It paid to have a family of ‘four’ so we could get a full, spacious back seat to ourselves.  If you want a romantic time, you can squish in the front seat with your love and it be totally culturally appropriate; not that I would know…

Buses—these were the cheapest, but you have to be very time flexible. Often times we would wait for 15-30 mins for a bus to arrive. We didn’t take them too often because they would be SO full we couldn’t fit us all in.

Walking—this mode of transportation is free! We loved exploring Lang City by walking around to get to know shops, people and cafés. Bonus: I got a good work out with a growing weight strapped to me. 🙂

Walking at the Garden in Lang City.
Walking at the Garden in Lang City.

Not having a car has proven to have some disadvantages, but we wouldn’t trade it. We have meet so many people, seen and experienced so much more of our cities that we wouldn’t have if we’d driven everywhere. The kids love going outside—people always stop to give them kisses or candy! We get to practice our language more whether we’re in a taxi, packed bus, or on a train with someone for six hours.  Also the majority of people don’t have cars so that gives us a little more inside to their normal lives.

The worst thing about not having a car is getting directions from people who’ve only had a car!! lol

Homestay–Living with a National Family


If you are traveling anywhere for any period of time, you should try to do a Homestay.

Defined:  A homestay is simply living with a local family.

We were advised to do a homestay when we first got to Africa.  It would help with language, culture learning, adaptation to new culture.  It would also benefit to have someone else cooking and cleaning during the time you don’t know the words for ‘egg’ or ‘toilet paper.’

My Love and I were excited by the idea of seeing what life was like on the inside of an African family.  We asked other friends and families about their experiences.  We had heard of people staying one week up to four months; and of people loving it or hating it.  The two main negatives we found were (1) not feeling like their needs were met (ex: not enough food, no shower) and (2) the pushing of their personal limits (ex: not enough personal space).

We stayed in our homestay for three months.  And overall, we were so glad we did it!  It didn’t help much with our language (because the father knew some English and only wanted to talk in English).  But we learned a lot about how a African family functions, relates, argues, has fun, etc.  We got to be a part of their holidays and extended family visits. I learned where to shop and what an average life looks like for an African woman.  We learned how conflict happens (between our two families) and how it can be resolved and have a good ending.

I realized I was coming from my “entitled American life” to people I, honestly, looked down on because ‘they’re poor or less educated, so they must not be too smart or know much about health, relationships, etc.’  I was humbled to see these people live with less, but with life and enjoyment of what they have! I met some of the most relational, giving, beautiful people I’ve even met…in our homestay.  I wouldn’t trade my time in their home for anything!!

Have you ever lived with a local family to do a homestay?

3 Meals a Day in our Homestay

When we moved to Lang City and in to our homestay, everything was accommodated for. We had a place to sleep, bathroom, laundry, and three meals a day. Those three meals a day were cooked by our Host-Mom, Rachel, and were always national dishes. We were immersed into culture!

3 Meals a Day in an African Home Stay


→We got to dive into the culture with bread in our hands. 🙂 They say the way to a persons’ heart is food. That might be true of our African culture!! Their food is delicious.

→The first month of homestay My Love and I lost two pant sizes. HA! No the food wasn’t bad, in fact most of the time it was amazing. Our bodies were going through their own ‘culture shock.’ Drinking water was different. The food, seasonings, large amounts of vegetable oil were all different. Walking at least 30 minutes a day to class was different.

→Our sweet Host-Mom seemed to spend all day in the kitchen. Though we had to work out the kinks of not cooking my own food for three months, it was nice to have lots of extra time to study, be out in culture, to take care of the family, and to rest!

→The cost of the meals was included in our monthly rent so it was much cheaper, too.


→When we didn’t like something, we would try our best to eat a little out of respect for the family. Plus it’s always good to try something new, you never know if you’ll like it. (Except sheep brain—I knew I would not like that!!) If we were still hungry, we’d grab a sandwich later.

→The hardest part was that we didn’t choose the times the meals were ready. In our African culture breakfast is around 8:30am, lunch is around 1:30pm, tea is around 4pm, and dinner is around 8pm. Have you ever tried to stretch a one-year-old to eat at 8pm? Not worth it. Since 8pm was the kids’ bedtime, we would make PB&J sandwiches in our room around 6/6:30pm.

We were thankful for our Host Family and their hard work.  Like I said above, though there were kinks to work out, I was grateful for the extra time to spend elsewhere.