Despite being gone for over half the week, I do have a handful of frugal accomplishments to share.
1. Sold 1 dozen eggs.
2. Sold 16 bars of soap to a retail store.
3. Thawed out the goat cream I have slowly been collecting, and made 14.7 ounces of butter. That's almost a pound!
4. Made milkweed capers. This is a new recipe I'm trying out. It is basically milkweed buds in salt and vinegar, refrigerated for a month. We'll see...
5. Made several salads with lettuce from the garden. My major frugal accomplishment this week: learning how to clean and store home grown lettuce. I've always been afraid of eating bugs in homegrown salads, thanks a bad experience when I was younger. And I've never really learned how to use garden lettuce. Last year we only used it for tacos and sandwiches. But thanks to my new processing method, I plan on eating lettuce as much as possible here on out (we have plenty that self-seeded).
New lettuce processing method:
1. Cut lettuce and bring inside.
2. Break off each leaf, checking for large bugs, and put into salad spinner.
3. When spinner is full of lettuce leaves, fill with water and let sit 5-10 minutes.
4. Drain water, then spin the lettuce to get out excess water.
5. Tear wet lettuce into pieces, fill spinner again with water.
6. Drain water and spin the lettuce to be rid of any excess moisture.
Here is how you can store lettuce for up to a week:
1. Lay out a clean dish towel.
2. Pile the lettuce in a row on the towel, as if you were going to make a taco. Leave 2-3" on the edges.
3. Fold edges on top of the lettuce.
4. Roll it up like a taco.
5. Store lettuce roll in a sealed plastic baggie, in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
This really works! Before we left, I forgot to dump the last of my lettuce roll. When we got back over 5 days later, it was still in the bottom of the fridge. I expected to find limp and slimy lettuce, but there was no slime whatsoever, and it had only lost a little crispness. Victory!
I am going to make washing and storing lettuce part of my weekly meal prep from now on. Hopefully the garden-fresh organically-grown lettuce will help cut our grocery bill and bring new life to my meal plan.
Early Thursday morning, we, along with some other people from our church, got on a plane bound for Honduras. We landed in Tegucigalpa later that day. The point of our trip was to get to know a ministry there in the city, called the Micah Project. It is a place that gives help and new life to boys who live on the streets.
Street boys commonly come from dysfunctional families, and after taking to the streets are often caught up in the gang/crime/drugs lifestyle. On Friday morning we got to meet some of the boys still on the street. Micah Project has a "street team" whose primary purpose is to build relationships with the boys and eventually offer them hope in Christ and an opportunity for education and a family at their compound (called the "Micah House").
It was a little out of my comfort zone to be that close to the street boys. From a young age we are taught to stay away from people "like that" because they are dirty or a bad influence or just undesirable. It is easy to think about someone else working with the street boys, but actually being there was completely different.
Most of the boys have gotten into the habit of inhaling glue in order to get high. It is a cheap alternative to drugs. They carry a bottle of some sort with about an inch of glue in the bottom, and walk around breathing it. One of the boys had already inhaled so much that he was drooling and having a hard time walking straight. It was very disturbing to see boys as young as eight or nine years old doing this, and some of them looked even younger. Even as Michael was talking to them, some of the boys kept sniffing the glue. Every now and then the smell drifted over. Just the smell of it made my head hurt. Over time, the glue can cause brain damage, and some of the boys will never make it past first or second grade.
After talking with the first group, we moved on and met several other groups of boys in the city park or in the streets. Every now and then Michael would introduce some of the boys to us in English, and share a little bit of their story. Most of the boys seemed to really enjoy his company.
I think walking through the streets was my favorite part of the trip. While not necessarily pleasant, it was a real eye-opener. I was impressed at how the boys loved Michael even though they knew he disapproved of their lifestyle. It was an encouragement to me that, in a country of sinking and sometimes downright deplorable morals, Christians can still love and interact in a healthy way with those who have chosen a different path.
The other thing that I was reminded of, the importance of time in relationships. These days we are so busy reaching goals and climbing ladders and doing stuff just to brag about how "busy" we are, that we don't have time to have conversations with people that really matter. I was challenged last weekend to free up my schedule a little more, so I have time to listen and hear the needs of others.
Building a House
While most of the trip was focused on getting to know the Micah Project ministry, we did spend Saturday building a house for one of the boys' moms. When I say "house", what I mean is "a room with a window and a door".
In addition to the seven of us "gringos", there were also a few Micah House staff, the builder and his helper guy, and a LOAD of Micah boys working. Hubs was a great help because he 1) knows Spanish and 2) knows construction, but those of us who knew neither had difficulty finding ways to help. For example, I couldn't understand when one of the boys said, "pass the hammer" or "move that board up a little more". So, along with the other ladies, I mostly took pictures and watched. Kind of a bummer, but with so many able bodies (there were 40-50 people helping on a 16" x 16" house) around, there was no need for me to just slow everyone down.
One little thing I enjoyed about this trip as opposed to the other times we've been in Central America, is that I found small ways to practice my Spanish. Because the primary purpose of the trip was to get to know the ministry and boys staying at the Micah house, I was forced to speak Spanish. Not in a big way, but in small ways. When we were visiting with the street boys, one little guy pointed at my Vibram FiveFinger shoes and said something unintelligible. "You like?" I asked in Spanish.
"Si!" he said excitedly. Wow. A moment of communication! Similarly, I asked what some of the boys' names were, ordered my own ice cream cone, and made small accomplishments like that. When Hubs and I travel alone, he always does the Spanish speaking (wait a minute... he always does the speaking in English as well). So that was one of the perks of group travel.
The frustrating thing about group travel is its inefficiency. Short-term mission trips are usually up to American par (or as close as possible). That means that instead of taking a local bus or taxi, the ministry has to drive us around everywhere. Instead of eating street food or buying a cheap half-melted ice cream sandwich from a little mom-and-pop tienda (or "pulperia" as they're called in Honduras), we ate at nice restaurants or at the missionary compound. Although one of the nice restaurants definitely had a genuine Central American toilet.
Maybe next time, Honduras.