Saturday, October 24, 2009

Candy Making

Our newest endeavor is making candy. We've been short on cash in this house and the candy business has been our answer. Laae and Toamwane had been making the candy to earn some money for their daughter's first birthday party. Since then Laae had been pretty tired and not home very much to keep it up regularly so Conn and I decided to learn the process to help out more. This will add to our contribution for the family needs. So, in the evening around 8:30 or so, Conn puts the kids to bed and I start cooking the candy. The main ingredient is sweetened condensed milk. We use 6-8 cans each batch. I put a little oil to cover the bottom of the pot, then empty the cans into the pot cleaning them out as well as I can with a metal tablespoon. The pot goes onto the stove on high, stirring constantly until it boils. When it comes to a full boil (watch out because it splatters), reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir constantly making sure it doesn't stick and doesn't burn. While I am stirring (6-8 cans takes about 40-50 minutes), Conn puts a big of oil in a large mixing bowl and two trays. Also a bit of powdered milk in another bowl to roll the finished candies in. Conn usually takes over the last 10 minutes of stirring because I'm usually tired by then, and because it's getting really thick and hard for me to scrape the bottom. We know it's done when it's thick and dark caramel brown. The candy gets scraped into one tray so it can spread out and cool enough to be rolled by hand into balls. Bit by bit it goes into the bowl so that part will cool faster and get rolled. Usually Conn pinches off the right size pieces and I roll it into a ball and regulate the size. The other tray is for the balls to cool and harden enough before tossing them in the powdered milk. The rolling process takes about an hour. When we're finished, we count them from the powdered milk bowl into containers to be taken to school and sold for 10 cents each. 6 cans makes about 200 1 inch balls. The candies are very similar to caramel, although Conn says they're not. It's a bit tiring, but we prepare mentally for it all day, and we only do it Sunday-Wednesday and sell leftovers on Friday. We sell all the candies by Friday so we've been doing good so far. We're going to make a bit more this week (30 cans of sweetened condensed milk) and see how we do. This money pays for laundry soap, gas for the stove, rice, fish, sugar, flour, etc. for the household. We're also hoping to save up for the long term break from school in December when we won't get paid and school will be out so we won't sell as much candy. It's pretty easy to make once we've gotten the hang of it, and it gives Conn and I time to talk together and talk with his sister and her husband when they help roll the candy. The kids really like to eat the candy, especially Parker, so we try to make it at night when they're asleep. Let me know if any of you try it at home. I'd like to know how it turns out. I'll probably keep making it (in much smaller quantity) when we return to the US.

Geckos and mice and cockroaches, oh my!

This is just a bit of the wildlife here in Kiribati, and we can enjoy it right in our own home. Geckos are regulars about everywhere. They hang out around the lights at night and around the kitchen during the day. We enjoy them because they eat the bugs, but are annoyed when they poop on us, which I hope is understandable. When we can catch one, I mean when someone else can catch them (like Conn or Tanielu have been known to do) they get fed live to the chickens. This must be a real delicacy to them because they sure do fight over them and you can really see what the pecking order is out there. Another delicacy for the chickens is mice. Conn beats any cat around here in catching mice. He says he used to leave mice and rats alone because it's been said that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone. Until, one night when he was young and woke up to a rat chewing on his toes and fingertips. After that, it was war! To date, since we've been here, Conn has caught 9 mice and 1 rat. The chickens are loving him. Most of the time, he just stomps on them but his most interesting trap was a roll of tin foil. The mice like to run on top of the food safe, which is where the foil was. They would run in one end and peep out at me from the other end. When I alerted Conn to this, he was on the task right away. There were 2 running between the table and the food safe. He watched them for a few minutes and found something to close one end of the cardboard tube. They both ran into the tube and he turned it up and put his hand over it. He found something else to close the other end (so the mice wouldn't bite him) and laid it on the ground and stomped on them. The two mice quickly became chicken food. Another proud moment for Conn (and not so proud a moment for the rat) was late one night on his way back from the shower. The rat was sitting on top of a rice bag looking the other way from the door where Conn was entering. Conn saw it, and without thinking twice slapped it into the wall where it fell to the ground knocked out. It wasn't dead yet, but Conn was quick to make sure he was going to complete the task at hand. He grabbed the rat by the tail and laid it out on the rocks. The rat's body began quivering and Conn chose an adequate sized rock to bash its head in the rocks. This eradicated the last thoughts of living the rat may have had. Since this was late at night, when chickens should be sleeping and ours were, Conn just put several rocks on top of the dead rat and waited until morning to feed it to the chickens. Now, mice are about 1-2 inches plus tail while rats are 4-6 inches plus tail. This rat was almost too big for the chickens, but I guess they found a way because it was gone when we checked later. Oh yes, did I also mention cockroaches? Well, they are here too, as in everywhere else in the world. But geckos also like to eat cockroaches, if they can swallow them. We saw a gecko battling a roach and the roach almost won if Conn hadn't intervened. The gecko had the roach in his mouth, but the roach was still alive. It was struggling to get out and the two were coming closer to where we were sitting. Geckos are not fans of people and also are not the bravest of creatures. The slightest move will send him running away. So, when the gecko saw us move, he was quick to move in the other direction and, unfortunately opened his mouth just enough to let the cockroach go. Again, Conn was quick to react and slapped the roach to its death. He threw it back to the gecko, who was now on the other side of the room. The gecko just grabbed it and ran. It was pretty amazing to watch. We're thankful for the things we probably wouldn't experience elsewhere in the world, however wacky and weird they are! I'm sure thankful to have Conn the Exterminator on my side.

We got to use the floaties

but not for a tsunami, thankfully! We finally got to take the boys swimming the weekend after the second tsunami warning after the earthquake in Vanuatu. That Friday, I took the boys to Betio to school with me and Conn took Parker in his floatie out to the lagoon. He said they had such a great time, we decided to take all the boys on Saturday afternoon. They were all so cute and having such a great time floating around. The boys found out they could move around better doing the backstroke. Our water shoes also were a great thing as they protected our feet from the rock and coral at that part of the island. There is not much beach at that part and the shoreline is pretty close to the road so we also didn't have to worry too much about trash and human/animal waste (you know what I mean). While we were out there, I wished I had my camera so we made plans to go back on Sunday. On Sunday afternoon, we went to another part of the island on the ocean side with Toamwane and Melesiata. I took some pictures of the kids in their floaties, then went in myself. The waves were a bit bigger, but still fun to ride. It's nice swimming in the sea here because the waves break far enough out on the reef that they're not crashing on you, but they still roll in to the shore so you can still float up and down on them. The water was warm, like a bath. Not refreshing, but still fun. Each day we were in the water for about an hour in the late afternoon. Enough to wear out the kids for a good dinner and restful sleep. We also got to enjoy a nice sunset before heading home. I've noticed that since the tsunami warnings, I've seen some really beautiful sunsets. Mom, I wish you were here to enjoy them!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

We're safe from the tsunami

So, Wednesday morning, we woke up to hear news that a tsunami was headed our way. It should hit within the hour! Imagine our panic and worry that followed. The schools were sending their children back to their families and preparations were being made. We listened to the radio for updates and all emergency personnel were on standby. Conn's mom bought some swimming floaties and we blew up the exercise ball to float with. We filled all the water bottles with boiled water and put them in the fridge so we could find them when we need them. Then waited. I prayed without ceasing that morning for our safety. I remembered the Bible verse that Pastor Bryan taught James: "Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything and thank God for his answers." Philipians 4:6. Well Praise God! The tsunami warning was cancelled about 11:30 in the morning. It never showed itself here. We're all safe.
We pray for recovery for the people of Samoa and Cook Islands and of Indonesia.
Tanielu said too bad the tsunami didn't come. Now we can't use our floaties! He was the most worried about it beforehand. I guess we'll have to take the kids for a swim in the lagoon.