Serving Ethiopian Food in Ethiopia First, a big hello to anyone here who is stopping by after hearing my interview with Jennifer Fulwiler on her Sirius XM show yesterday! Jen really talked up SlowMama and while things have been a little quieter around here of late, I hope you’ll poke around and find something worth reading. Please come on by anytime.

September 11th has become both a day of remembrance as well as a day of celebration in our home. I can never forget being in downtown D.C. on 9-11. What to even say about that tragedy 14 years later? Words still fail.

But the day also happens to mark Enkutatash, the beginning of a new year in Ethiopia, which follows a different calendar. So it’s 2008 there as of today. This is one of the biggest celebrations for Ethiopians and to help keep our daughters connected to their birth culture, we celebrate it. Tomorrow we’ll be joining a large group of Ethiopian adoptive families at a local restaurant (Ethiopian, of course) to toast being seven years younger! Ha.

I’m still thinking about the beautiful services for our pastor this past week. As expected, the downtown basilica was packed and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. I’m not used to seeing archbishops cry. It was all very fitting for a holy man who touched so many lives and is already deeply missed. It’s a gift to have people in our lives who come along and show us what it means to live and love well.

A few people recently mentioned that they miss my Friday “Pull Up A Chair” posts, so I might get back to those, maybe a couple times each month. Always fun to find those delicious drinks to end a week!

I hope this weekend is restful and lovely where ever you are. See you back here next week.

Image: Ethiopian food being served in Ethiopia, Zoe Saint-Paul




Storm - Pixabay Over the summer, I was thinking about emergency supply kits and how we should probably have one. Given that we live in an east coast city and everything from terrorism to city violence to a stock market crash to a bad hurricane is always possible, it seems like a good idea. I don’t think fear helps anything, but maybe just the littlest bit spurs us on to be prepared.

We did have a few supplies in huge backpack in the basement for a number of years. After living through 9-11 in Washington, D.C., we gathered a few items together and brought it with us when we moved up the road to Baltimore. But then it all got old and had to be tossed and we haven’t replaced it yet. (We did take a few things that were still okay to Ethiopia with us, because heaven knows I prepared for those trips like I was going wilderness camping.)

We’re limited by what we can store in our tiny house so our best case scenario in a bad situation would be to manage for a few days and then get ourselves somewhere else. One thing I got into the habit of after 9-11 is to never let the car fuel fall below half a tank. Not that half a tank gets you very far, but it would help get us far enough from the city if we had to. (Here are the U.S. government’s recommendations for items you should have at home in case of an emergency.)

I’m curious: Do you have an emergency kit and/or disaster plan? What’s in it? Does just thinking about it make you go into denial or motivate you to get prepared?

Image: Andranius at Pixabay


A Holiday of Rest

September 7, 2015

Sunflowers at picography

Happy Labor Day to my North American readers! I hope this finds you enjoying some R&R. Of course, if you’re a mom, the day will still be filled with the usual busyness of family life; and if you’re a contract worker like me, there are no official holidays, so you may still be putting in some work time.

Thankfully, mine is a much lighter day work-wise, today, and not without some fun: We’ll be celebrating my local brother’s birthday a day early and I’m making his birthday dessert. I like baking and it’s always more fun when it’s something special for someone I love!

Speaking of rest from labors, our beloved pastor died this weekend after a very long and heroic battle with cancer. Msgr. Art Valenzano was one of the most humble, kind, and joyful people I’ve ever known. Even when he was suffering and in pain from various kinds of treatments over the years, he was still full of gratitude for life, praise for God, and love for others. He will be deeply missed by many people.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. 

I’ve always loved that line of prayer and it makes me think about all those who have found — and still do — this earthly life to be overwhelming and exhausting.

Where ever you are today, I hope you are getting some rest and rejuvenation!

Image: Life of Pix


The Power of A Uniform

September 2, 2015

Hats by Hans/Pixabay

Over the weekend, I read a piece in Esquire by Tom Chiarella called “What Happened When I Dressed Like a Priest.” The author conducted an experiment where he donned four different outfits–priest, security officer, mechanic, and doctor–and spent a few days wearing each one on the streets of Chicago to see what would happen.

Chiarella, who wears jeans and t-shirts most of the time, says he’s always liked the idea of a uniform:

I’ll admit that I’ve often longed to wear a uniform, one that demanded something from me and maybe from the world around me. A good uniform represents. It makes sure you show up. It suggests a simplicity of mission. Once you slip it on, any uniform calls for its own posture. Everyone reacts. They step aside, shoot knowing glances, make room for you; or they turn away, try to forget their foggy prejudices, and ignore you.

That’s what’s so interesting about a uniform — it elicits an entire set of assumptions, feelings, and responses. It seems to me that whatever we wear does this to some degree, though. We know from research that how we dress affects how we’re treated.

What I find equally interesting is how uniforms affect our behaviors and sense of self. Years ago when I was doing pastoral care work at a hospital, whenever I donned the simple white lab-style coat with my name badge to make my rounds, I somehow embodied the role more; I felt it.

It was the same when I was a stage actor: I never quite felt like I’d become the character until it came time to put on the costume. That was the moment when I finally felt like a different person.

I’ve also learned over the years, that if I want to feel more confident and strong, I need to wear a tailored jacket and sturdy heels. More than anything else for some reason, those two items make the difference for me. And when I’m getting dressed for an event, I tend to ask myself (and I don’t even notice myself doing it  anymore): How do I want to feel at this event? What do I want to project? What kind of response do I want from others? It can really change the entire experience.

The fact is, we do judge books by their covers. Mostly because it’s all we have when we first encounter someone. Within milli-seconds, all kinds of assumptions, biases, and beliefs formulate in our mind when we see another person. As we get to know someone better or witness him in action, we may change our minds, but the power of uniform is something we live every day, whether it’s how we react to each others, or how we feel about ourselves.

If you’re curious about what happened when Chiarella wore the four different uniforms, you should definitely read the Esquire article. Suffice it to say, the priest outfit was the most challenging; the security officer and mechanic made him essentially invisible, and the doctor’s coat solicited the most respect and deference.

What are your thoughts about uniforms? Have you ever worn one? Do you like the idea of them? Do you find that what you wear changes how you feel about yourself?

Image: Hats by Hans at pixabay





Ship from Pixabay

There are many tragic things happening in the world and I don’t write about them here much, but lately the plight of refugees and migrants has been on my mind a lot. The news keeps bringing incredible images like this, and distressing stories like this. And it’s heartbreaking.

Perhaps because I’m a mother now, I find it particularly frightening to think of needing to flee with my children, possibly in the dead of night, leaving everything I know — my belongings, my land, my home. And then walking for days, maybe weeks, with very little food or water and arriving at a border and not being able to cross, or being stuck in a refugee camp with tens of thousands of others, or stepping onto a rubber raft or a poorly constructed, overcrowded boat to cross the tempestuous Mediterranean sea to presumably safer soil.

Right now, millions of people are in situations like these and it makes me feel helpless. What can I do? Just watch from the sidelines? Wait for governments to take action? While I get that these issues are politically and legally complicated, what keeps going through my mind is: What if that were me? What if my little family were in this situation, and I could do nothing, but plead for others to help us? Frankly, the control freak that I am; the mother who — like most parents — would do anything to protect my children, can barely imagine it.

But there are things I can do. First, I can pray. I believe in the power of prayer; many studies show that prayer does change things, and I’ve seen it myself.

I can give to organizations that have people on the ground aiding refugees and migrants. I can research what my church and other groups I’m part of may be doing.

I can also keep reading, keep watching. It would be easier to turn away, but it’s hard to be in solidarity with others, to form my own views and be inspired with ways to help, unless I let myself see what’s actually happening. Not necessarily in that 24-7 news cycle way, but also not burying my head in the sand because it’s painful. It’s also good for me: it helps keep my own life and problems in perspective and inspires me to be humble and grateful.

Do tragic international events ever make you feel helpless? What do you do about it? How do you do your own small part to work for broader change?

Image: LaughingRaven at Pixabay


End of Week Musings

August 28, 2015

North shore NS

Happy Friday, friends! How’s your week been? The weather here has been gorgeous and I think it might just last through the weekend. When the weather is perfect, I have a hard time justifying doing other things on my list. That probably comes from growing up in a place where you lived by the weather.

This is always a bittersweet time of year for me — when summer isn’t quite over, but fall activities begin.  Fall is probably my favorite time of year, though. I love the weather, the colors, a sense of fresh starts — oh, and fall clothes have always been my favorite.

This time of year also holds birthdays for many of my friends and this weekend I’ll finally get that leisurely glass of wine I’ve been thinking about the birthday celebration of a close friend. Yay for girls’ nights! B and I may also manage to get out and test-drive some cars — I’ll let you know what we end up getting when the time comes!

Any exciting plans for the weekend? Do you love fall or grieve summer’s passing?

I’ll see you back here next week.


Image: North shore of Nova Scotia, Zoe Saint-Paul 




Internet Menagerie

August 25, 2015

Watching Over

Friends, we’re overdue for a trip around the web! Quite a list here, all over the place, but that means there’s a little something for everybody. If you’ve come across anything interesting lately, please share it in the comments!

  • This is interesting, but why pick on airbnb renters versus large hotels and commercial real estate contractors? (BusinessInsider)
  • If you still prefer pen and paper like me, the Bullet Journal might be for you. (Life Hacker)
  • Since my girls still love Frozen, I got a kick out of this.
  • Design winner, called the  “Flo” kit, could make the lives of women and girls much easier in developing countries. (Tech Insider)
  • Here‘s what racism looks like. (Daily Kos)
  • This is one big reason we stay in this area. (Share America)
  • Amazing photos that speak to the diversity of Ethiopia. (Resource Travel)

Image: Dave Meier at picography


Gentleman's driving gloves by Viktor Hanacek

We’re in the market for a new car. Our dear old 2003 Jetta is about ready to bite the dust and while our 2008 Kia works well, it’s seven years old and is starting to show signs of wear.

I like nice cars as much as the next guy. Well, maybe not quite as much, but I’ve always wanted a Mercedes. A sedan. Black. Or maybe silver. I’ve also always wanted a pick up truck… one of those vintage-looking ones that still works great, in green or blue.

And that right there probably sums me up.

Anyway, cars for us are really just practical necessities right now. And now that B and I both work from home again, we’re contemplating going down to one vehicle. While it would be a pain, it would save money and make parking easier. (We just might hang on to the Kia for a while before we do that to ease ourselves into it!)

In the mean time, what to buy? Safety is most important on our list, then reliability — and also more room. The girls will be staying in their car seats for another year since laws are changing in some states which would require them to remain in them, even though they could technically now be in boosters in our state. The car seats are safer for them so I’m okay leaving them there, except for the fact that they’re so big. I’d like to have enough room between the car seats for one person to sit, but I’m not sure what kind of vehicle will allow for it. In fact, the Nissan Rogue we rented on our northeast trip had less room in between the car seats than our Kia does. So I’m not sure one of the small highly-rated SUVs we’ve been thinking about will be the way to go. At the same time, since we live downtown with street parking only, a large SUV is not the best idea.

A Subaru is an option. The Outback and Forster get amazing safety ratings and people seem to love them. But a few friends say they found them “stiff” to drive and opted for other cars. I guess we just need to test-drive them for ourselves.

We’re also considering something new-used. It worked out well in the past. A car payment is not something we’re used to and going into debt for a car is not something we welcome. Subarus apparently keep their value, though, so it may not make much sense buying one used.

Hondas and Toyotas are pretty good bets, and a colleague of B’s raves about his Mitsubishi. I tend to have a thing for European cars, but our mechanic is trying to sway us away from that. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever met a mechanic who was a fan of European cars.)

So, I’m all ears: Any family vehicles you highly recommend?

Image: Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo


Back to School Prep

August 21, 2015

Wine Session with Friends by Viktor Janacek

Can we really be looking at the end of August? Apparently so. I’m in full school prep mode and I’m being quickly reminded that one of the downsides of city living is that all the stores you need for back-to-school stuff are way out in the burbs. It’s scary out there. Ha.

So online shopping to the rescue. I just ordered backpacks for the girls as I couldn’t find anything decent left in the stores. There’s no real need for backpacks for homeschool, generally, but since the girls will be attending a homeschool academy two days per week, they’re going to have a lot of binders and books and a pencil box full of stuff, in addition to a lunch box and water bottle.

Speaking of lunch boxes, I really want to get some lunch containers like these, but boy are they pricey, especially if you buy a kit. (I really do like the water bottles there, too, and believe me, we’ve been through a lot of water bottles — they’re not all created equal.) The containers make school lunches much less wasteful: We don’t have to go through so many tiny baggies and saran wrap for everything, and they’re more fun and appetizing for kids. I just can’t seem to get myself to order those yet, though, because of the price tag. Still looking around.

I’ve driven to three different stores and still can’t find all the ugly poly binders the girls need for their subjects. Those poly binders are a pet peeve of mine, which I know is kind of ridiculous, but it’s because they can’t be stored neatly anywhere and constantly slip and fall behind shelves and couches. Have we really made such little progress as a society?

I still have to order a lot of books and curriculum the girls need, too. Thankfully I found some second hand, but Amazon will have to come to the rescue.

Thankfully, I have all but two items the girls need for their uniforms (Yes, they need to wear uniforms to this homeschool academy, which is a little annoying as a homeschooler, but maybe that’s just me.)

Then there’s what I need before our fall educational schedule begins: I’ll be teaching Latin to my girls’ class at the homeschool academy so I need to get something to keep my lesson plans organized, a decent general planner, and get to some re-organizing of shelves and set up downstairs so our space is in better order.

Not that you wanted to hear me ramble about my back-to-school to-do list, but it’s clogging up my brain at the moment! Also: I want to hear any recommendations you have for back-to-school gear: lunch boxes, water bottles, homeschool planners, and anything else that you think I need to know about.

Meanwhile, it’s Friday and yes, I still just want to go sit in a cafe somewhere and drink wine. Probably not going to happen this weekend, but I’m determined to find a few moments to exhale. Anything special happening for you?

See you back here next week!

Image: By Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo 



Empire Kitchen

I love ethnic food. I also try to eat local, organic, and clean as much as possible. Unfortunately, these two things often don’t go together. B’s preference when dining out is often some kind of Asian cuisine, or maybe Caribbean or Nepalese. But I struggle because the ingredients used at these establishments are not usually what I want to put in my body: industrially-raised meats, sauces filled with preservatives and corn syrup, farm-raised fish from China, veggies flown in from the other side of the world.

I get that there are certain things you need if you’re running a restaurant focused on food from another country or culture. Some things have to be imported; there’s no getting around it — especially spices.

But there’s a lot that could be sourced locally or domestically and for years I’ve been lamenting the fact that so few ethnic restaurants do this. If the Ethiopian restaurants we frequent used locally raised meats and vegetables, for example, how cool would that be? If the Japanese restaurant down the street used American grown rice, seafood from healthy fisheries, and dipping sauces without preservatives, I’d be all over that. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Surely lots of people today would go for this, even if it cost a little more?

Of all places, the lovely little city of Portland, Maine delivered. When researching restaurants, I found a piece in Down East magazine about a place called Empire Chinese Kitchen. They use a lot of locally sourced ingredients in authentic Chinese recipes. For my Asian food loving husband, his slow foodie wife, and two adventurous little girls, I knew this would be win-win-win. The adorable, inexpensive joint did not disappoint.

One of the things I like best about Empire’s fusing of local and ethnic is they don’t make a huge deal of it. You can detect it in the menu, but it’s not in your face. A lot of people who don’t care about such things probably wouldn’t even notice; they’d just be enjoying the yummy Chinese food. (Oh, if you go there, and you need to, be sure to order the lobster steamed dumplings. Yes, it’s a nod to  the state, but man, they’re amazing.)

Have you stumbled across any restaurants that are doing authentic ethnic cooking with locally-sourced ingredients? Is this something you’d like to see more of?

Image: Found at Empire Chinese Kitchen