Sunday, June 27, 2010

American Cultural Observation 275: My first Pampered Chef Party

Early this morning I traded my man card into do a bit of ‘research’ and went to my first ‘Pampered Chef’ party. Held at a colleague of mine’s house out is the stix (yes Valerie, I called you a redneck!) Shannon, Vangie and myself set out for Wills Point ready to be amazed, and ending up being the only male at the party...

For those of you, like me, who had no idea, The Pampered Chef offers a line of kitchen tools, food products, and cookbooks aimed for preparing food in the home. Founded in 1980 by Doris Christopher, the company began to sell these items to housewives on the party plan, a system in which a homemaker invited her friends over for a social event at which the products were demonstrated and sold, a concept first used with great success with Tupperware.

The products gained popularity in the 1990s, even as many other party plan merchandisers were faltering due to changing lifestyles. It started its global presence with Canada in 1996. It spread to Europe with the UK in 1999 and Germany in 2000. The company was acquired in 2002 by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Corporation. I was a bit amazed to find out that the company has a worldwide direct sales force over 60,000 in addition to 750 corporate staff. The company is currently operating in five countries: USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada and Mexico.

So, as I did more research I was glad I did not end up at this Pampered Chef Party...

with help from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and Google

Saturday, June 26, 2010

American Gothic

So, one of my favourite paintings is American Gothic, a painting by Grant Wood from 1930. Wood's inspiration came from a cottage designed in the Gothic Revival style with a distinctive upper window and a decision to paint the house along with "the kind of people I fancied should live in that house." The painting shows a farmer standing beside his spinster daughter. The figures were modeled by the artist's dentist and sister. The woman is dressed in a colonial print apron mimicking 19th century Americana and the couple is in the traditional roles of men and women, the man's pitchfork symbolizing hard labor, and the flowers over the woman's right shoulder suggesting domesticity.

Some believe that Wood used this painting to satirize the narrow-mindedness and repression that has been said to characterize Midwestern culture, an accusation he denied. The painting may also be read as a glorification of the moral virtue of rural America or even as an ambiguous mixture of praise and satire. It is one of the most familiar images in 20th century American art, and one of the most parodied artworks within American popular culture, which intrigued me, so I set out to found out what parodies there are.

with help from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Food for Life Graduation Day

In a remote area in Benin on a Saturday afternoon, a group of men, women and children dressed in their finest attire listen to a choir singing, “Oh, Happy Day, when Jesus washed my sins away!” One might think they were at a church service, but this is a celebration of achievement.

Twenty four-year-old Serge Medeho is proud to stand among his classmates at the Food for Life graduation. He displays unusual maturity and determination. He has worked extremely hard for 4 long months, and today he will stand with his 19 classmates to commemorate the completion of the program. He simply says, “Now, I am looking ahead , and I am ready to return home and use what I have learned. I hope to get a large plot of land to practice my biological agriculture.”

Mercy Ships teamed with Bethesda of Benin, a non-governmental organization (NGO), to create the Food for Life Agriculture Program. The second graduating class boasts nineteen men and one woman. They have completed a gruelling 16-week course in which they learned about biological agriculture and how to manage and market a farm. Now they are armed with the knowledge, tools and skills required to become thriving agriculturists – and, better yet, they can teach others to use these new methods.

The director for Food for Life Bethesda, Urbain Lontchedji, spoke to the graduates and guests at the ceremony, saying, “I know our training was very hard , and the students got up ev ery morning and worked long days. Thank you to the families for letting your brothers, sons, and husbands leave home and come here to learn. They will be better off because of it.”

The partnership between Bethesda and Mercy Ships was the key to the program's success. Bethesda Director, Victor Gbedo, explained, “This program would not exist without Mercy Ships . We had the idea for this program, but not th e means to see it through. Mercy Ships stepped in and provided funding. We are so thankful for this partnership, and I know the graduates appreciate it just as much. We are transforming lives. ”

Half of the twenty participants were selected by Mercy Ships and half by Bethesda. Applicants were chosen according to their background in agriculture, and they attended the program free of charge. They gained in-depth knowledge about organic farming – such as composting, using home-made insecticide, and layering crops that thrive when planted together.

During the course, the participants live on-site at the Bethesda Food for Life Training Center. Each student is given a plot of land to maintain. They grow fruits and vegetables such as pineapples, tangerines, corn, beans, peanuts, eggplant, tomatoes, and green beans.

The students and teachers live off of the crops they grow at the center, but they cannot possibly eat all the food they grow! Thus, the center is a wonderful food source for people living in the surrounding villages. “We don't even have to bring the food into town,” says Mercy Ships Agriculture Program Facilitator, Jean-Claude Mouditou. “They know it is here , and the people come and purchase the food right as it is harvested.”

Providing food for villagers is an added bonus to this amazing program. The main benefit is that the students receive skills and knowledge to be successful farmers. The ultimate goal is that they will share their new-found skills with others, expanding the impact of the program.

Mercy Ships Managing Director, Donovan Palmer, told the graduates that Mercy Ships is delighted to be a partner in this program. He also gave them a challenge, saying, “I want you to use your faith and ask God to take what you have learned and grow it into something greater than you can ever imagine.” Then Donovan paused and asked, “Are you excited?”

And the graduates replied with a resounding, “Oui!” (Yes!!)

At the end of the ceremony, each graduate was presented with a new wheelbarrow filled with a set of supplies. Two watering cans, a shovel, a pitchfork, rubber boots, a bucket, and seeds were among the items. As the graduates excitedly rolled their wheelbarrows out of the building, Serge Medeho expressed the feelings of all of the participants when he declared, “This equipment is so wonderful. It will help us truly succeed!”

After the ceremony, Serge paused to reflect on his experience. “I don't even have the words to say ‘T hank you. ' God passed through this organization and helped each one of us. How did I get so lucky? Being here has added so much to who I am … t o what I can do. It's t ruly amazing.”

Serge's sister, Therese, has seen a change in him. “He loves it here. He behaves so differently now. By God's grace , this is possible, and I know he will be very successful now.”

At the close of the ceremony, Mercy Ships Switzerland Director, Bryce Wagner, said a few words expressing how proud Mercy Ships is of these graduates and how their skills will serve them well. He concluded, “Vous êtes l'avenir d'Afrique” (“You are the future of Africa!”)

Indeed, they are! And the crowd obviously agreed as they stood and erupted into claps and cheers.

Story by Claire Bufe

4th of July is approaching!

Grand Ole Flag
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The Star Spangled Banner!
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Monday, June 21, 2010


Een van my favourite singers is Anouk vanuit Den Haag, in Nederland.

Die liedjie is 'Lost' wat sy sing in a konsert in die Gelredome, in Arnhem.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Mercy Ships Releases Abel Dalome Just in Time for Father’s Day

A Father’s Dream Becomes a Reality

Thanks to Mercy Ships, Abel Dalome, disfigured for 11 years, will walk home a different way. His legs will be in front of him instead of behind him. His father’s dream is now a reality thanks to the 474 volunteer hospital ship docked in Lomé.

Lome, Togo, West Africa (Vocus/PRWEB ) June 17, 2010 -- Thanks to Mercy Ships, Abel Dalome, disfigured for 11 years, will walk home a different way. His legs will be in front of him instead of behind him. His father’s dream is now a reality thanks to the 474 volunteer hospital ship docked in Lomé.

Abel and his Father begin their trip home!

Kouego Dalome is a taxi driver in West Africa, he is definitely not a wealthy man. But he is rich in things that cannot be measured in terms of money. He is rich in love for his children, and he is an outstanding mentor for them. His serenity, fortitude, and calm presence are a source of strength, particularly for Abel, his firstborn son.

Abel is a handsome, personable eleven-year-old boy with a joyous spirit and a smile that touches your heart and lights up a room. He is active and curious, interested in everything around him. Anyone would be thrilled to have a son like him.

But people do not really see Abel and his wonderful charm … they only see his deformity. When he was a baby, he developed a severe problem that caused his legs to bend backward at the knee, forcing his upper thighs out behind him. Kouego took his son to three different doctors, but not one of them could offer a solution to the problem.

So, for almost a decade, father and son lived with this terrible problem. Kouego helped Abel make the best of it by not treating it as a problem at all. Kouego’s unwavering love and encouragement outweighed the stares and insults of others, enabling Abel to maintain his joyful attitude.

Miraculously, Abel learned to walk and do almost anything any other boy could do. He even played as the goalkeeper on a soccer team. Unfortunately, his startling appearance often made him the object of ridicule and insulting remarks – sometimes even beatings from other children.

Through all the unpleasantness, Kouego was Abel’s rock – the strong center of his world. Kouego taught his son not to respond in bitterness or revenge. Abel learned to meet intolerance with tolerance. And he does it with a brilliant smile – a smile much like his dad’s.

Then friends told Kouego that a big white hospital ship had come to Togo. Mercy Ships operates the world’s largest nongovernmental hospital ship and provides free surgeries to people in countries without adequate health care. Abel and his father travelled many miles by motorbike and car to reach the Africa Mercy, desperately hoping that the volunteer surgeons could straighten Abel’s legs. Their long journey was rewarded when Abel received the precious appointment card for orthopaedic surgery on both legs. Mercy was definitely on its way!

The medical process was intricate and long. A surgery on the left leg was followed a few days later by a surgery on the right leg. Next came many days of shuttling to and from the post- operative care unit to the ship for follow-up care. About eight weeks later a third procedure was done – plastic surgery on his knees. A slight infection cost another week; then came the therapy sessions to retrain the leg muscles to work normally.

Through it all, Kouego stayed beside his son. With gentle and loving patience, he encouraged and supported him. He slept on a mattress under Abel’s bed in the ward, and next to him at the Hospitality Center. There must have been times when he was weary of sitting and waiting – but he never gave any sign of fatigue. With good humor, he was always ready to do whatever was next on the agenda to “straight legs” for Abel.

This week Kouego and Abel are leaving the Africa Mercy to make the long journey north to their village. It is a time of great joy because a wonderful father is taking his son home – a son who has beautiful, straight legs.