I love going to market. The crowds, the noise, the smells, the colorful piles of food displayed in dingy stalls . . . it's all familiar and energizing. But it hasn't always been that way. When we first moved to Africa, I avoided market as much as possible. It was much easier for my husband to go, so I could stay home with the baby. I went to market about three or four times in our first six months in Ghana. I hated market. I was scared of it. And I felt guilty for hating it, but I had no idea what to do about it.

Then our situation changed, and we were in a much smaller village with a much smaller market within walking distance of our house. We were starting language learning, and trying to immerse ourselves in the culture as much as possible. We no longer had a big grocery store available, and were forced to buy most of our daily staples from market. A couple times a week I would get myself psyched up and head out . . . and after a while I realized, I was starting to enjoy it. Pretty soon I was going almost every afternoon to buy ingredients for supper or the next morning's breakfast. I had friends there to laugh and talk with, neighbors along the way to greet, and I loved buying my food fresh every day.

But there are a few things that I learned, sometimes the hard way, that I wish someone had warned me about. So I'm going to share some tips with you - in case you haven't yet discovered how much fun market can be!

1) DO dress appropriately. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes (and consider suncreen and a hat too!) but make sure it's culturally acceptable. Market is a filthy place, so at first I wore my oldest, stained dresses to go there . . . until I realized that the ladies around me were wearing jewelry, high-heels and sometimes even white embroidered dresses! My dirty, sloppy clothing was an insult to them, so I learned to dress nicely but still practically - I haven't gone for the high heels yet. :-)

2) DO consider what you're planning to buy and how you're going to carry it. Will your purse hold it? Do you need to take a big tote bag? A basket on your head like the local ladies do is more practical but doesn't always work well for us white women. :-)

3) DON'T carry your wallet in your back pocket and be careful carrying a backpack. Most markets have pick-pockets who work quickly and silently!

4) DON'T be afraid to use their systems. Are there carrier girls in the market who will take your purchases to your car? Men with carts who would be glad to move larger items? Find out how much to pay them, and then use them! Likewise, find out from a local friend what is appropriate for tipping people like parking directors, and also how to handle beggars.

5) DO be polite and friendly, but don't feel obligated to engage with every person who calls out to you. This will depend on your market situation. If you have a very small village market where every seller is also your neighbor, then you will want to make friends with everybody! But in a bigger city market there will be lots of people who just want to try to make a sale. They see dollar signs when they see white skin, and sometimes the only thing you can do is smile or wave and keep walking.

6) DON'T be intimidated or coerced. The people where we live tend to be pretty forceful, and it can be intimidating. Don't let yourself be talked into buying something you don't want or doing something you're not comfortable with. I have found that a lot of the time they are just testing you, and are not at all offended when you stand your ground - of course politely, but firmly.

7) DO be careful about your interactions with men, especially if you are alone. Most of the men in our area have a Hollywood impression of American women, and expect us to be "fresh" with them. Also because of cultural differences, what we would consider polite friendliness, they often interpret as much more. I usually do not make eye contact with men, and try to avoid smiling at them or engaging in conversation beyond absolute necessities for business. Again, this may depend on whether you are in a big city market or a small village market. Wherever you are, be aware of what is appropriate for the culture you're in.

8) DO be careful about what you eat and drink! We love to get snacks while we're in market, but do be wise. We get only hot food, especially food that we can watch being cooked or fried while we wait. Avoid eating uncooked fruits and vegetables unless you take them home and disinfect them. Also be careful about drinks. Even a lot of bottled drinks are homemade and bottled in "recycled" containers. Be sure to buy drinks that are actually sealed!

9) DON'T take your small children along. Of course this is really up to you, but we have found that market is not a good experience for our little ones. They quickly get very hot, tired, and annoyed by all the over-bearing attention from everyone who wants to touch and hold the white children.  The exception is that I take my babies along in a front-carrier, so that no one can take them out of my arms and they can sleep contentedly while I shop. I have found my babies to be a great connecting-point with other women!

Alright, I think that's all on my list - now go have fun shopping! I love the variety, the low prices, and the great cultural experience that market has to offer. I am thankful that I took the plunge and forced myself to get used to it, and I recommend the same to you!

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Now it's your turn, ladies. I've only been to West African markets. How do other markets compare? What tips would you give ladies in your part of the world? Please jump in and share here to make this helpful to all of us!

If there was one thing I wanted during my first term on the field, it was a mentor. Not so much a spiritual mentor, although that might have been good too! Mostly I needed someone who could help me with the practical challenges of homemaking and caring for a family in Africa. Someone who could answer simple but mystifying questions like, “How do you cook cassava?”, “What do you use for bathroom cleaner?” and “What do I do with my 18-month-old on a 12-hour flight?” We have wonderful colleagues on the field who helped when they could, but we saw them only occasionally, and cell service in our area was spotty. I felt very alone in my struggle to figure out everyday life in a foreign land.

I realize now that I am not the only one who feels this need. Many women are struggling with the practical issues of living overseas, without help or advice. It is that need that inspired me to start blogging about the practical issues of homemaking and raising children overseas. And today I want to share an interview with an older missionary friend of mine, to glean some advice from her years of experience.

This is a guest post I wrote for Velvet Ashes. Please read the rest of the article here (it's a great interview!).

I'm so excited that TCKmom is finally up and running. This is a dream I've had for months and months already. There is such a need for practical support when you're figuring out life in a new country. My hope is that someday this website will not just be a personal blog, but can actually become a community forum where anyone can post a question and recieve answers from many other ladies.

Because, you see, I can't do this alone.

I've only lived in Africa. I can't relate to the unique challenges of Asia, or Europe, or South America.

My boys are still preschool-age. I can't offer a lot of wisdom in raising older children overseas.

That's why we all need each other. That's why I want this to become a community, not just a personal blog. Because we all have unique experiences to offer, unique areas of gifting and wisdom to help each other out.

So do help me out, ladies! Comment on posts . . . submit a post of your own . . . suggest topics for discussion . . . offer to interview an older woman in your field . . . let's make this a community of support and help for each other.

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And to celebrate the day of small beginnings, let's have a giveaway! We all love Amazon, right? I don't know what I would do without my Kindle, and the access it gives me to new books overseas. So I want to give a $10 Amazon gift card - so one of you special ladies can buy yourself a new book. :-) Or use it for anything else on Amazon!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is comment on any existing or future post on TCKmom in the coming week. To enter more than once, comment on more than one post! You can also sign up to receive our posts by email, to have your name entered an additional time. I will be announcing the winner next Saturday!

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Let's open the comments below for ideas, suggestions, questions, or a topic you would like to see discussed at TCKmom. Then drop me an email here if you're inspired to write a guest post on any of the suggested topics!

We all have our favorite cooking tricks, right? A recipe that is fast and easy but tastes great. A short-cut that saves time and energy on those days you just need an easy meal.  Well, today I'm going to share mine.

It's biscuits.

Are you disappointed? What's so special about biscuts? Well, they became my friend when we were living in a small village house with only a gas burner and no oven. They were the only bread that I was able to cook in a skillet on the stovetop. I found a recipe that takes oil (instead of shortening, which is not available in my country) and I usually don't roll them out so they're super-quick to make. Here are a few of our favorite things to do with biscuts . . .

1) Biscuts and gravy, which happens to be one of my huband's favorite meals. You can make any kind of gravy - my favorite is to pop a leg of chicken into a pot, boil it for 45 minutes, pick the meat off the bones and return it to the broth, add a little flour, salt and pepper and viola! you have delicious chicken gravy. I also frequently serve a cream gravy with sausage, bacon or hard-boiled eggs in it. I've even done a brown gravy - and if you have slices of beef you could call this a hot beef sandwhich. :-)

2) Wrap hot dogs with biscut dough to make pigs-in-blankets. Quick supper and fun for the kids!

3) Use as a crust for a pot pie. I have even done this with leftover chicken-veggie soup. Thicken the broth a little if you need to, then pour into a casserole dish and top with biscut dough!

4) Use part cornmeal in the biscut dough, and then make a "pot pie" using chili beans. Especially good if you have some cheese to sprinkle between the chili and the biscuit crust.

5) Add spices to the dough - onion powder, garlic powder, italian seasoning, rosemary, etc - for a savory biscut to go with soup or a meat dish.

6) Add cheese for a really special treat (since we can't get cheese easily). I like to add garlic powder and parsley with the shredded cheese. You can also add bacon bits for a breakfast treat!

7) Use to make egg sandwhiches - or just serve with jelly or syrup (or honey if you're lucky enough to have it!) for breakfast.

8) To make quick cinnamon rolls  - Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/3" thick, spread with softened butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Roll along the long side and cut the log into rounds. You can add 2 Tbsp sugar when making the dough and these will be even better.

Are you convinced yet? I make this recipe at least two or three times a week for different meals - I seriously couldn't live without it! So, here's the recipe:

Baking Powder Biscuits

2 c. flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c. vegetable oil, 2/3 c. milk

Combine dry ingredients in medium-sized mixing bowl. Combine oil and milk in measuring cup. Pour into dry ingredients and mix with a fork just until blended. I just use my hands to shape the dough into flattened balls, but you can roll and cut with a biscuit cutter if you prefer. Bake at 425 (or as close as your oven will get!) for about 10 minutes. Makes 8. Best served hot!

For stovetop biscuits: Heat a large skillet with a lid over low heat while making dough. Place biscuits in hot skillet and cook on very lowest heat for about 12 minutes without removing lid. Flip biscuits with a pancake-turner, and cook on other side about 10 more minutes without removing lid. These will look a little odd, but they taste pretty good!

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So now it's your turn, ladies! Do you have a go-to recipe that you couldn't live without? Is there anything else you do with biscuits that I haven't thought of yet? Please share in the comments below!