Saturday, August 31, 2013

Continued work with Salem's Ethiopia

You may recall I was working at Salem's Ethiopia this past Spring doing the photography and design for their look book.  I wrapped up that project in May.  I loved the work so much I was a little sad to see it come to an end.  Well it just so happens that my time with Salem's is not finished.  I stopped in yesterday and was overjoyed to see the look book printed.  Holding it in my hands was surreal.  I am so pleased with how lovely the photos look.  I snapped a few photos of the book.  I wish you could see it in person.  It's just gorgeous.
Even better yet, I have a new opportunity for experience.  I've volunteered to be Salem's social media director.  I guess that's a good title for it.  I get to take all sorts of photographs (Yay!), manage their facebook page, create a blog and help plan and execute a PR event next month at the shop.  I'm really excited about this opportunity to learn from Salem, be creative and hopefully add a bit of young expat ideas to their business model.  Salem's is such a gem in Addis Ababa and Salem herself is an amazingly and kind individual.  I can't wait to bring a bit more public attention to their business in the next 10 months.

Moving out of the baby stage

Ashlynn Olivia is turning two in 6 weeks.  Time sort of marches right along doesn't it?  I'm not surprised or shocked by this upcoming birthday mostly because we've viewed her as a two year-old for months now.  She was doing things at 18 months that Bella had a hard time with at two and a half.  She's just developing more quickly than her older sisters did.  It has a lot to do with having her big sisters as models.  She wants to do everything they do and won't let them out of her sight.  She tumbles with them, draws with them, sings with them and even role plays right along with them.

In so many ways I think she's the luckiest of our 3 girls.  She's never known life without her sisters, playmates and constant companions.  She's definitely a mamas girl but from the very beginning her sisters were the ones who could make her laugh and smile.  She's always been infatuated with her siblings.  Now she stands at the front door and waves as they leave for school and runs to hug them when they return home.  Ashlynn runs off to play with them and they include her as a playmate.

Her vocabulary is phenomenal.  I'm amazed at what she repeats to me or even what she says out of the blue.  For months now, she's been a dream when it comes to communicating with because she can tell me when she's not feeling well, "belly ouchy" or she wants her doll, "Elmo find" and even when she needs her diaper changed, "poo poo diaper stinky" (always a phrase I'm not thrilled about).  But it's helpful and she has fewer tantrums and crying fits than Bella or Addie at this age because she can get her point across.

It's nice to be moving out of the baby phase at our house.  I recently organized our home and we pulled boxes of baby clothes, toys and gear out to donate and sell.  I was sad to fold up our crib bumper that all three girls have used as well as some of their sweet dresses but I kept all their tiny newborn hats that have memories associated with them so I can pin them in a shadow box some day.  I'd like to say that I'll make a quilt out of their clothes one day, but I won't, so off them go to another baby girl who can use them.  There's not a lack of needy children in this country so I feel good about passing all the stuff on.

Two things I'm extremely happy about getting rid of: my breast pump and diaper bag!  Woo Hoo!

This is my last year with a child home with me.  Ashlynn will start preschool next year so I've decided to savor these last few months with my little sidekick.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Open House Brunch at Head to Toe Learning Center

I should rave about Bella's preschool more on the blog. It's the best preschool experience we've had.  I'm admittedly cheap when it comes to paying for preschool.  I kind of gawked at the $300/month price tag in Manila for Addie. But Head to Toe is the first preschool where I feel like we are getting our money's worth and that's the big difference.  It's the first time I gladly turn over a check and say thank you very much.  This preschool/learning center (and now kindergarten) is absolutely phenomenal.   Top notch teaching and such a well thought-out program.  Arabella loves it and we've seen such wonderful growth and development in her since she's started in this program.  I highly recommend it.

Jane is the owner of the preschool and she was nice enough to ask me (Ladytroupe Sweets) to cater brunch for the back to school open house.  I was a bit nervous hearing the 100 people number she was planning for.  But I decided to accept.  I figured if I never challenged myself how would I know if I was capable of doing it or not.  The fact that it was brunch made me feel better about the whole thing. I love brunch.

I cooked for a week straight and by the end of it I was exhausted.  But I did it!  I was mostly proud of my ability to organize everything and complete it all without a freak-out moment.  Yes!  I am so grateful to Jane and Head To Toe for asking me to do this.

The menu
Assorted scones (vanilla bean, caramel pecan, coffee chocolate chip, lemon blueberry, white chocolate cranberry almond, and sun dried tomato herb and cheese)
Assorted breads (coconut and orange pomegranate)
Assorted quiches
Green salad with honey mustard dressing
Crepes filled with the following
Maple roasted squash with hazelnuts and gorgonzola
Roasted red pepper humus with tomato, cucumber and olive salad
Minted strawberries wit salted dark chocolate ganache
Cinnamon apples with homemade caramel sauce

Friday, August 23, 2013

relaxation memory loss

I mentioned that I catered an event for 100 people last Saturday already.  I'm only mentioning it again because this week in comparison to last week and the lead-up to that event, was super slow.  I love how that job put into perspective what I do weekly for the embassy market.  Last week I cooked like a mad woman for the entire week and this week my four batches of scones, 2 batches of cookies and fancy cupcakes seemed like a breeze.  I spent two hours the last three days preparing for Market Day and I found something valuable I thought I had lost forever.  Free time!

It's nice to have a slow week after a really busy one.  Thursday seemed unnaturally slow.  My cupcakes took so little time that I had plenty of time to sit and play with Ashlynn.  We read stories, she snacked on crackers while I chopped veggies for dinner, we had a grand time until it was time for her nap.  My housekeeper was out that day, so I had the house to myself on top of nothing to do during Ashlynn's nap time.

It was weird folks.  I kind of paced around a bit, checked my email a million times, put a kettle on the stove for tea, paced some more, fiddled with my ready-to-go-in-the-oven dinner (it was noon), rubbed the dog's ears and then it hit me.  I don't know how to relax anymore.

My mantra as a mother is "GO".  I go most of my days without stopping.  Not a moment to rest my feet, not a minute to ponder life's greatest questions, hardly a moment for a meal and certainly not enough time to take a deep breath.  Going helps me to continue going.  When I stop, at the end of the day after the kids are asleep, I crash.  I'm done and I can't get back up.  I'm just one of those peoples who likes to go. I like to be on my feet busy and I never lack for things to keep me busy during my days.  I'm in that stage of life right now.

So when a blank moment presents itself, I'm kind of clueless.
The scenes of my life. 
I stood in my kitchen with a cup of tea and absolutely nothing to do.  I ran through a list of things I could do in my head to busy myself, but none of them were pressing or appealing (see above photo).  So I lit a candle, put on a sweater and drank my tea.  Then I proceeded to read through the archives of Design Mom's Living with Kids Series.  I highly recommend it for any other ladies out there who find themselves with an unscheduled hour of time.

I made due with that free time but I felt like I might have wasted it.  Maybe there is something much more rewarding I could do with an hour and I've just forgotten what that is.  Help!  What do you do with your free time?  That precious, sometimes strange feeling, free time.

hello there

I ended up taking a nice long blog break these past few months.  Oh, you knew that?  Sorry.  It was rather unannounced and unintentional even.  Here's what happened in a nutshell.

The girls finished off school.  We had a week to pack then we flew to Cape Town, South Africa and had the most AMAZING FAMILY VACATION EVER for the next three and a half weeks.  That loveliness ended and we returned home to Addis Ababa with about three weeks until school started.  During those three weeks we unpacked.  I holed myself up in our home for a week or so, the girls played, I baked and we slowly worked our selves back into our routine here in Ethiopia.  We hosted brunches to spend time with friends, said goodbye to good friends and welcomed new friends.  This all happened with food and alcohol.  I said yes to hosting every bit of entertainment I could.  The weeks flew by and BAM, school started.
There have been some pretty noteworthy things of late though.  My younger sister, Megan is engaged.  Her fiance, Jerry and Meg are planning a July 19, 2014 wedding at a vineyard in Oregon.  I'm not sure if anything could sound more idyllic than that? Am I right?  The girls are flower girls and Megan has asked me to be in the wedding and make the wedding cake!  I am so excited about this task.  It's going to be awesome and personal and super sweet, literally!  So wedding plans and ideas and crafting are on my mind as well as my sister Emily's, Megan's and my Mom's.  We are so very excited to help Megan and Jerry celebrate this monumental moment in their lives.  Plus, there's going to be Oregon beer, wine and cake!

I catered a brunch event for 100 people last weekend.  It's a big deal for me. I've never done anything so large.  It went really well and I can't wait to share photos.  Brunch is my bag baby so I nailed it!

Addie got her ears pierced in South Africa and lost her second tooth the week after school started.  Oh and she asked for bangs.  Doesn't she look sweet?
Ashlynn has been completely weaned from the breast.  It's big, really  big folks.  She nursed before bed just to snuggle and then again in the morning when I was still in that sleepy haze and she's climb in bed with me and I'd just beg for a few more seconds of sleep.  Well, it's over.  She's done and it's great timing because a friend of ours contracted meningitis and I had been waiting to get immunized for a bunch of things.  One being meningitis.  I thought I'd be sad to say goodbye to this part of motherhood but I'm not.  I'm really proud to have breastfed my three daughters and it was hard and rewarding and wonderful all rolled into one.  I loved nursing my girls.  I will forever hold that first latch of each girl after birth in a special place in my heart.  But it's time to be done and I'm happy that my body is mine once again!  What a novel idea.

We came home from R&R to three sweet kittens.  Tim Riggins (the hooker with a heart of gold) surprised us with this gem.  They're adorable and we already have good homes for each of them.  Mama cat was spayed this morning so as to avoid this sweet but not ideal situation again.

As it so happens, St. George is not a puppy any longer.  The once tiny fur ball is now a good 40 pound dog and he's worked his way into our heart and our family.  He gave me this sad face yesterday, almost as if he knew we would be paying the vet to remove his berries the very next day.  He's running around with an annoyed look in his eyes due to the cone on his neck right now.  Geez, he wants to lick 'em even when they're gone.

It's been eventful as you can see and dear readers, I'm back with all sorts of tid bits about motherhood, food, recipes, family life and Ethiopia.  Get ready for our last year in Addis Ababa!

Back to School

I'm a bit late on getting a back to school blog post up, but here it is anyhow.  This summer completely flew by for us.  The almost month we spent in South Africa was the culprit and I'm forever grateful.  Rainy season can be tedious with three little ones at home but this summer sailed by.  Both Adelaide and Arabella were ready to get back to their school routines.  Addie is such a sweet and patient big sister but after all the time at home with Bella and Ash she admitted being ready to get back to her friends and days without, as she puts it "Addie do this, Addie get that, Addie help me...".  Hmmm, I know how she feels.  I was ready to get back to our school year routine as well.  Summer was great but it had to go.

Addie started a week earlier than her little sister and it was nice that her and I had a chance to go to International Community School (ICS) just the two of us the day before school started and scope out her class, set up her hot lunch account and calm her nerves. The first day she was ready for drop off and thrilled to see her friends again.  Her teacher, Mrs. Wendy seems nice and we're hoping the year goes well.  It's been much easier for me to ease into the crack-o-dawn bus pick-up and making lunches than last year.  I did relent, and allow hot lunch twice a week.  Now I only pack three days and a snack the other two.  She's happy and so am I.

Bella was even easier getting back to school.  Head To Toe preschool has been her favorite place in Ethiopia.  She went last year and she's there again.  Another year older, a different teacher but for the most part the same kids and the same things.  It's her last year in preschool before she heads to elementary school with her big sister.  I'm eager to see Bella's development this year.  Last year from the first day to the last of preschool she was a different kid and I'm certain it will be same this year.  Bella's such a fun little girl with an immense amount of character and I love how Head To Toe nurtures these things.

Ashlynn will be 2 in October and won't start preschool until next year.  Thank goodness, I have one more year with her at home.  She's so independent and we hear "I do it!", "me too", and "mine" a lot.  She's talking better than Bella was at three so I'm certainly not worried about her development.  If anything, having two older siblings is helping her to grow faster than anything else.  When her sisters leave for school we sit down together in the morning and eat a two egg omelette together.  I have coffee and she runs around with her dolls under her arms.  She watches Elmo or Dora (two favorites), gets dressed, asks for crackers insistently for the next three hours and plays.  I try to get some "work" done online or baking if it's one of those days.  She always pops in the kitchen at the perfect time to dip her finger in the cake batter or accept a chocolate covered beater or spoon.  She's my little sidekick and I love it.

So here we are at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.  The girls are thrilled, so am I and we're ready to enjoy this last 11 months in Addis.  It's going to be a great year!

Friday, August 2, 2013

R&R in Cape Town, South Africa

Famous changing houses at Muizenberg beach

Hi, I'm back!  We just returned to Addis Ababa after spending three and a half weeks in Cape Town, South Africa.  It was my favorite family vacation yet.  I had very few expectations about what Cape Town would be like.  In fact, I had very low expectations that needed to be met for me to have a great holiday.  I was at the point in our tour in Ethiopia where all I needed to see was a decent grocery store, clean streets, and a playground to make my day.  Needless to say, Cape Town completely met and exceeded my expectations.  It was extremely family friendly and there was so much to do.  Here are some of the highlights broken down in categories.
Fishing boats at Kalk Bay

View of Cape Town from Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens
Weather:  Everyone kept reminding us that we were arriving in Cape Town during their winter/rainy season.  We packed our rain gear and planned on spending rainy days in the science center or at the movies with the kids.  In the end we had gorgeous weather with very little rain.   Most days were sunny with blue skies and around 65-75 degrees.  The evenings and nights were cold and a few days we had rain that required our rain coats but overall the weather was glorious.
Bolder Beach in Simon's Town

Hiking at Cape Point National Park

Landscape:  Cape Town is situated at the bottom tip of South Africa.  It's surrounded by the ocean with gorgeous bays and inlets and Table Mountain sits inland.  the city is built along the coast but the city creeps up to the base of the mountain.  Every view is gorgeous and worthy of a photograph.
The penguins at Bolder Beach

Cape Point National Park

Activities: There is an endless amount of fun in Cape Town.  We spent almost every day from mid-morning until dinner exploring and stopping to play, eat, and explore.  The V&A waterfront area has an aquarium, craft and food market, Ferris wheel, playground, shopping mall, waterfront restaurants, brew pubs, wine shops, live music, face painting, ponds, and docks to walk along.  We took the girls to two movies, spent an afternoon at the Scratch Patch at the precious stone polishing facility, found every ice cream parlor in the greater Cape Town area and more. We hiked at Cape Point National Park, visited the ostrich farm, and saw the penguins at Bolder Beach.  The day trips around Cape Town are wonderful as well.  We spent a day in Nordhoek fishing village on the Western Cape.

Wine country:  We were constantly surprised by the proximity of everything in the area.  We stayed in Muizenberg and it only took us a 45 minute drive from the coast to wine country in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek   We spent two nights in Franschhoek at the Lekkerwijn historic country house.  The house is stately and gorgeous but still very family friendly.  The wineries are close and plentiful and the wine is delicious.  Wine tasting at Solms Delta might go down as one of my favorite moments with my husband ever! More on wine country in later posts.
Paternoster Beach
Day trip to Paternoster, a small Western Coast fishing village

The coast:  We are beach people. Any type of beach, hot with white sands, rocky with crashing waves, it doesn't matter.  Being close to the ocean, seagulls and salt air makes me happy.  Cape Town has so many types of beaches to explore.  None of them were hot while we were there, but the sun was out enough that the kids could get their feet wet. There are lots of coastal scenic drives to inspire you as well.  The winding drives on the rocky coast to Cape Point National Park was spectacular.
Muizenberg beach in the "winter" weather

Two Oceans Aquarium on the waterfront

Kid friendly:  Not only is it family friendly, many activities are actually kid encouraging.  We were thrilled with some of the foodie markets we frequented because there was a designated kids play area.  Lots of small restaurants welcomed our brood with smiles and didn't flinch at the mashed french fries under the table.  Other patrons didn't seem bothered by our kid heavy family sitting next to them for a meal.  We actually ran into an older gentlemen that told us that everyone should remember they once were children themselves and just accept that kids will be kids.  My kind of people!  Granted, our kids are pretty well behaved and are frequent restaurant diners. That, combined with the fact that we take meals on the early bird schedule-we did just fine eating out with our kids, even at some of the nicer spots.
Groot Constantia wine estate

Ice cream by The Creamery 

Local cheese

Micro brew is slowly growing a following in Cape Town, my husband would lead the pack

The food:  Cape Town and it's surrounding areas were a food haven for Justin and I. Every new neighborhood we explored housed a new gem cafe or food barn.  Some with bakeries, gourmet spice shelves and local wine for sale.  Everywhere we went South African wine was being paired with seafood, cheese, ostrich, and organic vegetables, pizza, burgers, wraps, quiche, eggs...the list of good food goes on.  It wasn't all European or Western influenced either.  We had sushi, Thai, Cape Malay, Cuban, Chinese, and almost any other type of ethnic food you could think of.  It was all available and quite delicious.  There were a number of weekend markets that brought together small food cart style vendors that sold everything from potato latki eggs benedict to giant flat bread pizzas piled high with rocket.  The craft beer flowed from the tap and hipsters carried glasses of wine through the crowds in one hand and an ostrich burger in the other.   Cape Town is a food destination for sure.  I also have to comment on the grocery stores.  I was amazed at the huge well stocked grocery stores.  The local yogurt and dairy products were top notch, aisles of gourmet vinegar, salt, and oil, jarred sauces, boxed broths, and pastas were reminiscent of Trader Joe's in the US.  Woolworths brings to mind Whole Foods and Marks and Spencer.  For a food lover, cook/baker like me, grocery shopping in Cape Town and carefully curating a selection of items to bring home with me to Addis, was even more than browsing the local Zara (and Zara is my jam).
Blue Bird Garage Friday market for families.  Beer, wine and food cart style food.

Hot chocolate with a scoop of ice cream at the Neighborgoods Market on Saturdays at the Old Biscuit Factory

Cape Town is a wonderful destination because the entire area is gorgeous and unpretentious.  The award winning vineyards with worn picnic tables and handmade tree swings.  The ancient playgrounds and new kid friendly markets.  Every single bit of this place was welcoming to us as a family and easy to navigate as tourists.  \
Street entertainers at the V&A Waterfront
Cape to Cuba restaurant in Kalk Bay.  The kids were entertained by the frequent trains that went by.
Good food everywhere!