Monday, April 30, 2012

puppy sitting

This past weekend during all our party prep and cooking we puppy sat for friends of ours.  Gobi is a 9 month old adopted Ethiopian mutt.  He's a beautiful sweet dog who is extremely lucky to be rescued as a puppy from street life in Addis Ababa.  He is really good with children and wants to play and run all day.

Justin and I were considering adopting a puppy from a new litter of pups that was born a few weeks ago.  It was probably fate that Gobi came to stay with us this past weekend and remind us just how much work a puppy is.  Even at 9 months, after he's been house broken and settled down a tad (so his parents say); he still jumps, chews toys (we had multiple casualties over the weekend) and just generally acts like a puppy.  It was like having another child to worry about all day and all night. He needs a lot of attention  He woke Justin up every morning to go outside before the girls woke up.  Gobi is a good sweet dog but still very much a baby.  Justin and I made a smart realization that we don't have the time or energy to train and care for a new puppy right now.  Possibly when Ashlynn is a bit older.  Lucy would agree with this assessment as she hid from Gobi most of the weekend.  He just didn't understand that she wasn't interested in playing.  That and he ate Lucy's favorite ball.
For now Gobi can come stay with us whenever he wants.  

what's growing in our garden?

yellow roses in the rain

Arabella's day

I love planning and preparing and throwing birthday parties for my daughters.  It's a highlight for me in April and May.  This year Arabella was so happy all day.  It made all the work worthwhile.  First thing in the morning she was singing "Happy Birthday" to herself.  She danced around to the playlist Daddy had put together for her party.  She knew it was her special day and it was precious to see her so happy and excited all day long.

After the party the birthday girl napped, or more likely a sugar crashing induce coma for two hours.  When she woke up she had a bunch of birthday presents to open!  She was so happy to have a new Razor scooter and "mouse house".  The playdough stamps were a big hit too.  Thank you so Grammy and Grandpa for the great gifts.  

Arabella's third birthday

Three years ago I was gasping into an oxygen mask in the final moments before I delivered my second precious daughter, Arabella Jun.  She came in to this world bright pink and screaming, announcing to all within ear shot that she had arrived.  The past three years have been nothing but an adventure with this little girl!  Happy third birthday Arabella!
Mickey Mouse cake

Her birthday present from Mommy and Daddy was her beloved Buzz Lightyear

She was thrilled to have everyone singing Happy Birthday to her

the birthday had a mouth full of food/cake all day
The most delicious fudge chocolate cake I've made to date.  

Bouncy house!
crown decorating
Eneye with Ashlynn and her daughter Tutu
We celebrated with a party with a few of her friends here in Addis Ababa.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

chicken and corn chowder

There is always one food item that haunts my dreams while I am overseas.  Sometimes the food changes over time and often morphs into a super food that will never live up to my expectations the next time I'm in America to taste it.  Last post I dreamed about a Carlyle burger. It just didn't live up to my fantasy when I had an opportunity to enjoy one. The one thing I craved in Manila that did completely hold up to my expectations when I finally had a bite was a Chipotle burrito.  Not a shocker there.

Anyhow, right now my dream food is the chicken and corn chowder at Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington, VA.  This was our Friday night hang out while we were in the States in between Manila and Addis Ababa.  It's a perfectly kid friendly joint with amazing pizzas and subs as well as a superb microbrew selection.  We didn't discover their chicken and corn chowder until a few weeks before we left for Ethiopia.  The soup is perfection and I've been thinking about it ever since.  It makes me get all weak kneed and silly.  It was that good.  If you live in the Northern VA, DC or MD area you should log off your computer and drive to Lost Dog and have a bowl of their chicken and corn chowder for me (maybe order a New York Giant sub and a large Kujo pizza to go for later).
In an attempt to fulfill that craving I made my own version of chicken and corn chowder last night for dinner.  The flavor was there but the thickness was not.  I love the mouth feel of chowder.  How it coats your mouth with all that flavorful heartiness.  My soup had all the flavor of the chicken and corn chowder I love but none of the mouth feel.  In the end I'm not sure I mind.  Getting that thickness and mouth feel has a lot to do with added fat in the form of cream.  Next time I make this I plan on leaving the potatoes larger so they can cook and then I can remove and mash them and add them back in to add thickness to the base without the calories of adding more cream.

We've had a nasty cold the past few days.  This soup really hit the spot for me last night.  The girls and Justin gobbled this up.  There was just enough left for me to have a bowl for lunch today.

Here is what I did (in a nutshell).  Brown 5 strips of bacon in a large pot.  Remove the bacon when done and add a chopped onion, two garlic cloves and chopped yellow pepper (use yellow because your kids won't be able to tell the difference between the pepper chunks and the corn).  Saute with a bit of olive oil until tender.  Add 2-3 cans of low sodium chicken broth (I used some homemade but if you don't have homemade to add use that third can) and about a cup of water.  Bring to a boil.  Add 2-3 chopped potatoes and two cans of chicken with the juices (certainly you can use fresh grilled and chopped chicken-I live in Addis Ababa and don't have fresh chicken all the time).  Add back the bacon and reduce to a simmer.  Add 2 cans of whole kernel corn.  Taste the broth periodically and add salt and pepper as needed.  After simmering for about 30 minutes add 1/2 cup heavy cream and 2-3 teaspoons of corn starch to thicken the soup.  Mine didn't get very thick at all so you could adjust this as you like.  Adding more cream and corn starch will change the texture.  A lower fat option is removing the potatoes, mashing them and then mixing it back in the broth.  This helped thicken my broth a bit but I chopped them so tiny it was too much trouble to remove  them all.  At the very end I mixed in about 3/4 cup of very mild cheddar cheese that melted and made the soup even tastier.  You could definitely leave the cheese out though.  Serve nice and hot with warmed bread.  Be prepared for the kids to be slurping and silent!  


We finally have a table for the girls' art work.  I'm hoping this one lasts a bit longer than the set we had in the Philippines (by the time we left the legs had all broken-multiple times).  I love that the chairs don't tip.  We had this custom made by a paper mache furniture shop here in Addis Ababa.  They specially made the large diameter table at a kids height.  My pet peeve about kids tables tend to be that they are too small and don't allow room for the art projects to be spread out.  Addie was already producing some creative work with her new work space.  Right now she's really into making treasure maps and paper dolls.  She's perfecting her scissor skills too!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

taken to the ringer

Being Westerners in third world countries has been our M.O. for the past few years.  We aren't new comers to the idea that we walk around with big dollar signs on our chests.  Bartering is part of life here in Ethiopia.  I got kind of good at in Manila. I usually got stinky with vendors that quoted me higher prices simply because I was a white woman.  More often than not I know I paid more for things than locals would.  It's just part of life. I understand that I'm still generally paying less than I would if I were in the U.S.  That's how I justified getting ripped off most of the time.

This past weekend we scheduled a visit from the dog groomer the CLO had on file at the embassy.  My first mistake was not agreeing on a price for the hair cut over the phone before the groomer got to our house and realized that we were Westerners.  Our chances of getting a low price pretty much went out of the window when she go to our three story American Embassy issued house.

We were more than slightly skeptical when she pulled out a pair of sewing scissors and just started hacking away at Lucy's coat.  Then I find out she didn't bring her electric clippers or her toe nail clippers for Lucy. She asks for towels, the dog's hair brush and shampoo.  After two hours the cut is complete. It's as short as we like it but it's the messiest choppiest grooming I've ever seen.  She used our supplies and left a black hairy mess in our outdoor sink.

Then she charges me $30.  She actually quotes me the price in dollars.  I had to ask her to convert it to Ethiopian Birr for me.  Justin just gave me the look.  We had been had.  For whatever reason Justin and I lost our nerve to bargain.  We kind of felt guilty even after the terrible hair cut.  The woman was standing next to our immense Toyota 4 runner and eyeing the girls shoes and we just handed her the cash instead of trying to cut a deal.

It might be the last time Lucy gets "groomed" by this woman during our stay in Ethiopia. I'm thinking an investment in our own grooming clippers might be more economical.  The first thing our driver asked on Monday morning is if I cut the dog's hair myself.  I guess I should have!

lipstick revival

So I might have gone a bit overboard on my new lipstick obsession.  I blame it on our Mad Men marathon.  Staring at those perfectly colored Joan/Peggy/Betty lips every night for weeks on end inspired me to rethink my ideas about lipstick (and men in hats, cigarettes, and hard liquor while I’m at it). 

Feeding this obsession while isolated in Ethiopia was challenging.  Sadly, Nordstrom will not be franchising in this city any time soon. That means I’m stuck with shopping online.  Being limited to the Internet for my lipstick purchases meant I was taking a much bigger risk every time I ordered a tube.  My odds of finding a great color were pretty low when I only had photos of the lip color to go on.  No testing the color on the back of my hand for this girl. 

My past relationship with lipstick was limited.  My first real tube of lipstick was Clinique back in high school.  I’m certain it was a free gift with purchase. Then Carmex and clear lip gloss became the beauty staple for most of my adult life.  I splurged on a great Chanel lipstick for my wedding day and an awesome red to wear with my Marine Ball gown last year.  That dress demanded lipstick.  Other than that I have been pretty intimidated by lipstick for daily wear.  As a mom of three young children I wear make-up less than when I was working.  I just don't have as much time to spend on myself.  Now when I find the time to apply make-up, I focus on the eyes.  Chap stick is applied as I run out the door; and always as an afterthought. 

Revlon Moon drops, left to right: creme Blase Apricot, frost Apple Polish, frost 24K Orange
Love the old school green and gold tubes
Feeling inspired, I ordered a few lipsticks, some work better than others.  In an attempt to save some money I jumped on the drugstore bandwagon initially.  I ordered three Revlon shades of Moon Drops lipstick.  24 K Orange is a great fun orange/pink shade that I wore the most.  It’s a color that demands attention. The $8.99 price was right but the feel (and smell) was all wrong.   The lipstick was dry and stiff and smelled like and old lady's neglected makeup drawer.  I wanted a silky glide and I still hadn’t nailed the color selection.   

I decided to move back into my department store brand comfort zone.   After extensive research, I ordered Smashbox Posy Pink and Melondrama ($19), NARS Love Devotion and Christina($24), and Clinique Golden Brandy ($15).  I had much better luck with this batch.  I love the feel and color of the Smashbox tubes.  Melondrama is an intense melon/pink color that pops on my face.  The Posy Pink is a perfect pink for my skin tone.   Both Smashbox colors are highly pigmented and last a long time.  The Clinique feels nice but the Golden Brandy looks a bit old fashioned; kind of boring.  Maybe because it could quite possibly be the same color of my first Clinique lipstick all those years ago. Plus the color kind of crept beyond my lip line a tad (which is exactly how old lady lips look to me).  
From left to right: Smashbox Melondrama and Posy Pink, NARS Christina and Love Devotion, Clinique Golden Brandy
You get what you pay for holds true here because  the NARS is pretty exceptional.  It feels even more silky and smooth than Smashbox.  Christina is the satin formula and is pretty much perfection.  The pigmentation is amazing.  A very light application lasts a very long time.  It’s a perfect golden raspberry shade.  It’s quickly become my go-to color.  (I think it has something to do with my pink skin undertones, I guess colors with blue in them look best on me).  The Love Devotion, on the other hand, is the sheer formula and makes for a nice tinted chapstick look.  It’s unnoticeable and not what I was looking for in a lipstick.  Ultimately, I recommend Smashbox or NARS and if you splurge on the NARS, stick to the Satin lipsticks.  Finding the right color can be challenging online but not impossible. 
Smashbox Posy Pink is my favorite pink
NARS Christina, my favorite overall
 I learned some things on my online lipstick journey I’ll share with you.  The key to picking out lipstick online is having more than one website up with the brand of lipstick and the color options that you are browsing.  I clicked between, Sephora, Amazon and  The trouble is, photos of the lip color are different between each site.  It was good to compare pages to try to get the best estimate of what that color would actually look like when I opened the tube and applied it to my skin.

Reviews were helpful too.  Only most people forget to include the name of the lip color they are reviewing.  “Most amazing color for any skin tone” means absolutely nothing when you don’t tell me which color your using.  On a few occasions I found reviews from people with similar skin tones and hair color that led me in the right direction.  Note: pay attention to the age bracket of the reviewer.  I found a few reviews helpful until I realized the reviewer was 30 years older than me and knew we couldn’t possibly have matching tastes. 
Taking a close up is really scary.  I hated every single one of  them.  The next thing on my list to research is eye cream.  Hello crows feet, no one invited you!
Lipstick has become my favorite makeup item (and it’s a good thing now that I have a drawer full of tubes in all sorts of color).  When I apply makeup now I completely ignore my eyes (with the exception of under eye concealer-since I’m perpetually exhausted).  I never go without lipstick when I’m leaving the house. It’s truly the perfect makeup for busy Moms. If I’m being honest, I usually grab a tube for my purse and apply it in the car after I’ve gotten the kids settled.   A quick application of lipstick instantaneously makes me look more polished and put together.  Throw on some sunglasses and earrings and the lipstick bumps my daily look up a notch.  Looking a little more put together makes me feel a little more put together.  I used to feel undone without mascara on.   Now it’s lipstick for me.  I’m proudly a lipstick convert.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

separation anxiety

Adelaide has developed a pretty hefty dose of anxiety the past two weeks.  She's having a hard time at drop-off to school and even yesterday she cried when I left for the grocery store.  It's very unlike her to be upset about going to school and normally she wouldn't care if I left the house.  She's refused to go to friends houses for play dates and has a tendency to follow me around the house.  I've even noticed in her drawings of herself she's drawing me right next to her in all of them.

It's been hard to get to the bottom of the problem.  We've uncovered a fear of a dog at a play mates house as one reason she doesn't want to go there any longer.  I've tried to ask her all the right questions about what's going on at school but it doesn't seem to be uncovering anything. We've even had the conversation about secrets and how there are no secrets between her and I even if another adult asks her to keep a secret.  Justin and I have been mentally picturing the worst.   Seeing the anxiety surface when in multiple places and situations hasn't let us pinpoint the anxiety to any one location (school or other friends homes) or individual (teacher or driver etc.)  It really seems to be a separation anxiety from ME!  Sometimes I find her in tears in our own home because she couldn't find me (it's a big house but, still).  The grocery store incident had her crying at my car door screaming "Don't leave me Mommy". When we are all at home she's happily playing with Bella and or Eneye, Zalalem, and Teklu.  We're often all playing together.

We are hoping it's a phase and maybe she's having a hard time adjusting to the idea that Ethiopia is home now.  We aren't sure.  I've been giving her extra hugs at school drop off and extra love at home.  Hopefully the end is in sight.  

Ashlynn at 6 months

Poor Ash was wrecked by her 6 months shots this past week.  Good news is that she's a big healthy girl.

4 months 14 lbs 3 ounces 25.5 inches tall
6 months 16 lbs 12 ounces 26.5 inches tall

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lucy the wonder mutt

Lucy is now famous and fighting for a good cause!  She's our diplomutt

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

all girl

My girls like to get muddy and wrestle like any kid.  They burp and laugh about it and make potty jokes with the best of them.  But there are moments when my girls are all girl (even Bean).  Yesterday, Addie and Bella decided to dress up in their new dresses from Kiki and Po. They slipped them on all by themselves to dance around the house.  The dresses are coordinating colors and adorable.  I seized the moment, threw Ashlynn's on her and grabbed my camera.  Thank you Kiki and Po for the adorable black and white trio!  Lucy decided she coordinated as well and wanted in on the action. This is my favorite shot by far.   

no help needed

If Ashlynn could speak she'd say "don't help me, I can do it all by myself" just like her big sisters.  She's been sitting up on her own for some time now.  Just within the last week or two I've felt comfortable leaving her without a pillow behind her.  She almost never teeters backwards anymore.   Note her new favorite teething toy is a toothbrush!

Monday, April 16, 2012

the nana fairy

Arabella had a serious obsession with her pacifiers.  She's never been able to soothe herself and took to her "nana" like it was an appendage.  We hated the nana and at the same time thanked our lucky stars she was comforted by it.  If I counted up all the time we've spent searching our homes for the stupid little rubber things or looking under tables at restaurants, under the seats of the car, in boxes, under would probably equal two weeks of our life. Maybe more. Just finding the nanas.  I've probably spent $50 over the years on replacements.  At age two nana had been downgraded to naps and bedtime. No more carting it with us or using it out of the bedroom.  But still, we spent countless nights woken by Bella's screams because she'd misplaced nana in her bed sheets?

It was time for nana to go.  We'd been preparing Bella for the nana fairy's arrival for months now.  Mostly as a threat when we were furious because we'd given her a pacifier and two seconds later it had been lost again.  But the preparations were in place.  Her third birthday was D-day.  I started getting nervous about D-day because I didn't want to ruin her B-day.  I was expecting at least two night of crying herself to sleep.  I'd been preparing to let Addie sleep in the guest room until Bella got over the trauma.

Last week I took all her Soothie pacifiers and put them in a box.  I gave her one strange newborn Nuk type pacifier she wasn't used to and told her she could use this one until the nana fairy came on her birthday.  She seemed OK with it.  The next day I asked her if she was ready for the fairy to come and if there was something special she wanted the fairy to leave her.  She said "Barney".  She's been talking about a stuffed Barney doll for her birthday for weeks.  Lucky for us we had one waiting for her birthday.  That night she handed over all her pacifiers and set them in the box on the coffee table.  Addie requested that the nana fairy not be allowed to come in their bedroom to retrieve the pacifiers.  Fair enough.

That night she fell asleep and slept through the entire night without her nanas.  No crying or fussing or issues.  Justin and I couldn't believe our luck.  The next morning she was thrilled to see her Barney doll and hasn't asked about her nanas since.  Piece of cake.

It was time and she knew it.  We are so proud of our Bella Bean.  Now that the nanas are gone, for whatever reason she seems to have grown up even more.  It's only been a few days but it has made a difference.  I think she's proud to be a big girl.  

so cheap it's almost stealing

My jaw still drops when I can get 20 roses for 20 Birr.  That's about $1.20.  

best friends

Adelaide and Arabella get along so nicely.  It is so sweet to listen to them play together.  Now that Bella is a little older I can tell that Addie is enjoying their playtime more.  They can turn anything into an imaginative game.  Yesterday they opened one of the drawers in the kitchen to find all the big number candles we use for their birthdays.  Suddenly one candle was the Daddy and the other candle was the Mommy.  The candles went to the airport (box of cereal) and the game just took off from there.