Saturday, June 30, 2012

Addis Ababa bazaar

My sweet husband hit the ground running this morning even after just 3 hours of sleep from all his travels.  The girls couldn't possibly let him sleep any longer this morning and had to tackle him with kisses.  No only did he bring me home some awesome anniversary presents (I'll save them from another post), he had treats for the girls.  My favorite is this Knitter Critter.  All the yarn is hand dyed and knitted by local women.  This is the kind of thing some fancy pants kids boutique in New York would import.  Only we have one straight from the source! Ash is a lucky girl!

I love the neat things we've accumulated in our travels.  It makes all my Target "treasures" seems so boring (I love Target, don't get me wrong-it's just mass produced blah).

Speaking of treasures, we went to the NGO bazaar today.  It's the last Saturday of every month and all sorts of vendors are selling their goods to the expats in Addis Ababa. Including us! We picked up a few pounds of gorgeous huge apples.  I've never seen apples this nice at any store in Addis.

Pottery is a big deal in Ethiopia and pottery hens of all sizes are a traditional souvenir to collect from Ethiopia.  Who am I to break tradition.  I started our collection with a few of the most traditional black and white painted hens in multiple sizes.  When the largest hen is $8 and the smallest $1 this is a collection that won't break the bank.  Let's put it this way. Anyone who comes to Ethiopia shouldn't go home without spending $20 on an Ethiopian pottery hen collection.  Fact. My Mom is going to freak when she sees these.

Plenty of scarves and colorful baskets, hats, and rugs are sold at the bazaar.  

I really like the animals.  The girls brought home a giraffe and horse from the last bazaar we attended.  I kind of want one of each for myself they are so cute.  

The girls are starving, ALL OF THE TIME.  So we nabbed some delicious lentil samosas for practically free and munched on those for a snack.  OK, I admit, I was crazy hungry too.  No photos.  We ate them all!
Justin happened upon two beer mugs that are hand etched with the logos of two popular Ethiopian beers.  The Hakim Stout from Harar Brewery is my favorite.  It's dark and robust and brewed in the Harar region.  All the beer of Ethiopia is really good.  St. George's is the beer of the nation.  It's dirt cheap (6 birr/bottle) and sold everywhere.  It's a decent light beer.  If you want Hakim you have to go to special restaurants.  We found a place that has it on tap and it's pretty comparable to something you would find at a microbrewery in Virginia (notice I didn't say comparable to microbrew in Oregon.  Nothing is comparable to that sweet nectar of the Gods).

So the bazaar is fun.  If you come visit pick a week at the end of the month-any month.

Friday, June 29, 2012

beauty bonus

I really hate shopping online for beauty products and clothing.  I'd much prefer smelling it (beauty products-not jeans), feeling it and trying it on to see if it works.  Shopping online eliminates all that reassurance. It fills me with anxiety until the item arrives at the mail room. With our current mail system I have no way of returning items that don't work so I have to positive that I love something and avoid buying anything too risky (like those $200 J Brand skinny jeans that look awesome on the model but who knows how they'd look on moi).  My clothing ordering is another blog post entirely.

What I really wanted to talk about was the sweet little treats that come with ordering beauty products online.  I'm pretty sure I'm the last woman alive to learn this amazing fact but; you can get free stuff with your order, yo! I've purchased beauty products from and and they both let me choose free samples with my order.  For free!  For reals!   I've received a tiny version of Cliniques 3-step skin care system (perfect for travel), hair nourishing oils, and Fresh Sugar lip treatments (which has to be the nicest feeling and smelling lip balm I've ever used).Above all else, I love choosing the perfume samples. It reminds me when I was younger and I'd go to the Nordies perfume counter and collect samples to bring home! I've bombed on a few picks but I just pass them on to Eneye and she comes in to work smelling like a dream.  It's win win because sometimes I really get a good one.

My box from Sephora arrived the other day with my magic elixir from Philosophy. (I have to give my dear friend Melinda a huge thank you for helping me trust in Philosophy-she's practically their spokeswoman).  Anyway, my skin is dewy again.  Thank the heavens.  But the best little treat was the minuscule box containing a miniature bottle of Especially Escada by Escada.  It smells gorgeous and it was totally free.  I am most impressed with this sample's packaging.  Most perfume samples I've received come in those tiny little spritzer tubes attached to a folded card.  This Escada sample is an itty bitty (0.06 oz) version of the real you-have-to-pay-for-it bottle!  It's so adorable and petite and it came in a pretty little one square inch box.

Heck, if I can get wee bottles like this one, I might even agree that ordering online is fun!

new look

I started this blog in October of 2007.  That's pushing 5 years worth of blogging and 1071 posts.  I never thought my little online journal would become such a part of our family's life.  I guess it was time for a bit of a face lift since my old template wasn't compatible anymore with the updated blogger.  Sadly, now I can't get my old title and heading picture back up.  Hmpf! Any ideas?  When I try to load it, blogger keeps telling me I've gone beyond my quota.  What? Maybe it's a size thing.

Here's to one thousand more posts!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

ruffled denim

 I don't think denim looks any cuter than when it's in the form of a ruffled skirt and being worn by sweet chubby legged baby girls.  She's all mine!

sidewalk chalk painting

Have you ever let your kids paint with sidewalk chalk?  A friend introduced us to this idea a few months back and now it's become a favorite art medium in our house.

Just give the kids the chalk and a bucket of water.  You can let the chalk soak in the water a bit or just dip the ends in as they go.  When the chalk is wet the colors are vibrant and it's more like painting than drawing. The wetter the chalk, the deeper the colors.  Tip: just don't let it soak too long or else it starts to disintegrate. 
I love how you can paint on the concrete with the wet chalk and almost immediately it dries and becomes a painting.  For whatever reason, when I add water to an activity my kids are engaged longer and are more involved in the project.  Every time I gave them dry chalk, they'd draw with it for a few minutes but always ask for an adult to draw something for them.  When I add the water, they are creative on their own.  Kids love water.  Maybe it's the feel of the wet chalk and getting a bit messy that entices them.  I admit that chalk painting can be addictive.  I envision myself creating chalk paintings like Bert in Mary Poppins(if only)!
Bella likes to get the chalk super wet and mush it on the ground then use her finger to paint the chalk mush into pictures.  
 Happy painting!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pepto saves the day (well night actually)

I've avoided tummy troubles in Ethiopia since we've arrived (minus those first two days of travelers tummy).  My parasite free lifestyle I attribute to 99% of our meals being cooked at home by yours truly.  When we do eat out we are choosy about where we go.  I am a hand washing Nazi and force the kids to wash whenever I feel their hands getting gummy (which is like every 17 minutes or so).  After all my parasite ridden days in the Philippines I was not looking forward to this kind of issues upon moving back to a third world country.  I assumed I'd be dealing with the same in Addis as I did in Manila.  Five months without a stomach issue deserves some kind of ribbon.  After last night, five months becomes my previous record.  My days without stomach trouble has gone back to zero.

The cramps hit, the chills came on, suddenly I was fatigued, then I upchucked my dinner and still didn't feel better.  My mind immediately thought of the worst.  I tried to mentally locate our leftover laboratory sample cups from the med clinic in Manila.  (We literally brought extra home with us to have one ready for the next time we'd have to provide a sample to the lab. I made sure those extras got packed up in our household effects to come straight to Africa.)  I laid in bed and prayed the girls would sleep soundly and the baby might miraculously sleep through the entire night.  No luck on either fronts.  I just felt worse and worse.

Then I remembered my friend Pepto Bismal.  Justin took the bottle with him on his travels (Pepto travels like a hard core diplomat), so I had to get out of bed and make my way outside to our pantry and retrieve another bottle.  I took some and then as a testament to it's fast acting relief,  fell asleep.  Two hours later when Bella woke from a bad dream I was my normal body temperature again and my stomach wasn't cramping!  I threw back another pink shot for good measure. Hooray for Pepto.  I was wobbly and my stomach was tentative all day today (didn't stop me from eating Bella's leftover eggs for breakfast-what? Maybe I have bad idea genes).  Pepto Bismal has become my new best friend in Ethiopia.  I don't have a parasite.  I know this because I'm not curled in a ball in pain from what feels like razor blades rolling round in my belly.  That, and I smiled today.  Parasites don't make you smile.

But here's how I truly know I must have just eaten a bad slice of salami and not Entamoeba histolytica.  This blog post over at the Sweet Beet about cheese had my mouth watering.  I can't stop thinking about cheese most days anyway, but after reading this I think I'm going to have to blow $50 on a morsel of Gorgonzola at the Addis Ababa Hilton deli.  If I had an amoeba I would be dreaming about a hefty dose of metronidazol not blue cheese on cracker, or Gorgonzola on salad, or Fontina in egg souffles, or New Zealand cheddar on wheat with pastrami, or brie with dates, or Camembert with sun dried tomatoes, or Monterey Jack in enchiladas, or smoked Gouda on BBQ chicken pizza with caramelized onions.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I don't have a parasite.


My mom used to make Jello Popsicles when I was little and the ones my girls and I made yesterday is the exact same recipe.  How fun is that?  The best part about this activity is that it can almost entirely be prepared by a 5 year old.  I boiled the water and helped pour it in the bowl but the rest is easy!

1 3 ounce package of Jello flavored gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
1 Tbsp sugar
fruit chunks (optional)

Mix the gelatin with the sugar and boiling water.  Add the cold water.  
Pour into your Popsicle mold.  
Freeze overnight. 
 Warm the mold in warm water until the popsicles easily slide out.  Makes 4-6 Popsicles depending on the size of your mold.  

Enjoy with big smiles! Cheers

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

snack obsessed children (that would be my kids)

I swear I serve my kids three, mostly well-balanced, meals every day! I really do! You'd never know it though. Dinner tends to be the only meal they actually sit and finish.  I think it's a combination of them being starving after playing so hard and trying to get in the clean plate club so they qualify for dessert.

Can I just tell you how tired I am of my kids coming to me a gazillion times a day between 40 minutes after breakfast all the way until dinner telling me they are hungry and want a snack?  I think I'm going to start calling breakfast, lunch, and dinner "snacks" in the hopes that they will actually eat more at meal time.  I'm cool about snacks.  I usually allow a small snack mid morning before lunch and one again in the afternoon.

The girls act starved, like they haven't eaten for days.  They beg, "Mommy, can I please have a snack? I'm so hungry". Almost always with a pathetic look on their faces. When they turn down my fruit or veggie options they ask for popcorn or crackers or cereal.  They are carbaholics.  It's terrible.

I'm on the hunt for healthy snacks to quickly prepare or have on-hand during these situations.  I don't like the girls eating too many crackers before meal time because then they don't eat the meal and the vicious cycle of snacking instead of eating just gets worse.  They get bored with plain fruit or veggies.  We can't get string cheese here.  Yogurt is a special treat in Ethiopia.  I'm working with the basics here and sometimes I just draw a blank.  But...
I might have found a win win snack! Homemade hummus with veggies is their favorite healthy snack right now.  Addie and I made a batch today that was super yummy.  I adjust the ingredients every time I make this recipe and I think I've finally got it down.  First of all, I used to make way too much and it would get munched on for a few days but then the rest would sit in the fridge and rot after they got sick of hummus.  This time I made just enough for a two days.  We use lots of lime juice and garlic to give it a punch.

Homemade hummus for the snack obsessed child

1 15 ounce can of chickpeas (drained but save the juice in a bowl)
(note: I used 380 grams of chickpeas for this recipe because I can only get the cans from Egypt shown in the photo.  380 grams is about 13.5 ounces if you want to get specific)
2 heaping Tbsp of tahini
2-3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
5-6 cloves of garlic chopped
dash of cumin
Put all the ingredients in the food processor or blender and whirl it up.  Slowly add some of the chick pea juice to the mixture until the texture is smooth and creamy.  This is personal preference so you can add as little or as much as you like.  Same goes with the lime juice and garlic.  We like our hummus seasoned well but you could slowly add both and taste as you go to get the right combination for your family.

Tip: if you like hummus with a smooth texture remove all the casings off the chickpeas before blending them up.  This is very time consuming but it you have a little person to help you this is a great task for a kid.  Addie removed some of the casings but in the end it didn't matter.  If you leave the casings on, the texture is a bit chunkier.  I kind of prefer it this way.

You can serve this right away with a bit of drizzled olive oil and a pinch of paprika.  I couldn't get that far because the girls just dug right in.  We served it with snap peas and carrot sticks.  I've also made home made chips by slicing flour tortillas into triangles and drizzling them with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet and baking them at 350 degrees until they are a crispy.  The girls LOVE this but then it totally defeats the purpose of serving a healthy snack.  I'd rather have my kids eat the veggies.  
I just left this bowl (which is fabulous, don't you think?) out for the afternoon so they could come get a bite when they wanted.  An added bonus was that they didn't bug me about being hungry.  I put the bowl away about 2 hours before dinner so they'd still have an appetite.  But really, if they gorge themselves on this snack I don't feel too bad.

What are your favorite healthy snacks for kids?  I need some other ideas!

a few years ago a wedding happened today

Seven years to be exact.  It was a beach wedding in Kauai and I was so nervous I had to remind myself to smile. I was simply over the moon. He likes to remind me that the woman he married didn't come back (mentally) until half way through the luau reception.  It was a beautiful evening.

Our marriage just gets better with every passing year.  Before there was a house, dog and wedding (and then the 3 babies); there was just the two of us, still in college, falling in love, Spring of 2001.
I love you honey.  Happy Anniversary.

Monday, June 25, 2012

homemade journals

Addie has recently become interested in journal keeping after spending the past few months writing in one every day at preschool.  By writing, I mean drawing pictures and letters, sounding out basic words, and describing her pictures to her teachers.  I loved keeping a journal when I was young and I want to encourage my girls to write down their ideas, inspiration, drawings, doodles, etc.  When I saw this idea I knew Addie and I had to make our own for her and Bella.

Amazingly, Bella and Ashlynn's naps overlapped a bit this afternoon so Adelaide and I had some time to work on these little handmade journals just the two of us.  I prepped some of the cutting so it would be faster but all told this really only took us about an hour to complete.  While the inspiration provided detailed instructions I have to admit I didn't even read then.  They looked simple enough and as I do with my cooking, I like to improvise as I go along.

We used thick scrapbook paper for the cover.  I cut a long strip that I folded into thirds so the right hand side would open up and reveal the journal within.  I also glued a piece of thin cardboard to the back panel of the book so there would be a hard surface to write on.
On the inside flap of the book I stamped a place for the girls to personalize their journal.

Instead of putting Addie and Bella's names on the front of the journal so they could tell them apart, I stamped their ages.  Both girls are super proud of how old they are and talk about it all the time so using a 3 and 5 on the front made them both really happy!
I used white drawing paper for the inside pages.  I cut and folded the pages to fit the inside of the journal cover.
I sewed the pages in with a sewing needle and thread.  Addie was fascinated with my sewing basket and it reminded me how magical and wonderful my own mother's sewing basket felt (those cute tomato pin cushions, and buttons and colorful spools of thread).  My mother's sewing basket was a thing of wonder for me as a little girl.  I love taking out my own sewing basket for mending or fun projects like this! 
We decided to add a ribbon through two small hole punches and create a pretty way to tie closed our journals.  We just punched two more holes on the narrow flap so we could feed them though and tie it closed.  I had this ribbon leftover from the wedding favors we made for our wedding!

Then Addie and I blinged out the journals with rhinestones.  Finished product
Journal in use!

I'm really excited to make these for kids birthday gifts (or adult gifts for that matter).  We get invited to lots of birthday parties and always need a little something to give.  It was so fast and quick and there are a million ways to decorate or personalize these.  I caught myself getting giddy over adding stickers to some of the pages in Bella's journal.  It was so fun!

Korean food in Ethiopia

As odd as it may sound, our favorite place to take the kids out to dinner is a quaint little Korean place.  The staff knows us and after our last visit and Bella's diplomacy skills; the girls are now on a first name basis with the chefs!  That girl is not shy!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

around Addis Ababa

A few weeks back we drove about 30 miles outside of the city to the Bethel Women's shelter.  We took a ton of wrong turns and missed all the land marks but finally found it.  After our picnic we were ambushed by a huge group of local children.  We had a few extra pieces of cake which J handed out.  By "handed out", I mean try not to get knocked over by the kids grabbing bits of cake from his hand extended above his head.  As we left, some of the children were picking crumbs of cake off the ground to nibble on.  It broke my heart. I am ordering soft candies to take with us to hand out to kids.  I hate not being able to give each child a little treat.  Addie and Bella had a hard time grasping that the children were so excited to try a piece because it was most  likely their first taste of cake...ever.  Blew our kids minds.

Sheraton Addis Ababa is a beautiful oasis of rose gardens, swimming pools, fountains and play grounds in Addis Ababa. It's the nicest hotel in the city.  Sometimes we drive there just to play on the shaded playground.
It's hard to believe these two outings happened in the same country!