Tuesday, July 31, 2012

DIY: old frame-new cork board

During our move to Ethiopia, the glass on a framed vintage print broke.  Justin isn't entirely a huge fan of the print anyway and there is no place to hang it in our house, so I decided to get crafty and turn it into a cork board for Ladytroupe Sweets.  Cork board tiles are sold everywhere now with lots of sizes and thicknesses.

Stuff you will need:
old frame
cork board tiles (I used Quartet brand 8 pack of 12 in X 12 in tiles)
glue gun

The frame has a nice vintage feel and was still in good condition so I removed the print and saved the cardboard backing.  It took a bit to get the frame nails to come up using the pliers.

I used the card board backing as a template for cutting my cork board.  It's ideal if you have a frame small enough that you don't need to puzzle piece together the tiles OR if you have large enough cork board tiles to only need one to fill your frame.  My supplies are limited so I just try to make the best of what I have.  Most likely your frame will not be the size of the cork board tiles so cutting will be necessary.

Measured the tiles and cut them with sharp scissors.

Hot glued the cork board into place

Placed it back in the frame and hammered the frame nails back down.

If I could do it again I might put some tacky glue along the edges of the cork board tiles so the tiles glue together when placed down on the card board backing.  This might make the seams of the tiles less visable and give the illusion of one large cork board.

I plan on pinning multiple things up on the board so the seams will be covered by photos and such.
It's a great recycling project for an old print that no longer had space in my life.  Don't throw away your old frames!

Monday, July 30, 2012

field journal

The girls and I were feeding the birds in our garden yesterday and a fun kid project popped in my head.  There are so many interesting birds, animals and plants in Ethiopia for us to learn about.  I helped Addie make a field journal to start recording some of the wildlife.

We used a school journal, the kind with space to draw a picture on top with lines below to write about it.  We could have just used the notebook as it was for a field journal but we only need a very mild excuse to make something prettier and get crafty.  We covered the notebook with pretty paper, added a thick layer of cardboard for a writing surface and personalized it with stickers.

Addie filled apron pockets with pencils, colored pencils, erasers, and a sharpener for her field work.  We went outside and started searching for things to draw and write about.  Of course the moment we go looking, the interesting birds disappear and we are left with little ordinary brown sparrows.  She did draw a pretty great rose bud though.

We plan on taking the journal with us when we travel so we can record the interesting species that we see all over Ethiopia.

crime too close to home

Monday morning Eneye came to work with a black eye.  On her way home from work Friday evening she was assaulted and mugged. It had been raining Friday and that means that there weren't as many taxis running.  She had to walk most of the way home.  At about 8PM four young men attacked her on a dark overgrown strip of sidewalk not far from her house.  One man covered her eyes, one grabbed and emptied her purse, one man searched her pockets, one man punched her in the face and they took off running with her week's salary.  Bystanders came running to help when they heard her screaming and crying.  She was laid up at home most of the weekend.  There was no point reporting the incident to the police as she said they wouldn't do anything.  It's rainy season and lots of people are out of work and crime has increased accordingly.

I felt terrible, she insisted she was fine except for the pounding headache on the side of her face where she was hit.  We discussed ways to avoid this happening again.  Possibly her leaving early on rainy afternoons so she can take the taxis and avoiding walking in dark areas even if it means taking longer to get home.  I offered her a ride home on Fridays when Justin is already home before she leaves work.  I'm really mad that this sweet woman who has become so much apart of our lives worked her tail off all week for her salary and had it stolen from her.  I feel awful that she had to go through something like this.

Justin and I discussed it and think we will offer Eneye, her husband and Tutu the extra room in our outbuilding to live in.  It's a large, warm, safe place for them to stay.  We've been avoiding this so far for lots of different reasons.  All of them selfishness on our part.  Not wanting to give up our privacy on the weekends, not wanting to share our compound with another family, not wanting Tutu to prevent her mother from doing her job Monday through Friday, not wanting to have to deal with the possible issues that could come with inviting three other people into our lives every day for the remainder of our time here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  We of course have the security concerns to go over with the right people as well.  I admit to not want to be responsible for another 4 year old child during the day.  All these things are legitimate reasons but extremely selfish reasons.

We agree that it's come to a point where not offering the space to Eneye and her family is not an option. It's just the decent thing to do.  Even if our comfort is compromised a little bit.  The benefits are endless.  Eneye and her husband would be saving money, Tutu would have a safe place to play and more time with her Mother, we'd benefit from having a live in babysitter (as we did in Manila), her family would be there to take care of Lucy when we travel and keep an eye on the house.  Eneye would likely be able to be at work earlier or stay later on occasion for work since she wouldn't have to commute any longer.  The biggest benefit could be saving Eneye the danger of traveling sometimes two hours one way to and from work in the dark.

We loved having a live-in housekeeper in the Philippines.  It was a lovely win-win situation.  But, we sort of relished the idea of having our own space in the evening and weekends to be alone as a family here in Ethiopia. I'm just not sure how we can continue to close our eyes to the situation.  It just seems like the right thing to do.  

not quite bountiful harvest

After weeks of watching nothing grow in our little garden plot, Tecklu told me it was time to harvest the one and only head of lettuce that decided to persevere.  It's bright green and quite lovely.  I have no idea why none of the herbs grew or why the other lettuce didn't work out.  I don't have an ounce of green in my thumb and had absolutely nothing to do with this garden (the seeds were even a gift from a friend).  I can't take credit for this lonely bit of pretty lettuce at all.  But I do love that I get to eat it tonight with dinner.  

chip kick

I've been on a chip making kick lately.  I made homemade potato chips last week.  Yesterday I used the same recipe but made sweet potato chips instead and they were amazing.  I highly recommend using sweet potatoes.  The crunch and flavor is unbeatable.

Justin brought home delicious homemade flour tortillas from Market Day on Friday.  I made a batch of chicken enchiladas with half the bag then tucked away the rest of the tortillas for later.  Homemade anything, including tortillas, don't stay fresh for long so I whipped up a batch of guacamole and then made tortilla chips with the rest of the flour tortillas.

I'm not going to pretend this is revolutionary.  People do this all the time.  I just forget how good they taste!  Fresh homemade tortillas are the best.  Just cut the tortillas into triangles, spread them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake at 350 degrees until crispy and browned.  These were gone within the hour.  It was a perfect Friday afternoon snack for the kids.
If you're curious about the guacamole; I mash together avocados, lime juice, salt, and granulated garlic until the flavor is to my liking.  Then slice, seed, and dice a ripe tomato to stir in.  If I had cilantro, that would also be thrown in.  It's simple and I can't give you my exact proportions.  Guac is one of those things that should be improvised so that it comes together when you taste it (or your hubby tastes it) and says, Yes-that's it!

baking trials

Ladytroupe Sweets won't have it's official kick-off sale until Friday September 7.  A lot of American families are out of town for rainy season and the Market Day at the embassy isn't drawing a crowd right now.  Plus, I have big deal Kindergarten to get ready for, crafty projects to complete for my little baking en devour and I'm still perfecting some recipes!

No one in the house minds that I'm running baking trials.  Neither do our friends who received a little gift box full of mini Bella Nut pies this weekend.  They are delicious and after some work, they look great too!  Go see for yourself.

I've also been working on my scone recipe.  I've always used a wonderful basic scone recipe that calls for heavy cream.  This time I tried a similar recipe from a new soul mate friend!  They were spectacular and now I'm trying to decide which recipe will be better for doubling.  I have some pretty fantastic scone add-in flavors in mind.  This batch was chocolate chip hazelnut.  They were perfectly flaky with a nice sugar crust on top.  Last week was savory cheddar, bacon with rosemary (to die for).  I'm trying dried cherry, white chocolate with toasted almonds next.

Seriously!?  Don't you wish you were in Addis Ababa so you could come check out Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice?  I can't wait.

Friday, July 27, 2012


The camera fairy returned with some pretty awesome photos of Gondar.  We are booking a weekend family trip immediately.  

bearing gifts

Daddy returns home bearing gifts after every single trip he goes on.  Bella generally asks him to bring her home a lolly pop.  I don't think it gets any better than a lolly pop for that girl.  His trips are way more exotic and therefore require more exotic souvenirs.  This time it was traditional Gabis!  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

hallelujah for highlights

It's been since before I was pregnant with Ashlynn that I had my hair highlighted.  That was way back at Philippe's in Manila.  I've been nervous to make an appointment with my hair dresser at Boston Day Spa.  She's trimmed my hair twice now (both times with excellent results) and the spa is the nicest in Addis Ababa. I've still been hesitating. I'm always concerned that I'm going to look like a bottle blond after highlights.  The truth of the matter is that at my age after three kids I need highlights.  My naturally blonde hair is ultra drab without them.

So just as I decided to embraced bagged milk in Africa, I am embracing getting blonde highlights in Africa.  They both sound like a really bad idea at first but are ultimately a necessity in my life.

No turning back now!

I captured before and after shots.  Here I am in my super drab before state.  Now I know where all my forehead wrinkles are coming from.  Apparently I scrunch my forehead when taking pictures.  Awesome.

Here I am afterwards looking super fab.  Edet my stylist did a wonderful job on the color.  It's a great light blonde (al beit a bit bottled).  She could work on the foil technique a bit though. In some areas the color doesn't start at my scalp.  The highlights aren't uniform through my hair either.  There are some larger chunks here and there.  I shouldn't complain and I have no room to be picky (since I have no other salon options and the highlights cost me 525 birr, thats about $32). All in all I am happy and relieved.  Ultimately the color is my biggest concern and I like the way it turned out.  It lightens up my entire face.  I love how highlights can take a good five years off.  Hallelujah for highlights and a stylist who straightens my hair all super silky and lovely feeling.  You better believe it's a dry shampoo day tomorrow.  I want to preserve that silk.

While I was at Boston Day Spa...with my camera...I took some photos.  You aren't surprised are you?  I throw my camera in my bag everywhere I go.  I act like my big Nikon is an iPhone camera.  I always have.  My camera and I are inseparable.

I've been to the spa a few times for a mani/pedi (thanks to my awesome husband-he arranges it for me in advance, pays for it, then tells me to get in the car and the driver takes me to the spa. Isn't he amazing?!).  Every time I'm sitting there knee deep in soap suds, I am eyeing all the lovely photos I wish I could take.  So I marched in and asked to take some photos. 

I'm in love with the decor.  All the natural stone and wood.  Don't get me started about how much I love the cow hide chairs.  LOVE! I wonder if I would have enough weight allowance to bring home 6 chairs in our HHE if I get rid of all the baby gear before we leave Ethiopia?  Something to chew on for sure!
 When you come visit me in Addis Ababa, I'll take you to Boston Day Spa.  I promise!


Can I tell you a secret? I slipped away.  All by myself!  I grabbed my camera and ended up at Sabahar in Mekannisa.  I've been hearing wonderful things about Sabahar since we moved to Addis Ababa 6 months ago.  It was time for me to stop waiting for someone to show me Ethiopia and instead go discover it for myself.

Sabahar is a textile company that creates gorgeous silk and cotton woven goods.  The entire process happens in this lush haven. Starting with the silk worm eggs and ending with the gorgeous handmade products for sale.  The company is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization and is fiercely committed to creating local jobs for Ethiopian men and women.  More than 100 Ethiopians are currently working at Sabahar to support their families! Isn't that phenomenal?
Walking onto the compound transports you into a vibrant garden oasis.   Looking closer, the garden gives way to the textile working being done all around.  At Sabahar the textiles, at every phase of creation, have a beautiful symbiotic relationship with the nature that surrounds them. It all starts with treating the silk worm's life cycle with the respect it deserves.  
Sabahar sources all their silk worm eggs from local Ethiopian farmers.  They harvest the silk worms. 
Few eggs mature to moths which mate and produce more eggs.
It’s a wonderfully sustainable process and I was lucky enough to see the silk worms busy at work.  After just a few days the worms have spun themselves into a cocoon of white silk.  
The silk pods are then pulled and spun on the spinning wheels to create long silk threads.  Women are primarily in charge of this task.
The silk thread is then dyed with natural colors. 
The thread is then hand pulled and stretched to be made ready for the weaving looms.  
Men work in the weaving room at the handmade weaving looms surrounded by brightly dyed thread.  The loom is their instrument and they orchestrate their movements with swift ease. Bare feet working the loom treadles like concert pianists. Arms pushing and pulling the wooden beams and throwing the shuttle back and forth through the shed.  Patterns emerge and thread becomes cloth all in the matter of moments.  

Natural cotton is also spun, dyed and woven here. Brightly dyed cotton is washed many times and hung to dry around the compound. 
The small retail shop at Sabahar is full of vibrantly colored and textured shawls, scarves, table runners, pillow covers, place mats and napkins.  The designs are simple and constructed with precision.  The silk has a homespun feel that reminds you of the small silk worms busy at work in their cocoons of thread on the other side of the compound.  The cotton is wonderfully soft and natural feeling.  
Sabahar is an outdoor sanctuary; for the people who work here and for anyone who visits.  Vivid textiles rustle in the breeze just as naturally as the branches they hang from.  Cotton is perfectly content in the same space as the potted hydrangeas and drying thread merges with the landscape as if it's been hanging for eternity.  Everything feels organic and in it's rightful place even though it's clear that nothing is styled.  Even the people at work are absorbed into the background of moss covered cobble stone and dense greenery.  The picturesque scenery blends with the artistic process seamlessly. 
At Sabahar, there is a sense that beauty is created naturally, every step of the way.