Friday, November 30, 2012

camel rides on the beach

Adelaide and Arabella enjoyed a camel ride with their Daddy at Diani beach.  The owner of the three camels came by and stopped at the beach in front of our villa showing off the enormous beasts.   Two days before our departure, Addie was brave enough to ride which made her friend brave enough to try.  The next day all the kids wanted to go for camel rides.
They are truly magnificent beasts!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the beach at Diani

Justin and I are beach people.  We will forever prefer to vacation with an ocean out our front door.  When it was just the two of us we would lay on the sand and read until we got too crispy and they jumped in the cool ocean.  Our beach vacations are not nearly as lazy now.  Mostly, we are building sand castles or digging with plastic shovels, picking up seashells, holding tiny hands as our girls learn how to jump in the waves and holding them in the water; calming their fears of jellyfish (as we calmly move away from the stinging jellies-pretending nothing is wrong).
Diani beach has gorgeous powdery sand.  It's not quite as white as the sand in Boracay, Philippines but the Indian Ocean was a tad warmer than the Pacific.  The seashells were plentiful and perfect for our towering sand castles.

swimming at Diani

The villa had a wonderful private pool for us to enjoy. The kids were in heaven!  I cringed a little every time the girls chose swimming in the pool over swimming in the ocean, when given the choice.  The Indian Ocean was extremely warm with very small waves.  Perfect for swimming, but kids love pools don't they?  We tried to split the time evenly but Addie would choose the pool over the ocean every time.  I'm certain it's because she started swimming on her own while we were there and she wanted to practice her new skill.  Bella wore arm floats and Justin or I help Ashlynn. She also sat in a floating inner-tube that she liked a lot.  I almost wish the pool was refrigerated though because in the Mombasa heat the pool was just too warm.  My camera died a few days into the trip so I didn't get any photos of Addie swimming or jumping without her arm floats. The last few days on our time at Diania Bella chose swimming in the ocean with her Daddy, "sliding on the waves" as she called it.  We won our middle daughter over to the ways of the open ocean.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Diani Beach, Kenya

We have returned from eight fun filled days at the beach in Mombasa, Kenya.  We stayed at Diani Beach with two other families; seven kids total.  Addie was the eldest so little kid activities filled our Thanksgiving week vacation.  It was a great kid friendly place to vacation.  We rented a huge villa with a cook on staff and a housekeeper. We had a pool and beach access on the property.  The kids were all up before the sunrise every day ready for another full day of swimming, sand castle building and playing.

We were so eager to get out of Ethiopia that we left our home in a rush leaving it a disaster.  I truly believe that it isn't a proper family with small children vacation if you aren't absolutely exhausted at the end of your trip and ready to return home with a new sense of appreciation for your kitchen, soft bed and clean shower.  We made the most of every moment at the beach and came home with suitcases filled with salty wet sandy towels and swimming suits.

Here are some of the photos from the locations we stayed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

where motherhood and fashion collide

I am really excited about being a guest blogger over at Sweet Athena.  The awesome gals that write this crafty blog host guest bloggers for their ever-changing themes.  Isn't a seasonal theme fun?  This season they are writing about fashion and generously asked me to contribute.  Go check it out!  Thanks Jess and Linz!  I had a blast writing this piece.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

an Arabella milestone

Bella's drawings before now consisted of her clumsily holding a crayon and drawing lines, lots of lines on a page. Just lines. I have not seen anything more inventive or sophisticated from my second daughter when it comes to art.  So when I experienced her first face drawings on our "chalkboard" (gate), I was elated.  She's drawing circles and eyes. legs and hair! These faces happen to be spiders, she explained, because of all of their legs.  She's developing new interests and skills since starting preschool and it's amazing to see the changes.  I knew she had it in her but she bores easily with showing off her skills.  I usually discover she knows something in a round-about way.  Suddenly she can count to ten, put on her pants alone...or draw a face!

a week of baking

I feel like I've done little else but bake this week.  My feet are tired and I grated my fingers a few times but it was a lot of fun.

Whoever is attending this Thanksgiving feast next week is lucky enough to enjoy my pecan pie for dessert.  It's going to be a big gathering.  I made three pies for this customer.
The sweet little girl who is turning 5 next week (and we will sadly miss her birthday party), will have a delicious pink ice cream cake.  This cake has a graham cracker walnut crust and EIGHT alternating layers of vanilla cake that has been brushed with strawberry puree and strawberry ice cream.  The top is vanilla ice cream and the strawberries have been candied and frozen.  It almost didn't fit in my cake box. Seriously yum!
I baked for Market Day tomorrow as well.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to feature traditional Thanksgiving baked goods.  I made sixty mini pies.  Not kidding. Pecan and pumpkin.  Mini pies take THE. MOST. TIME.  All the butter grating and rolling and shaping. Phew! It's so time consuming. Making the big pecan pies are a piece of cake compared to all the tiny ones.

I adore pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top though. Don't you? It's so perfect for Thanksgiving and I never make it because I'm a good wife and make pecan pie instead since it's what my husband loves.  But you know what? I think I'm going to make a pumpkin pie just for myself from now on during the holidays  I love it that much.  I'm going to plead with my folks back at home to not buy their pumpkin pie at the grocery store this year but instead roll their own crust and make their own filling.  Please!  It's so much better from scratch.  But honestly, if I were in a pinch, store bought pumpkin pie is better than no pumpkin pie.

I also made ginger sandwich cookies with date filling because I loved them so much last week and had numerous people compliment them when we ran in to one another at the Marine Ball.  My favorite comment was from a friend's husband who was sick last week.  He said that he ate one of the ginger cookies and felt like he was at home.  I had a few people ask me if I am originally from the South (I guess that gives my pecan pie props) and a few others that said the ginger cookies were "off the chain".  Awesome huh?!  I love hearing stories about people eating my food.  One friend said that his wife "doesn't like scones" but she broke off a piece of the scone her husband took home that afternoon and a few minutes later came back to break off another piece.  That happened for awhile until she ate the whole thing.  People like talking about food and there isn't a whole lot of great food here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia worthy of food conversation among friends.  I love that some of the things I'm creating is filling that gap.  

Of course I also made scones but I'm bracing myself because I just couldn't muster any more energy or time to bake my chocolate chip cookies.  People get a little touchy when these aren't available.  Some people are aghast when they get to the head of the line and see that their favorite whatever is already gone.  No lie.  

Did I mention I love doing this so much?  Ashlynn loves it when I make ice cream and her sisters are at school.  She's learning really quickly if she hangs around Mom in the kitchen she gets handed spatulas, spoons, and paddles covered in sweet delicious concoctions.  So she has her PJs on in this photo which means she's licking that ice cream paddle before her first nap this morning...which means Mama needs a vacation from the kitchen.  
And just because I can't help myself...Ashlynn with spaghetti face.  Adorable.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Marine Ball 2012

Happy 237th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps.  We celebrated our Marines here in Addis Ababa on Saturday night at the Sheraton.  Everyone turned out in their finery, carrying spectacular party moods with them.  It's always fun to get everyone together outside of work for a great party.

It was truly a great party. Everyone danced and Justin rocked the mic once again with his rendition of Ice Ice Baby.  You know it's a good time when my husband busts out Vanilla Ice.  The funniest part is that I was on the receiving end of lots of compliments about his performance but also lots of questions about his alcohol consumption prior to our arrival at the bar (as if he might have started drinking that afternoon to get up the courage enough to rap in front of the entire crowd).  I had to explain that my husband doesn't need any alcohol to grab the microphone.  He's just THAT happy ALL THE TIME!  He's the best date a girl could ask for.

I wore the first gown I had made in the Philippines.  This dress was originally a maternity gown when I was pregnant with Arabella.  I had it altered so I could wear it again...and again to this year's ball.  I love wearing this yellow gown because I'm usually the only one in this daring color.  My Mother picked up this great vintage gold art deco piece years ago for me.  I dug it out and it paired really well with the neckline of my gown.  The great thing about my vintage jewelry collection (all from my mom) is that it sits undisturbed for months and even years and then a certain dress for a certain event comes up and there is always a piece of jewelry hidden away that is perfect for the ensemble.  My Mom is the best.
 Formal balls are so much fun!  It's like prom but a million times better because everyone is grown up and no one cares what they look like out on the dance floor.  Being 32 and bouncing to "Jump Around" made me laugh so hard.  It had to be my favorite moment of the entire night; watching all our friends and fellow expats jumping, with arms in the air, practically cracking the dance floor; all of us dancing to a song that we first heard in middle school.  Being an adult is so much fun!

Friday, November 9, 2012

my new favorite cookies

I made scrumptious malted milk chocolate cupcakes with fluffy malted chocolate frosting this week for Ladytroupe Sweets Market Day.  They completely sold out.  I didn't even get a bite!  It's very sad.

But the really good news is that I have a new favorite cookie.  It's a soft ginger cookie and I turned them in to little sandwiches with a sweet molasses date filling.  The combination of flavors is so perfectly seasonal and delicious.  It's a really nice change from the chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies I make upon request every week for Market Day.

Plus they are bundled so sweetly with bakers twine they look like little delicious presents.  Don't worry, this recipe will be provided in detail when I get a chance this weekend.
I sneaked a bite of these cookies which is why I immediately started making a second batch the moment after baking the first.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

every evening

On any given evening the girls are running out the front door at the same time they are shoveling the last bite of their dinner in their mouths.  

It's our evening routine of enjoying the setting sun.  The air gets cooler and the sky starts changing colors.  The day is winding down but before bedtime all three of my girls get in an extra forty minutes of playtime outside.  Each and every one of them is completely filthy from chalk drawings, mud pies, running around barefoot and playing with Lucy and the cats. 
It's my favorite time of the day.  I love watching the last bit of their energy expended in chasing each other and laughing.  When the sunlight fades along with their sunshiny dispositions; we all stomp up the stairs to jump in the bath and wash the grime away.