Monday, October 1, 2018

September Blur

The month of September has flown by in a blur thanks so so much happening this month! I'm still surprised it's already October and I'm excited for Jason to bring me back all things candy corn from his trip to Houston. ;-)

The month kicked off with receiving our shipment of goods! Anyone who has been an expat understands how exciting it is to finally get your stuff, but also overwhelming to setup an entire house and realize just how much crap you own - ha!


  1. A cup of coffee as I survey the chaos and try to decide which boxes to tackle. 
  2. Jet lag - this girl fell asleep in my arms in the middle of a restaurant while we waited for dinner. The girls all have been superb with jet lag and besides being a bit tired were sleeping just fine (thankfully!)
  3. The cats enjoying "their" baskets being unpacked.
  4. The most tolerant cat ever. She's been allowing Madi to carry her around and hold her hostage to pet her.
  5. Never mind that it's like 45 C (113 F) outside - snow boots are clearly the optimal shoe choice. 🤦🏻‍♀️
  6. A distraught Madi asking if this sign means she's not allowed to enter Ikea...😂
  7. Loving our new custom-made headboard and bed setup. ❤️
  8. I love that we've been living in safe communities where the girls are allowed the freedom to scooter outside without me. (I snapped this picture from the kitchen while doing dishes.) We've set them boundaries within our street and staying on the sidewalk and they love going out on their own. 
  9. Ice cream treat after their first day at school!

And speaking about first days at school - here's our crew ready for their first day! They've transitioned so well, love their teachers, and are making some great friends. 



  1. A fun lunch date with Daddy at the end of the week.
  2. This dress. Evy has put it on every.single.day. after school for the past three weeks. 
  3. Back in business making bread and salsa - but after just a week and a half the salsa turned to vinegar?! I've never had that happen. Anyone got a clue why??
  4. Did I mention Zoey is an incredibly tolerant cat...
  5. The cutest Kate Spade outfits the girls wore to church one Friday.
  6. Brunching at the St Regis after church and checking out the giant Oryx. 
  7. Sometimes the best dinners look the ugliest. Broccoli, chicken, cheese, and rice in the instant pot.
  8. Liv and her bead heart creation. She loves making them!
  9. Madi and her bead heart creation. This has been a lifesaver for the girls to do something quiet and wind down in the evening.


  1. Repurposing - The left is a piece of the twins crib that I am using as a jewelry hook/display. I was going to buy eye hooks to put on it, but I am kind of liking the layered look of just wrapping them on the rods. 
  2. The reason we had the extra crib piece above is because I had the idea to turn the crib into a bench. We used one of the drivers in Baku (the same one who made our headboard above!) and he did amazing. Then I had a friends housekeeper make the cushion and pillows. I love the finished look!
  3. In purging the massive amount of junk we've accumulated I had planners going back to 2012!!
  4. Zoey helping me purge papers from our files. 
  5. If you are a friend on Facebook you might have seen me post this picture of Evy in her Christmas dress. I mistakenly hung them and she's been asking for the past couple weeks to wear it after school, on the weekend, etc. I used the excuse that it was a church dress so of course Friday morning when we were getting ready for church her alligator tears at wearing got me to cave. And then everyone said to let her wear it and not hide it after I washed it so it will stay in her closet now. 😂
  6. White chocolate and cranberry cookies (my favorite) for our dinner guests, another family that moved from Azerbaijan to Qatar around the same time as us. 
  7. Jason had to go to Houston for work and left sweet notes for the girls the morning he left.
  8. Olivia picking up leaves on the school grounds before heading to the car. She made quite the scene when she saw them on the ground next to our car the following day (where I'd thrown them out so they didn't stay in the car...)
  9. Evy in a princess dress (of course) with her lego creation.


  1. Madi discovered Uno this summer with her cousins so we've started playing together. The twins are on a team with me or Jason (but Liv can actually play really well on her own). It's been fun to start a tradition of a family game night. 
  2. I let each of the girls have a sleepover one night while Jason's away. This girl just took up a small part of the bed. 🙄
  3. An exhausting school week...so exhausting she didn't make it on the crib mattress adjacent to her or the bed that was right in front of her and instead chose to fall asleep on the tile floor with her head on the small round carpet... 🤦🏻‍♀️
  4. "Let's put on comfy clothes and watch a movie!"I come down in sweats and a tank top and she comes down in a sparkly one piece jumper. How is this my child!?
  5. The girls all started Awana this month and memorized their first verses to earn their vests. Madi memorized John 3:16 and the twins memorized "God loved us and sent His Son." So neat to see them learning Scripture!
  6. Clearly Jason is out of town... #dinnerofchampions
  7. Madi is doing gymnastics on Thursdays (and after the first lesson the instructor told us we may need to move her to a more advanced class!). The twins are too young to attend the same place so we enrolled them in the school's gymnastics program twice a week. 
  8. Homemade donuts on a Saturday morning. The girls loved decorating them!
  9. Awkward cat, amazing carpet. I regret only buying four Azerbaijani carpets - ha!

September has been challenging in a lot of ways (learning our way around a new city, grocery stores, etc.), but we've found a wonderful church to start attending and some great activities for our family to get involved in as settle into our new city. 

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Our Amazing Trip to South Africa

I remember years ago Jason and I saying how fun it would be to go on a safari - it sounded like just the kind of holiday that would be perfect for us. As our ten year anniversary started approaching we realized it was actually a possibility and started looking into the logistics.

We used the same travel agent my friend Courtney used and highly recommended and I cannot say enough good things about them! We used Bianca at Rhino Africa and she went above and beyond - we went through a few itineraries and changes based on budget, times, etc. before finalizing our trip. When we realized there wouldn't be anytime in Johannesburg (where the Starbucks is located) she personally purchased a mug and had it delivered to our hotel for me! Seriously - above and beyond.


Cape Town

I met Jason in Doha and we were on the last flight together into Cape Town, where we spent our first three nights in Camps Bay at The Marly Hotel. It was right on the water and had lovely views for breakfast and amazing sunrises!


The next day we woke up early (jet lag) and got ready to hike Table Mountain. We choose to hike up and take the cable car down and it was definitely the way to go. The lines to ride up were ridiculously long and the weather was perfect for the hike. We are seriously out of shape, but it was still wonderful. When we got to the top it was very overcast, but we lucked out and it cleared up for some pictures before getting worse.




After changing clothes and resting that afternoon we headed out to the most amazing meal of our trip - The Hussar Grill, Camps Bay. We began with the chorizo started, which was superb, followed by the Game Steaks entree with ostrich and wildebeest. Our dessert was the malva pudding (which I got every time I could because I loved it so much!) and complimentary chocolate vodka that was divine. I cannot recommend the restaurant enough and we told a few fellow travelers who were headed to Camps Bay to definitely go.


The next day we hit the road and drove to Boulder's Beach in search of penguins. Yep, penguins. They were adorable and we enjoyed watching them walk awkwardly on the sand and swim gracefully in the water.



Afterwards we continued south and headed to Cape Point and then drove west to Cape of Good Hope. Jason loved the winding Chapman Peak Drive and on our way back we stopped for some fish in chips in Hout Bay.





Franschoek

We drove a couple hours from Cape Town towards Franschoek, the wine country for the next part of our trip. We stopped in Stellenbosch for lunch at Delaire Graff Estate. The views, food, and wine were all amazing!




We finished the drive to our hotel, Mont Rochelle, and enjoyed a free tasting and dinner at the hotel after relaxing. Our room had amazing views and the staff was so great!


The next day we had a wine, cheese, chocolate, and olive oil tour with La Rochelle Tours. We ended up being the only ones booked and got a private tour with our amazing tour guide. The weather was a bit cold and dreary, but we had a lovely time visiting a few wineries and having some delicious cheese, chocolate, and olive oil!



We headed into the city for a late dinner at Roca Restaurant. The food was delicious, especially this shrimp appetizer. We brought a bottle of wine we'd purchased earlier that day and had a relaxing dinner.



Sabi Sands

We were sad to leave early the next day, but excited to head to the airport and fly into the Sabi Sands private game reserve and our last hotel, Chitwa Chitwa, where we'd spend the next four nights of our trip.

We arrived at the small airstrip and immediately saw giraffes and a leopard in a tree just outside the hotel's property. Hippos greeted us and the views from our room onto the watering hole provided views of elephants, all sorts of deer and antelope, and more giraffes through the week. It was amazing!

Our hosts went over the daily schedule and orientation for how things would go while they prepared our lunch. We got changed and headed out on our first game drive! Basically you have two safaris a day - dawn and dusk. In between you have your meals (each ordered that day from a menu), game walks, and free time for your private lunge pool, relaxing, spa, etc.

You stay with the same ranger and spotter during your visit and we seriously had the best - Sheldon and Bethel were amazing and a huge part of our experience was how wonderful they were. Our group had lots of laughs and fun. We were with one other family the majority of our time and we got along very well (our last night there were shots to celebrate our new found friendship!).

We went into the safari excited to just have fun regardless of what we may or may not see. Like our trip to see the Northern Lights, you aren't guaranteed anything because they are wild animals and while the tracker and guide will do everything they can to try and find the animals, sometimes it's just not possible. Fortunately, we were lucky again and got to see the Big Five (rhinoceros, elephant, leopard, lion, and African buffalo), plus the additional cheetah and wild dog making the Big Seven.

The Big Seven

Alligator

We saw these guys one of our last safaris, even though they live in the watering hole on the hotel property. It's a family and baby that scampered into the water when we drove down, but came back out for pictures.


Cheetah

Sheldon told us they hadn't seen the cheetahs for a couple months so spotting them twice during our trip was amazing! We watched them lounge near the airstrip and the following day we saw them eating a fresh kill...and a hyena approaching to possibly steal it. The cheetahs were literally on one side of our vehicle and the hyena the other!





Zebra

White with black stripes? Or black with white stripes Haha - they were fun to watch and we saw loads of them all over.


Wild Dogs

They are hard to find and harder to capture as they're constantly on the move. We chased a pack of three for awhile before they got too far ahead of us.



African Buffalo

We came across an older heard of male African buffalo lounging in the grass. Most people don't realize that the African buffalo is one of the Big Five.


Hippopotamus

We saw these guys almost as much as we heard them, haha. And they are l-o-u-d! If you look closely you can see scars from fights that they are constantly getting into.


Lion

We saw two different prides of lions on our trip - mangy ones that live in our hotel's territory and another that was passing through. We got to heard the history of them as there aren't many so they can keep track of them.


Hyena

We saw the hyenas a few times, including when we were at the cheetahs and before that when we were at their termite mound home. We spent some time watching the young ones play and even caught a glimpse of a baby whose mother was keeping him inside because he was so young.




Birds

No idea on their names, but we saw lots of them and captured a few clear pictures - you'd have to ask the family with us the names as they were all amazing (even their kids) at both spotting and naming all the different birds. It was really neat to see them so excited and made us look forward to possibly taking our girls one day when they are older.


Rhinoceros

This was actually the last animal of the Big Seven that we spotted and it was a long drive to get to where they were hanging out that evening. We were thankful our guide made a point of finding them for us.



Giraffe

These guys are amazing and it was fun to spot them all over. We especially loved seeing the babies with their moms.



The Deer Family

I was bad at bird names and also the deer family names - ha! Google and the handy guide checklist have helped get them all down though: 1. waterbuck (female) 2. duiket (male) 3. duiker (female) 4. impala (male) 5. waterbuck 6. impala (male) 7. kudu (female) 8. kudu (male) 9. waterbuck (male)



Elephant

They are magnificent animals and we loved watching them drink water, splash water on themselves to cool down, and again the little babies cuddling their moms.



Leopard

As I mentioned above we first got to see a leopard guarding her kill up in a tree just outside the lodge. That first drive we got to see the leopard climb up the tree and feast.


We didn't expect to see them again and then our guide spotted one on a termite mound. We sat and watched for awhile and saw her move and Jason got to play with the camera and catch some artistic shots in black and white.



Others

We saw a handful of other animals on the drives that we were able to capture - 1. warthog, 2. dwarf mongoose, 3. a coffee break with a rhino far in the background, 4. monkeys 5. Our crazy crew 6. wildebeest 7. small-spotted genet being rehabilitated by some lodge keepers near our hotel 8. nile (water) monitor 9. a cool skull Jason spotted while we were driving around



We had some amazing sunsets in the bush, dinner outside with hyenas circling our camp, an anniversary surprise with roses and a bubble bath, and overall the most amazing experience and one completely unforgettable trip!


Photo courtesy of Sheldon

Photo courtesy of Sheldon


Photo courtesy of Sheldon

Photo courtesy of Sheldon

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Shortest Month Recap...(August)

This is probably the shortest monthly update I've ever done...most likely because we were gone for more than half of it on our tenth anniversary trip to South Africa.

After flying from Colorado back to Oklahoma (see July recap) we had about a week together with family before I flew off to meet Jason en route to South Africa.

My Dad and Mary came there and got to see the girls for a few more days before they headed back to Chicago. We headed to the OKC Zoo, which is always a win for these girls! They loved the splash pad and feeding the lorikeets the best.


After we came back from our trip we hit up the essentials - chick fil a, the casino, target 😂 We also got to celebrate my mom's birthday before we headed back to Houston and stop and see Lilia in Waco and visit Magnolia (which was so fun!)


Then we packed up our ten suitcases and shuttled to the airport for another l-o-n-g flight to our new home where our shipment was waiting to be delivered. It's been a crazy few days, but thankfully the girls haven't had much jet lag so hopefully the start of school next week will go smoothly and we will get the house in order quickly! 


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