Wednesday, July 26, 2017

America Trip 2017: Houston

The flight to New York was l-o-n-g and we were thankful for the shorter four hour flight to Houston. Our dear friends Cindy and Dave were in New York for a wedding and we planned our travel around them after they volunteered to help me in transit.

We made their home our base for the week and fought jet lag by enrolling Madi in Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our home church, CEPC. She was a bit hesitant the first day and a little the second, but by the end of the week she was sad for the fun to end!

We listened to the VBS songs non-stop the rest of the time in the US and the twins were not to be left out of the singing fun!

We got to see a handful of friends, but unfortunately didn't have time to see everyone we would have liked. I also failed to get pictures with most of the people we saw. #bloggerfail. We saw my friend Emily a for dinner and I got a Mommy-night and hired a babysitter to meet her for a cancer event at Bingo in the Heights (she's battled and defeated breast cancer - you're amazing Em!)

We got to visit CEPC on Sunday for sunday school and worship and wow, do we miss that amazing congregation and spiritual sermons. Very thankful we can listen to them online!

We are so loved by our dear friends Cindy and Dave who always opening up their home to us anytime we are in Houston. The girls loved playing at the splash pad and playground with Cindy before we headed to Oklahoma.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

America Trip 2017

Y'all - trying to catch up on the blog. Challenging. I took a break for the month of July (besides the girl's two year birthday post) and while it was nice to relax, I am wishing I had been a bit more on top of keeping up. I've mentioned before, but I print this blog yearly as our album so I want to make sure and capture the amazing summer we experienced.

Therefore, I've included links below to the posts from this summer as a way to help me organize and include everything.

Our adventure began on Saturday when my friend Tricia and I flew the girls to New York directly from Baku. That was a 12.5 hour flight - the longest the girls have experienced. There were some drink spills, disobedience, on-and-off sleeping, but we survived it and the trek over to our hotel for the evening. (And PS - who the heck volunteers to help you fly with three under four?! She's crazy. And amazing.)

We had to change airports and wait the following day for our flight to Houston when I'd have help from our dear friends the Meehs. The girls were up bright and early (okay it wasn't actually bright since it was like 3 am, but definitely early!) and after a morning nap, anxious to get out of the hotel. I discovered there was a small zoo not far from the hotel and so we ventured out for a couple hours to get some much-needed fresh air and stretch our legs.

We spent a little over one week in Houston seeing friends, going to various doctor and dental appointments, and Madi got to have her first Vacation Bible School experience at CEPC.
Then we headed to Oklahoma for a couple of weeks, followed by Colorado for about a week. We got to see two sets of grandparents in Oklahoma since my Dad and Mary flew in to see us along with seeing my mom and Jeff. The drive wasn't pleasant and the change in altitude was felt most by Olivia and her ears hurting, but we arrived safely. There was a great stop with a Qdoba, Starbucks, and playground en route. Everything you ever needed. ;-) Oh and beautiful clouds.

This is not normal playground behavior. :-/

After our wonderful time in Colorado we headed on the l-o-n-g drive back to League City. We stopped about two-thirds of the way in Wichita Falls to help break-up the drive. The girls had a blast with sleepovers with their cousins and lots of laughter.

Delicious homemade beef jerky. 😋

During our last week in League City, we had a couple more doctor appointments and massive shopping/packing. We also were blessed to see all of our families one more time as they all traveled out to Houston for Evelyn and Olivia's baptism at CEPC! We left early Friday morning before Hurricane Harvey hit and feel blessed to have made it out before the storm hit.

We flew to New York again and had one night's stay before making the long flight back to Baku. We had so much luggage we had to rent a 15-passenger van to transfer from one airport to a hotel at the other airport. 😳

We had some sleeping on the flight and this brilliant (if I do say so) Pinterest idea to turn a small craft organizer into a snack box. The girls loved having their own personal snacks and seeing what was in each compartment.

And then - jet lag. Y'all. There are few things worse than toddler jet lag. Thankfully the girls got over it pretty quickly, but we did have a couple middle of the night parties. Including this one - BYOB. Bring your own banana. 😂

Our six weeks in the United States was busy, but plentiful. We felt so blessed by all the family and friends that opened up their homes to us and prioritized spending time with us while we were available. We love you all and miss you so much!! Until next trip! ❤️


Friday, July 14, 2017

July in Baku

Our time this month in Baku was short as we head out tomorrow for our l-o-n-g flight to the United States. Only the girls and I will be heading out and Jason will join us in a couple of weeks. Wish us and our sweet friend Tricia who is helping us fly over safe travels!

  1. Madi and a final playdate with her BFF Jaxon. They went to Wonderland and had hours of fun together!
  2. Say cheese! The girls now give us big cheesy smiles for pictures. Not sure if this is a win or a fail. 
  3. Bed for five please. 
  4. Zoey in the pram. Reminds me of the time I accidentally took her to the gym with me in Norway because she was asleep in the bottom of Madi's pram. 😹
  5. Backyard fun on the swing set we finally got setup months later...just in time for the end of summer. 
  6. Swinging at a friend's house.
  7. Despicable Me 3 at Flame Towers. The girls have done amazing in theater and watched this movie and Cars 3.
  8. Nerd alert.
  9. Freezer meals for Jason while we are away. 

  1. Evy and baby fox playing.
  2. Liv covering herself in minion stickers.
  3. Madi attitude.
  4. How the delicious tendir bread is baked for the traditional Azeri breakfast. 😋
  5. Final date night before being apart for a couple weeks. 
And finally, some peek-a-boo laughs. :-) 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Egg-free Baking and Favorite Recipes

If you're a regular reader or friend on Facebook, then you are probable aware that one of our three girls has food allergies. We discovered them the hard way while I was single parenting back in Norway (but thankfully had immense friend support and great medical care).

It's been a journey since then of reading food ingredient labels closely, translating labels from Russian and Azeri (via Google translate or our amazing nanny), and making sure restaurants understand what we are asking when we inquire about food allergies, yet still being uncertain if they truly understand. We ordered a child's hot dog one time only to have it arrive smothered in mayonnaise. When we told him she wasn't able to have it because of the egg allergy they took it back and brought us the same hot dog in a new bun and had attempted to just wipe off the mayo (which they didn't do a great job of at that).

It's nerve-wracking here since allergies are not common and epi pens are not available to be truly comfortable. It's also obviously very challenging - one brand of pretzels contains egg, but another doesn't. One baby biscuit in chocolate contains nuts, but the vanilla brand doesn't. When something just contains egg or nuts in small amounts we are fortunate that Olivia doesn't have an anaphylactic reaction, but her poor body has eczema breakouts and rashes. Our nanny helped to discover which snack was the culprit of this painful rash.

It's been worth the effort and research to find new recipes and substitutes to bake delicious treats that everyone can enjoy together so Olivia does feel left out. Below are some of my favorite recipes that we've tried and I'd love suggestions of others from people who are learning to bake/cook without eggs.

Egg-free Cake

My journey of baking egg-free started with the twins' smash cakes for their first birthday. I tried out a recipe a friend from Norway sent me and was pleasantly surprised that the cake tasted amazing and both Jason and I agreed we would use the recipe regularly.

Here's the recipe link. I omit the cocoa powder if I want to make vanilla cake/cupcakes and I've never actually followed the recipe of making it in the baking dish. I always do it in a mixing bowl and transfer.

Egg-free Cookies

Olivia loves cookies so I am glad to have found this recipe. They definitely have a different consistency than cookies with eggs, but I don't think it's super noticeable. I've also frozen these in dough balls to pop into the oven whenever I need cookies last-minute. The challenge here is that a lot of the chocolate chips I have are either processed on a facility or same equipment as peanuts. If anyone has suggestions for a brand of chocolate chips that are nut-free entirely please share. :-)

Egg-free Pancakes

We don't often make a big breakfast, but sometimes on the weekends it's a nice treat. We tried substituting with mashed banana and while Olivia enjoyed them, her sister were not fans. We wanted to find something that we could make and all enjoy instead of having to make two and worry about cross-contamination. This recipe is great, but we made some slight modifications for our own taste (slightly more cinnamon and one time we ran out of vanilla and used maple syrup).

I also apparently haven't bothered to ever take pictures of them devouring them so eventually I'll try and update the blog the next time we make some. :-)

Egg-free Waffles

I borrowed a friend's waffle maker and tested out this recipe for waffles. We couldn't taste any difference and everyone loved them.

Egg-free Brownies

We recently had some friends over and when she suggested brownies I knew I needed to try and find a recipe without eggs. This one was great, but tasted slightly more cake-like than I would prefer. It definitely still has some brownie consistency, but wasn't quite like the egg-version in my opinion.

I looked at a couple different recipes and both had you make the roux-like mixture and one used some brown sugar rather than just white. Since brown sugar is hard to come by (and super expensive) here, I used 1.5 cups white and 1/2 cup brown in my recipe.  I also didn't have enough cocoa powder, but after reading the comments below just added a couple squares of baker's chocolate into the melted butter mixture.

Egg-free Banana Bread

We recently had some bananas about to turn for the worst so I decided to try my hand at finding a recipe for egg-free banana bread. I used this recipe, but added chocolate chips at the request of Jason.

I also found this graphic that I think it really helpful and I continue to look-up when I'm checking on substitutes. I recently tried the flaxseed replacement in a boxed pancake mix and boxed cake mix. It tasted great in both, but I felt the cake was too crumbly and think I will stick with the recipe above.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Evelyn and Olivia's 2nd Birthday

Happy Birthday Evelyn and Olivia!

Today was your actual birthday (see 24 months post here), but since we had the massive jungle party a couple weeks ago, things were pretty low-key today. Madi and I started off singing you Happy Birthday with candles in your favorite treat – Cinnabon.

Afterwards we got dressed and went with my friend Tricia to one of the water parks called Bilgah. The girls had a lot of fun playing in the water and laying on the lounge chairs before taking naps in the car on the way home.

We spent the afternoon playing outside in the backyard on the trampoline and swings before eating pizza and watching a movie. We sang Happy Birthday again with Daddy after dinner and blew out the candles on this little cake (decorated by the proud big sister) before Madi’s show that she put on for all of us. 

[Real life - only Evelyn ate a piece of cake. Madi got sent to her room for arguing and being disobedient before dinner which resulted in no cake and stubborn Olivia refused to finish one bite of pizza and kept saying "no pizza, no cake" after we explained to her she wasn't going to get any. Just in case you thought the day looked a little too picture-perfect, ha!]

By the end of the day Evelyn was saying Happy Birthday to everyone and it was precious. It’s easy to take for granted how quickly the time does fly (although the days can seem long) and I loved seeing these sweet memories on my Timehop today. 

Happy 2nd Birthday our beautiful and fun Evelyn and Olivia!

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