Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Highlights

It's been fun to do a re-cap of the highlights each month here on the blog and look back at how the year went. (It's also crazy to see how much the girls have changed!)

I decided to do two different Best Nine - one of just the girls and one with family pictures. I love them both! #2017bestnine

And here's the monthly highlights -


We said goodbye to family visiting and then took advantage of the snow in Baku and in the mountains by taking the girls sledding in Shahdag for the first time. It took longer to dress them then they spent outside, but Madi has continued to ask about trying to ski so she will do lessons this January when we go back.


It was a quiet month with me going out of town one weekend for a retreat and getting some hiking in to see a frozen waterfall. We celebrated Valentine's Day with cards for Madi's classmates and got prepared to move houses within Baku at the end of the month.


We changed houses just days before celebrating Novruz, a traditional Azeri holiday, Jason's birthday, and then flying off to Singapore for holiday. So basically it was a pretty quiet month - ha!


We got to spend Easter with fellow Believers and enjoy a delicious meal and spent the rest of the month settling into our new house, meeting neighbors, and having visitors in Baku.


This month was a bit hectic - I was starting to plan for a join birthday party in June for the girls plus had two trips. I attended and helped organize a Women's Retreat and then my friend Tricia and I visited Amsterdam and Kiev towards the end of the month.


Chaos. We attended Formula One, explored around Azerbaijan, had a massive joint Jungle Birthday party before everyone left for the summer, and Madi turned four. The party was so much fun to plan and execute and I thankful after everything went off without a hitch.


We had a small bbq with neighbors for the Fourth of July, celebrated Evelyn and Olivia turning two, and then flew to America for six weeks. We started in Houston before heading up to Oklahoma City for most of the following month (part one and part two).


Jason met me in OKC and then we headed to Colorado where we got to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary at The Melting Pot, where we had our rehearsal dinner. We got to see all of our family gathered one last time for Evelyn and Olivia's baptism. We stayed with family in League City while we finished up our shopping and flew out just at Hurricane Harvey was moving towards Houston.


This month was literally all about Azerbaijan. The weather was fantastic so we spent a long weekend camping in Long Forest (the girls first time tent camping!), day trips to Besh Barmag and Candy Cane Mountains, another long weekend in Lahic, and finally attending our first Azeri Wedding!


This month had a couple trips outside Azerbaijan. First Madi and I went on a short trip to Antalya for some solo time together. Towards the end of the month took family photos with the lovely fall colors and then headed to Cyprus over Madi's school break. We also celebrated Halloween and enjoyed time lots of time outside with light jackets.


The best part of this month was my mom's visit to Baku. She had time vacation she needed to use and purchased tickets to leave just a few days later! We decided to keep it a secret from the girls and their reunion when she got home from school that day was priceless. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and then headed to Dubai before our resident visas in Baku expired.


We started the month out in Dubai and my mom left from there to head back to the US. We headed back to Baku shortly after and Madi finished up the school term. We've been on break since then busying ourselves with crafts, potty training, and battling colds/coughs/teething. We had a wonderful Christmas and December.

Overall 2017 was a lovely year! We are so happy in our new house and it's a much better layout for us. We've enjoyed the trips we've gotten to take this year (inside Azerbaijan and abroad) and especially the time we got to spend with family while we were in America. We're sad to see you go 2017, but excited to welcome 2018!

2016 Highlights 2015 Highlights


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rounding out December

Once we arrived back from our Dubai trip, the remainder of the month flew by. Madi had one more week of school remaining, including an afternoon where the twins attended to see if they are prepared to start in January (they are!). The rest of the month has been spent working on potty training, injuring my back right before Christmas, teething toddlers, and battling slight coughs and colds that are being tossed between everyone in our household. But we've balanced things out with lots of fun like crafts, cookies, gingerbread houses, and movies (we've now seen Moana an impressive amount of times this week).

  1. We attended the BBG ball just after we returned from Dubai. It was a lot of fun and a great excuse for a night out!
  2. Practicing selfies using table props at BBG ball. We are old. 
  3. Evy bundled and jumping outside!
  4. Liv lounging on her PB chair.
  5. Enjoying the decorations and dinner at Port Baku Mall after the twins' afternoon at school.
  6. Sleeping children are so dang precious. I snuck a kiss and a picture one evening.
  7. Evy snuggling an exhausted Daddy after a night of waking between coughing and teething. Thankfully it's the final set of molars and we will be finished.
  8. Madi's end of school Christmas program where she was the reindeer.
  9. Madi enjoying her sisters after the Christmas program.

We spent on Saturday afternoon decorating gingerbread houses as a family. I had found a Wilton kit of miniature houses online that my mom was able to bring to us in November. They were a much more manageable size for our girls' ages and they loved getting to decorate two. I will definitely be ordering these for the next few years.

  1. As soon as Madi's school break commenced we began potty training for the twins (it's required for them to start Montessori in January otherwise I'd have probable waited until the summer!). They did pretty good the first week, but being out and about over Christmas we didn't want to risk it and went back to pull ups. It was a slight step backwards, but they've leaped ahead this past week and we down to none or maybe one minor accident. 
  2. Reindeer craft time. The girls each made two and loved picking their googly eyes.
  3. I bought this mug in Dubai. I loved it and couldn't wait to use it. The first morning I set it on the coffee machine when we were back home..."Mommy! I love your new coffee mug. It says 'D for Daddy' ". 
  4. Cotton candy at the Baku Christmas Markets in Fountain Square.
  5. An attempt at a Santa picture. We weren't going to try and get everyone looking.
  6. Madi loves to snuggle Zoey. Zoey is incredibly tolerant.
  7. CeCe discovering a new nesting place on a basket of blankets.
  8. It's no secret I am obsessed with the Marius pattern that originated in Norway. I tried to buy basically everything I could before we moved. One of my Norwegian friends picked this up on her visit home this summer and I love it!
  9. We've been letting Madi stay up late during the break and practice her letters. I made dots for her to trace the S, but otherwise she's been doing the letters pretty much on her own. 

We hosted cookie decorating for our Friday playgroup and put these kids to work decorating over 80 egg free sugar cookies. We also used an egg free icing recipe (on both the cookies and our gingerbread houses above). They were absolutely delicious (think those bakery pink frosted sugar cookies consistency). Here are the recipes for both: Egg Free Sugar Cookies (I omitted the lemon zest) and Egg Free Royal Icing.

We are looking forward to a quiet New Year's Eve and excited to welcome 2018!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas 2017

Our actual Christmas Day was pretty low key - pajamas most of the day, lazy morning, and a casual meal that evening. Exactly what we wanted after a couple of Christmas gatherings that weekend.

Saturday afternoon we got together with three other families from our weekly playgroup. The kids all get along great (which is huge considering the number of children!) and we enjoyed some adult conversation while they ran around playing hide and seek. We had an amazing spread of food, including a turkey and a ham, but we were too busy scarfing it down for anyone to think of capture it or the lovely table settings Christine and her family put together for us.

Sunday was Christmas Eve day and we headed to a brunch at the Fairmont Hotel with two other families. They had a kids room with entertainment and a kids buffet. Everyone had a lovely time and we enjoyed getting dressed up and not having to cook a big meal!

We gave the girls their matching Christmas pajamas from Grandma to wear that night and everyone headed to bed, excited about Christmas morning. We waited until after bedtime to set out the dollhouse and then covered it with a blanket.

We all enjoyed sleeping in the following morning and let the girls open their stockings before a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, and pumpkin cream cheese braid.

The rest of the day was spent opening presents and enjoying their new toys before having a smaller Christmas meal together.

We feel blessed that we got to spend our Christmas holiday with a balance of friends and relaxing, but of course missed all of our family back in the US!

Merry Christmas 2017!!


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Card 2017

I love designing my own cards every year. I'm by no means a pro or even an expert, but I love having Photoshop and Illustrator and challenging myself to make designs for events and occasions. This year I made a slightly smaller standard-size postcard and used Vistaprint's mailing services to have them automatically mailed for me (albeit a little late, but hey, I blame it on the fact that we live overseas). I also used a local printer here to make some to manually deliver to our friends in Baku.

And for our family and friends abroad, keep an eye out for your Christmas postcard in the mail sometime between Dec 22- Jan 2 - HA!

Here's our previous years' Christmas cards: 2011 2012 (apparently we skipped this year since we had just moved to Norway and didn't have our stuff yet, but we sent a "We've Moved" in the new year) 2013 2014 2015


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dubai Winter Trip

Once we realized we were going to have to leave Baku before December 1 because of residency expirations, we were able to coordinate my mom's visit to join us in Dubai and head back to the US from there.

It was great having her with us for the first week we were in Dubai since Jason was working the whole time we were there. We had a good mix of hanging out and exploring some of the city. The weather was great and we enjoyed the time, but my waistline couldn't handle anymore time in Dubai after about a week and a half (there's lots of American restaurants and junk food-as you'll see below-and we enjoyed indulging in PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory, Rainforest Cafe, and Dunkin Donuts to name a few.)

We headed to the Azerbaijan embassy our first day in order to get our paperwork turned in for processing. Afterwards I visited a friend from Baku who happened to be stuck in the hospital there. That evening we visited the Dubai Garden Glow. We arrived a little before dusk, which was perfect for walking through the dinosaur portion, and then enjoyed the lights before heading back to our hotel.



One of the reasons we were able to go to Dubai for visas was also to get Olivia's allergy testing done. They don't have it in Baku and the doctors there suggested we go to Dubai for skin allergy testing. Y'all - that was not fun to watch and obviously painful for Olivia. She did so good and the nurse said she was one of the best patients they'd had. We got some good news as well: Olivia can start having small doses of egg in cooked foods to slowly introduce her to them as she's starting to outgrow the allergy. She's still allergic to nuts, but we discovered which ones: peanuts and cashews. She's able to have hazelnuts and almonds so I'm researching to see if there's any cross-contamination and if not then bring on the nutella and almond butter!

We visited the beach and a splash pad two of the days we were in Dubai, but I didn't capture any pictures since I didn't want my phone to get wet or sandy. We did however, have thoroughly exhausted girls both days. :-)

Part of the reason our trip to Dubai was so long is that we there were two holidays that popped up before and after the weekend meaning the embassy would be closed. One of those days we headed to Mushrif Park and I'm glad we arrived early because when we went to leave the park was packed. I mean double parking everywhere and we were lucky to get out. I *think* maybe there was a fireworks show or something to celebrate the 46th National UAE Day. The park was amazing and I would highly recommend packing a picnic lunch for the day and heading here. We took a train ride right before we left and saw at least two or three other playgrounds and a splash pad there.

Jason did take Saturday and Sunday off for the weekend and one of those days we headed to Legoland. There's still quite a bit that the girls are too short to ride or do, but give them a set of Legos and a playground and they are content.

Monday, December 4th was definitely our least favorite day. Grandma had to go home. :-( Expat goodbyes are a whole different kind of horrible and since we don't have a next trip to the US planned it was not easy. I tried to coordinate pouty faces with the girls to get Grandma to stay, but it was a no go. :-/ Madi sulked around the hotel room the rest of the day and I visited a small park close to our hotel to burn some of the twins' energy.

The following day we'd been told our visas would be ready so Jason headed to the embassy to pick them up. Unfortunately all but mine were ready because there had been an issue of misplacing my paperwork and never turning it in to the ministry. That extended our trip to Friday and added a few more kilos to my total binge eating weight gain unfortunately.

On Wednesday I was struggling to figure out something to do with the girls that wasn't ridiculously expensive or hadn't been done the past couple of days (like the park). I recalled seeing a play place on the map across from our hotel. It was a lifesaver. If I had discovered it earlier I guarantee I'd have spent every day there. It was called Funky Monkey. The staff was amazing with the girls, there was free wifi, and they didn't make me trash my Starbucks upon entry. We literally spent seven hours there and I had to bribe them with ice cream. Why is there only one picture of this magical place? Because I spent all my time reading and catching up on emails while the three of them played contently on slides, tunnels, trampolines, large legos, coloring, and glitter glue snowmen crafts.

We spent our last day praying my visa would be ready (it was!) and trying to get suitcases organized for flying home the following day. We went to dinner at The Sugar Factory (a last indulgent meal before heading back home) and caught the Dubai Fountain Show from our hotel balcony.

It was a nice (albeit slightly long) trip to Dubai, but we are ready for a fun last week of school and time with friends before the holiday break!

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