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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Look Who's Here!!!

And no, not baby Sophia!

It's Ian's mom! Her first trip overseas to see us and her first time EVER to see her first grandbaby, Grace!



We're over the moon excited and are looking forward to the next three weeks of spending as much time with her as possible. We're all a little tired and I think mom especially will sleep good tonight!

Ian's especially glad to see his mom, it's been over 2 and a half years!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall in the Middle East

Seasons tend to look a bit different on this side of the world, and I don't just mean weather wise. After all, I grew up in Florida- we don't really have normal "seasons," there either.

No, I mean that there tends to be a complete lack of recognition of the Fall season here. After all, it means nothing special to this side of the world, these three months of the year. There isn't much of a change of weather, it is not a time of harvest or Thanksgiving, there are no family oriented holidays!

And, don't even get me started on the lack of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

It's been a disappointment three years running.

But, with the impending arrival of our second baby girl, I thought it would be wise to focus on some goals for our little family this fall. A chance to step back, spend time together, and make some memories in the process.

Next year, we hope to be in the States during the Fall and I'd like my daughter to at least know of a few things.

Like what the word leaf is.

Or what carving a pumpkin means.

Or how to order me a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, no whip.

Or, just the first two would be alright.

She will only be two then.

Our bucket list for this year:

Two things to observe:
1.) many of my goals are food oriented, and I am okay with that.
2.) "carve pumpkins," is a goal of mine, but I'm not even sure if we can buy whole pumpkins, so it might turn into "carve bell peppers," and, once again, I'm okay with that.

Also, "make costumes for girls," may turn into me "buying costumes for girls." I have to remember I'll have a newborn and an 18 month old.

I am looking forward to these activities, simple as they might be!

What are your plans for the fall?


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Home Tour: Kitchen

I love our kitchen.

L-O-V-E

It may not be of the top quality, model home variety, but it is SO nice and SO much bigger (4-5 times bigger!) than our last kitchen.

Our last kitchen was small but functional, but not really someplace I enjoyed being. Everything in it had been furnished with the apartment, meaning it had been owned and used by countless people before us, including silverware and plates, appliances and pots.

This kitchen, however, is very much my space. And I love it!

When coming in the front door, you see the living room to the right, and a hallway straight ahead that branches into a T, with the office to the right and the kitchen to the left.
 The view from the doorway into the kitchen. You can see why I love it:
1.) the natural light- makes my heart oh-so-happy
2.) the wide open countertop space! I love clear open counters with not too much clutter
3.) it's huge! Our last kitchen only had 8 small tiles worth of space on the floor

Our fridge was a long time coming. We spent a month with a dorm sized fridge that was as short as Grace is, trying to find a good deal on a used fridge. When nothing panned out, we went to an appliance outlet and get a steal on this massive fridge and freezer...new!

Here, you can see my message board that is magnetic and has a little line with clothespins on it. I can change out the paper and colors out whenever I feel like it! Also, my calendar that I tried to make reusable, but contact paper doesn't wipe off very easily, so it's really a one time use type of thing. Grace's farm animal toy is beneath that, but I'm about to switch it out for her alphabet one and then her magnetic nativity set at Christmas time.

View of the fridge straight on. Our water cooler isn't absolutely necessary here, as our doctor assured us the tap water is clean and parasite free, but I still feel funny about it, so we've kept the water cooler. Our trash can (and bag of trash next to it,) and our fire extinguishers cap off the row. Those extinguishers came in handy when we had an electrical fire the other week!

The door to the right is a door that leads out back. There really isn't anything there but a paved sidewalk that leads around to the front of the house and ours and our neighbor's gigantic water tanks. The neighbor kids like to run on the sidewalks that go all around these houses, and since our window isn't covered, at night they can see into our house. Sometimes it is disturbing thinking that these kids are looking in, but most of the time is hilarious when I stumble into the kitchen late at night and freak them out.

Nothing like seeing a giant, pregnant, white lady when you least expect it to make a group of 10 year old girls scream and run away.
On the side of the fridge we have some emergency contact information and my weekly menu note pad with a grocery notepad next to it.

On top of the fridge are two baskets. One is full of cereal boxes, because we stock up when we can find the stuff that isn't filled with chocolate. The other has our dish towels and pot holders in it.

To the right of the door is the counter space with our sink over looking the windows to the back. The drawers on the left hold our silverware, kitchen gadgets, and disposable items, such as baggies, foil, paper plates. Underneath of the sink, the cabinets have a lock on them because we store our cleaners there. To the right of the sink, a gigantic cabinet that stretches all the way back into the corner holds our three different mixing bowl sets, my cake decorating gear, and all of our rubbermade containers. On top of the counter in the corner is our napkin holder, knife block, and my wrought iron cookbook stand, which I LOVE.

The long wall has our stove and most of our storage space. Our stove is highly unusual on this side of the world, as most people use gas stoves. Our house didn't have a gas hook up, much to my relief, and it was just easier to find an electric stove instead. We bought this stove used from a nice Brazilian woman and it has been perfect. It is exactly like our stove we had before we moved over seas.

To the left of the stove is our utensil crock and to the right is my spice rack. Right now the spice rack is more for looks, as I haven't cleaned out the spices from before storage, meaning they are 4 years old!

The cabinets on the bottom, to the left of the stove, hold our pots and  pans and colanders/steamers. The drawers to the right hold our spices (top 2 drawers,) and baking supplies and utensils (bottom 2 drawers.) The cabinet to the right, on the bottom, has our baking pans on the top and corningware on the bottom.

The cabinets on the top hold our glasses and mugs, plate settings, and plasticware.

My absolute favorite cabinet, because I went so long with mismatching, used plates and bowls:


I love my Crate and Barrel Staccato plate settings. I felt like I was at my bridal shower all over again when I opened these up from our boxes!


View of the wall to your right when you walk in. This is where most of our food items are stored, since there is no pantry. The two corner cabinets hold our serving ware (upper) and small appliances (lower.) The top four cabinets have all of our dry goods and canned items while the bottom two cabinets, under the microwave, hold all of the big baking ingredients, mixes, and oils.

The awkward two cabinets that are underneath of that island (peninsula, really,) or bar, is where I keep some fun activities for Grace, such as sensory bins, craft supplies, and hands on activities that are only played with under supervision. This cabinet has a lock on it as well.

The final thing in the kitchen is our laundry room:

It was directly to your left when you came through the door, before you get to the fridge. We bought both of the washer and the dryer for less than 100 dollars, used. They are amazing.

Remember, in our last house we had a manual, single cycle washing machine that took an hour per load of constant attention. I had to drag it across the kitchen, fill it up from the sink, drag it back to the drain to drain it for both cycles, and transfer every thing into the spin cylinder to get the water out of it before moving it all to another room to hang dry. What a pain! Now, I just press a button and "Ta-daa!" it does it's job by itself.

The only weird thing is that the dryer is a condensing dryer, since there are no piping or tubing to let the hot, moist air to the outside. It condenses all of the water in a little tray in the top left and you just have to empty it in between loads. It's pretty easy and our stuff comes out soft, fluffy, and dry in about an hour. Amazing!

I've been eyeing some shelving to go above this area at Ikea, but we haven't gotten it yet. Our washing supplies, iron, and toilet paper/paper towels, are stored on top of the washing machine, while our medicine bin is on top of the dryer. It will be nice to get that stuff off of the top of the machines and have a hanging rod to put hanging clothes on.

That's our kitchen! We love the space and the light and I have loved getting to cook here! We spend much of our time in this room, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and Grace playing right along side of us. It's a great space!



Friday, September 21, 2012

Perfect Ending


 The perfect ending to a not so perfect week....sunset on the beach in Abu Dhabi, watching the kite surfers and the wind surfers dance about while I waded ankle deep into the warm waters laping at the shore.

My husband and daughter played in the sand as I took some pictures. People picnicked up and down the coast and groups of young men played soccer.

It had been awhile since we've taken Grace to the beach, probably close to a year now. She had forgotten that the sound of the waves are a peaceful thing, not a frightening thing. We coaxed her into the shallows (aka we picked her up and sat her in the water,) and she splashed away.

Then she ate a stick.

And a rock.

But that's okay, because my baby was happy at the beach, just like I am.


 Ian changed into his swimsuit (we were wearing normal clothes when we had decided to check this beach out,) and I stayed out of the water. I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to get in, no other lady was in the water. Maybe on a week day when there aren't as many people around.

He scooped up Grace and waded in past the rocks. The water was warmer than a bath and Grace loved it. The kite surfers' looped and swooped around them and a wind surfer failed at getting his rig up and moving.

The sun slipped below the horizon and we dried off and packed up. Our week may have been disappointing and difficult, but the end of the week?

Yeah, it was pretty perfect.

I think we'll go back soon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Today I'm Loving...

Today, I'm loving:
  •  That I am 37 weeks (plus one day!) pregnant. Baby Sophia could join our family any moment now!
  • That the heat has broken....it's only 105 as a high, as opposed to four months of 120+!
  • That my sweet husband let us have cereal for dinner instead of the chicken and potatoes that I was planning... I was just too tired!
Today, I'm loving:
  • That I finished The Three Musketeers! It's a whopper of a book at 650 + pages, but it was AMAZING.
  • That I get to choose a new book! I think I'm going to go with It Happened in Italy, a nonfiction on the resistance movement in a village in Italy during WWII.
  • That my sweet, baby girl is learning so much every day. Today she perfected "Touchdown!" and started working on "apple," "milk," and how to get down from a step.

Today, I'm loving:
  • That tomorrow is going to be as equally as awesome as today. Day date with my husband to pick up the crib and see a movie!
  • That I got to talk to my sister! We don't chat very often but I love it when we do!
  • That I started my morning off with a run out to Krispy Kreme. And by "run," I mean loading my one year old in her car seat and driving the 10 minutes there and back. I don't mean a literal "run."

Today, I'm loving:
  • That we are less than 2 weeks away from Ian's mom coming to visit! She'll be here through the birth and I can't wait to give her a big hug! It will be her first time to meet Grace as well.
  • That my daughter knows how to make a camel sound but isn't too sure about a cow sound. That's the life of a desert baby for you!
  • That we got a package in the mail today. I love mail and it always makes the day seem brighter.

Today, I'm loving:
  • That I am getting to use my teaching skills again. It's been fun to come up with some lesson plans and activities for the kids I'm tutoring. Oh. And I'm tutoring them in Arabic. Which is pretty awesome.
  • That my fridge is full once again., We had let it go to empty so that we could up a bunch of older items (considering our fridge is only 3 weeks old, "old," is a relative term,) and we had been scraping by for a day or two with next to nothing.
  • That my husband gives me a foot rub. Every. Single. Day. He's awesome. Physical Touch is my love language and Ian does great at adding to my "love bank," through foot rubs, shoulder massages, and snuggles.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

{Freezer Meals} Chicken Pot Pie


Last week I wrote about how I like to Double Up on my meal that I'm cooking for dinner and freeze the second portion as a freezer meal for later use.


I shared one of my favorite recipes for Lil Cheddar Meatloaves and I am plowing ahead with more freezer cooking. I'm trying to cook one beef and one chicken meal a week for storage, so last week I made a second freezer meal: Chicken Pot Pie.

I think Chicken Pot Pie is a definite comfort food. I prefer mine with a biscuit topping, but Ian likes it with pie crust, so, this time, pie crust it was!

The ingredients are very simple:

(ingredients are for a double batch, one for that night, one for freezing!)

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 2/3 finely diced onion (about one medium onion)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3 and 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 and 1/3 cup milk
  • 6 cups boiled chicken, shredded (I love it finely shredded, so I use my food processor)
  • 2 cans of peas and carrots, drained
  •  Pie Crust or biscuit topping
Directions:

1.) Melt butter in large pot
2.) Add flour, onion, salt, and pepper
3.) Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. until mixture turns a deep yellow/light brown.
4.) Pour in broth and milk and let entire pot come to a boil for 2-3 minutes
5.) Mix in chicken and peas/carrots.
6.) Pour mixture into two separate casserole dishes- 8x8 or 9x9
7.) Top with your choice of pie crust or biscuit topping
8.) Bake, one dish at a time, in an oven for 35 minutes at 425 degrees.
(bake only 20 minutes for your freezer meal.)

Enjoy! It really is a simple meal, especially if you are using boiled shredded chicken in several other dishes that week. I tend to make this in the same week I am making chicken enchiladas or bar b que pulled chicken, so that I can just buy a GIANT bag of frozen, skinless, chicken breasts, boil for 20 minutes, and shred it all in one go.

Recipe originally from Betty Crocker




Friday, September 14, 2012

Home Tour: Office/Guest Room


When you first enter our home, to the right, you see our Living Room. Straight ahead of you is a hallway that leads to several different rooms.

We ran out of room for these book cases in our office, but they fit perfectly in this place. I pulled out all of my children's/classroom books that I had brought with me and put them on the bottom shelf. I also have my cookbooks (top far left,) coffee table books, (top left,) and "lendable" books (top right.) Technically, all of our books are "lendable," but these are ones I would highly recommend to friends who were looking for some good fiction (Francine Rivers, Terri Blackstock, and Alexander McCall Smith.)

I used the top to display a bunch of frames and knick knacks. The pictures in the frames all need updating, as alot of the pictures are from before we were married, of high school friends and kids I worked with. I want to put in pictures of our parents and siblings.

To the right of these book cases is the doorway into the entrance of our office/guest room.

Straight through that door is the bathroom. Not pictured, to the right of this picture is a little enclave that could hold a wardrobe (closets are not built in on this side of the world,) but we are just using it for storage of some boxes. Most of the time it is behind the open door, so you can't see it, which is nice!

I like this bathroom alot. It has an older shower curtain that was in our guest bath in our apartment in the States (from Target,) and is a pretty big bathroom. The finishings are all new and modern, but most importantly, they are "western," and no, I do not mean as in cowboys. I mean it has toilets and sinks that are styled like we would do in the States, instead of squatty potties (yep, some houses here have that,) or giant, gaudy pieces, like we had in our last house.

We have four full bathrooms and two half bathrooms in this house. I know. Ridiculous. It takes me a full day of chore time to clean them. But since the builder/owner is a local, he built it somewhat in a local style, which means that no one should have to share a bathroom.

We keep extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, and facewash downstairs in this bathroom, which makes it convenient when you need to freshen up before heading out. Because I'm just that lazy that I don't want to climb those stairs.

The office is the room that we have both been dreaming about for over three years. A month before we got married, in 2008, we were broke college graduates who wanted to buy our first "grown up" piece of furniture. So, what did we do? We went out and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a gorgeous inlaid wood desk.

We're practical like that.

My parents gifted us three tall bookcases and we used Target gift cards to buy four smaller ones, and that room, our office, was our only furnished room for the entire first year of marriage.

True story.

But what a beautiful room it was!

Our office was our sanctuary. We had all of our books displayed beautifully and a nice, peaceful place for Ian to study during his graduate school time. And I loved having a dedicated space where I blogged for my first year of marriage.

We packed it all up in the spring of 2009 and haven't seen it since then! When our crate arrived in July, our books and bookshelves were some of the first things we pulled out and organized.

It has a little different feel to it this time, as it is more of Ian's own space than a shared space, since he works from home most of the time. I used our red curtains in there to try to pull in a Georgia Bulldogs color scheme (his favorite team,) but it would still need a few more details to make it an actual theme in the room.

View from the entry of the room into the office:

The tall bookcases house all of our non fiction books. I've told Ian that we aren't buying any more shelves (except maybe for the girls' rooms) so what can fit on there is all that we can keep. I weeded out a bunch of my fiction books that I will donate to a library or give to a friend and he painfully pulled out a few of his fiction books that are not "classics."

There is still a little more room for a few books and I think there are alot of books that can be trashed/given away, because they were either 1.) no good, 2.) duplicates, or 3.) read and will never be read or looked at again. It'll take me awhile to convince Ian of this. We have a Kindle so we are trying to buy our fiction books on there, but it still isn't the same as a paper copy of a book.

View of Ian's desk and the shorter Fiction book cases:

We have our diplomas framed and displayed and Ian wants to add our certificates from our language school up there, but they aren't as official and beautiful as our college certificates so I am not sold on it yet.

And, yes, Ian doesn't have a desk chair yet. He sits on a little step stool when he works. I keep telling him to bring in one of our six dining room chairs to use until we buy him a real chair, but he doesn't do it very often.

 View of the taller book cases and the twin bed that makes this room a "guest room."

I want to add a small end table with a decorative lamp and some red throw pillows to the bed in order to make it look a little more cohesive and not so stark.

Other than that, this room is DONE! We really like tile floors so I don't think I'll add an area rug. I'm not sure that we'll always have a dedicated office room, but for now, it is beautiful and we really like having all of our books in (almost) one place!
 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

36 Weeks

Thirty Six Weeks! One week away from full term! This pregnancy has flown by. It hasn't been as easy and discomfort free as my pregnancy with Grace, but it has been exciting!



This past week I have made some major progress getting ready for Sophia's arrival. We bought our entertainment center and were able to move Sophia's dresser/changing table into her room. I also washed all of our newborn gear and folded and put it away.

A theme and a color scheme was decided this week also. And I was able to work on some art work for her room! It felt good to  do something that was done specifically for her.

I laugh when I read other pregnant mom's posts about registering and buying furniture when they are in their first trimester- Sophia is still crib less, but hopefully that will be remedied in the next week or two.

Can I just say, my belly is HUGE. You know you are gigantically pregnant when you can't actually fit yourself in a pew at church. That's right.... When I stand with the back of my legs touching my seat, my belly is pressed up against the row of chairs in front of me!

I haven't had a doctor's appointment since 33 weeks, so I am not really sure of my stats but, according to my home scale, my weight is holding steady at +28 pounds. I gained about 35 pounds with Grace's pregnancy and leveled off around 35 weeks, so this is an improvement on the amount gained and it looks like I'm following the same pattern.

I have Braxton Hicks contractions every other night, around 3 am. Very strange. They aren't painful at all, just enough to wake me up and annoy me, ha! Sophia isn't head down yet, but I've been told (and read) that with second babies, that is pretty common.

I had one day of health "scare," where I had a horrible headache all night and all the next day, despite taking medicine, and then my hands and feet were swollen, even after sleeping all night. After a day of rest and taking it easy though, my headache cleared up and my hands and feet returned to normal.

Grace has been super sweet lately. She loves to lift up my shirt to kiss my belly, then says "bye-bye" before covering it back up. I try not to lift her too much, or carry her up the stairs, but sometimes, you do what you have to do. Luckily, she's petite. She loves to carry around her baby doll, wrap her up, put her hat on her, and feed it a bottle. She's going to make a great big sister!

All of that to say... if, after this week, Sophia wants to make her arrival- I'm okay with it! Sophia can come any time after we hit the full term mark! Grace came 8 days early and Sophia is welcome to follow in her footsteps- or even earlier if she wants!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Virtual Baby Shower


 A year and a half ago, my dearest friends attempted to throw me and my first baby a virtual baby shower using Skype. Unfortunately, Grace decided to make her appearance on the very day that it was set to take place.

This time, with Sophia, they were able to put a shower together way before Sophia makes her arrival.

So, today, several hours before my husband settled down for a night of college football, I settled down into my chair with my computer to attend Sophia's baby shower!

My friend, Courtney, hosted, and she decorated and made breakfast for the guests. I wish I had pictures of everything because it looked so cute, and the food looked delicious!

I got to see my friends all in one room, which I don't think has happened since I skyped in to tell them that we were expecting a GIRL in December of 2010. Since then, we've just been doing individual skype calls instead of group ones.

These are girls that I have been friends with for years, three of them since before 6th grade! One of the biggest surprises was to see my friend Courtney on a computer screen! She moved away several years ago and I didn't think that she would "be" here at all!

Left to Right: Courtney, Jessica, Jaci, Katie, and Courtney (on the computer).

And Grace and I attending the baby shower!

We played two games- one where they guessed what characteristics I wanted Sophia to get from Ian and I. Most of the physical attributes I wanted her to get from me, because, well, I'm a girl, and I just can't imagine Ian's fingers, legs, nose, or toes, on a little girl, ha! But most of the personality traits I wanted Sophia to get from Ian, like his laugh, coordination, sense of humor, and punctuality. The second game was where we all tried to see how many  words, three letters or me, we could come up from baby's name- Sophia Anne. Courtney (computer) got 32 different words! That was the record for our group.

We opened gifts and my friends felt really weird opening their own gifts that they had brought. Sophia got several cute pajamas (my favorite clothing item to put a baby in- footie pajamas! Grace lived in them until she was almost 6 months old,) onesies, outfits, receiving blankets, and pacifiers (we can't buy my favorite kind here.) I love that Sophia will have a few things that are all "hers" and not all hand me downs from Grace- though Grace's baby clothes are in awesome shape.

My friend Katie arrived near the end of it all (yes, we have two Katie's and two Courtney's in our group.) She had just dropped her husband off at the airport for an extended business trip and was sad- so sweet for her to come anyways!

I'm so blessed to have friends who woke up super early on their Saturday morning to get together and throw Sophia and I this shower! Thank you, friends! It meant so much to me!


Left to Right: Courtney, Jessica, Jaci, and Katie