Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Many Styles of Sadie

I knew that when my Ethiopian-born daughter was old enough that I would need to tackle the hair situation. Situation meaning I am a white mama who has never done black hair. I knew that this was going to be an enormous part of my mothering her and I didn't want to screw it up.

Enter Youtube.

I cannot tell you how many hours of Youtube black hair videos I have watched. Bless Youtube. Seriously.

Without further ado, here are some of the many simple styles I have done for Sadie. We usually aim for a protective style that is kind to her natural hair. Her hair is extremely kinky and slow to grow. She loves having some length (as most little girls do) to her hair so enter EXTENSIONS. Extensions are another gift from God. Bless extensions.

Everything you see here was done by me. Yes, that is the sound of me patting myself on the back.

(Flat threading for the faux cornrows and Senegalese twists. This is easy and fairly long lasting (4-6 weeks)

(Same style as above, just different view)

(This is some chunkier flat threading for the twists against her head with curly extensions woven in. I love the look of the curlies but these never last as long as I want them to. 4 weeks tops).

(Senegalese twist extensions with some purple hair woven in, then braided into a thick braid)

(This is all her own hair. I simply wound a thick thread around each sectioned piece to make a "coil" then added a bead at the end. Really simple. This lasts about a month with minimal clean up)

(Another view of the same style above. I love this photo of me and my daughter)

(Really LONG Senegalese twists with some hot pink woven in. These took forever and a day to braid)

(Big hair don't care. Curlies for DAYS)

(Short Senegalese twists perfect for summer)

Saturday, August 1, 2015



My youngest daughter and dad, hard at work in our summer garden. We put in the raised planter beds last year and wonder why we never did it sooner.

Also, please ignore the horrible weeds masquerading as grass.

Happy summer :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Me and Mini Me

Just me and my mini me (who is actually almost as tall as not quite mini anymore).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015



We live around many farms and vineyards in our corner of the Bay Area. One of my favorite summertime activities is to pick out strawberries from one of the local farms for freezer jam. This weekend's bounty was colorful and delicious.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Morocco - Day 2 Tangier

(One of many colorful doorways in Tangier)

We slept well on our first night in Morocco. I find that it is always tricky sleeping soundly in a new place. We were awakened by the middle of the night call to prayer around 3:30 or 4 AM. We had left our bathroom window open and the minaret loudspeakers woke us immediately. But we loved it! We actually left our room and tried to get onto the roof of the riad so that we could hear more clearly but the door was bolted shut. Jet lag is such a strange thing. We were wide awake at 4:00 AM and then slowly drifted back off to sleep. We never set an alarm for the morning.

I awoke first and glanced at my tablet. The time said 7:35 AM. Awesome! This left plenty of time to get breakfast and head out into the city. Suddenly I realized that my tablet was still on NY time. I ran over to where my phone was charging and discovered that it was actually 12:35 PM in Morocco! YIKES. We had already slept the entire morning away!

(We had amazing carved and handpainted wooden headboards in our riad)

After scrambling to get ready and eating a very late breakfast we headed into town. Our plan for today was heading down to the port to see all of the fishermen. A man on our train had given us the tip of going to the port then veering off to the right where there was a place to eat fresh seafood. He told us that there were platters and platters of shrimp and fish and it was really cheap. Sign me up!

The first thing I noticed about Tangier, and Morocco in general, is that there are A LOT of men around. Just...around. Guys between 18 and maybe 35, in groups of three or more, hanging around street corners and doorways and alleyways and cafes. There is a restless energy around these men. It was unsettling until I realized that it just felt unfamiliar and they meant no harm (generally speaking). School ends for most kids around age 15 and then they are expected to help provide for their families. Only wealthy families can afford to send their children on to higher education. There aren't a lot of good jobs and as a result people either have to be very resourceful (ie: hustling travel guides) or wait out the downtime.

(Me in a doorway on the way down to the port)

I think if I had been traveling alone or just with a group of women I would have been more unsettled by this preponderance of restless male energy but because I was with Sam I wasn't as bothered by it. Still, it is something to be aware of if you are planning to spend time in Morocco.

The port was large and teeming with activity. There were NO women anywhere. I noticed this after we had been walking around for about 15 minutes. No Moroccan women, no tourist women. No women. This was one of the only times on our trip that I felt a little uneasy. Not scared, not worried; just a bit uneasy. No one bothered us; these guys were all busy doing their jobs.

We followed the directions the man on the train gave us and sure enough, we ran right into a large covered area filled with customers. Here as with most other places in Tangier it was necessary to communicate in French. Luckily it was easy and the large platter of fresh unpeeled shrimp a man brought to us was fantastic. We were able to eat fairly leisurely while people watching. It was a comfortable way to spend an hour.

Also, another note on eating in Morocco: unless you are eating soup, no one really uses utensils. You eat with your right hand and use table bread to scoop meats, vegetables, and sauces into your mouth. It is surprisingly easy to get the hang of; I found I didn't miss forks and knives at all. There is always a small sink near the dining area that is just for washing up before and after eating. Most of the time instead of paper or fabric napkins we were given thin sheets of butcher-like paper.

When we finished we walked back up into the medina. Eventually we made our way to a pastry shop and filled up on an assortment of desserts. None of them were stellar but the sweetness helped and the air con inside was strong. Again, it was a great place to just sit and people watch. I never realized how little I people watch in my daily life at home. Do you know why? Because the pull of my fancy Iphone is too strong. Wifi connects me to everyone and everything and I am so used to pulling out my phone whenever there is more than 10 seconds of downtime. For our trip to Morocco, we turned off all cellular data. Our phones only worked when we were around wifi, which usually meant we only had connection in our riads at the beginning and end of the day. This meant no Instagram or Facebook status checking or CNN or weather or blog checking while we were out and about. It was incredibly liberating after just one day. My people watching skills came back! I was in the moment, soaking up what was going on around me.

(The pastries look good but I only liked the macarons)

And honestly, I needed my brain at full capacity because I had to speak French 90% of the time while in Tangier. We spoke no Arabic except for "la" which means "no" and "selam" which stands in for "hi". After only a day or so I didn't miss the constant wifi at all. Shocking but true.

We spent the balance of our last day in Tangier wandering. Wandering is the BEST way to see any city in Morocco. It's the best way to see any city ANYWHERE, am I right? We found a local guide who wasn't pushy and spoke great English (thank goodness for a brief reprieve from translating into French). We asked him to take us to a restaurant that he liked; nothing touristy. Naturally, I didn't write the name down of where we had dinner but OH MY GOODNESS the food was sublime. It was here that we were introduced to our new favorite food in Morocco, the pastille.


After dinner we continued to wander with our guide through the streets of Tangier. We explained that we had no interest in the touristy version of Tangier; we wanted to see where the locals shopped and ate and worshipped. It was great to go off the beaten path for a few hours. Eventually, we made our way to the famous Cafe Baba.   This place is known as hash heaven, and while we didn't partake of the legendary Cafe Baba smoke culture, we loved being a part of the vibe. Funnily enough, we discovered that Cafe Baba was literally around the corner from our riad!

After a long day of walking and taking in all that Tangier had to offer, we headed back to our riad to pack up and have a good night sleep. The next morning, we headed to Fez.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Morocco - Day 1 Travel to Casablanca and Tangier

(First night in Tangier, Morocco. Spain is behind us just across the water)

First off, the excitement of a dream coming true - finally going to Morocco?! I practically floated onto the plane at SFO. I had been dreaming of this trip since I was 14 and it was here! Here I am trying on my pack the day before leaving:

Osprey packs are THE BEST. I can't say enough good things about these. We decided to do this whole trip with just our backpacks and a duffle bag for souvenir overflow. We hauled them over to the other side of the world, dragged them through trains, taxis, the desert, the mountains, through medina's and souks and they were perfection. If you are looking for a hardworking travel pack look no further than Osprey. 

We flew from SFO to JFK on Jet Blue. It was easy and painless. Then we had a 3 hour layover before boarding Royal Air Maroc for our 7 hour flight to Casablanca. The plane was a brand new dreamliner and was SO nice. Each of the seats had a big screen with plenty of free movies and TV plus a USB port at each seat. NICE. As soon as we boarded the plane loud Arabian music began playing and continued until we were 10,000 feet in the air. To my untrained ears it sounded a lot like Indian music...but what do I know.

My husband and I were some of the only Americans flying to Morocco. It was a full flight and truly an immediately immersive experience into Middle Eastern and African culture. All of the women on the flight wore a headcovering of some kind. I heard almost no English. My seat mate was a young Moroccan mother traveling with her 18 month old son. She was also pregnant and we can all imagine how tiring it is to travel while battling morning sickness and caring for a toddler. I held her son a few times on the trip and loved being able to help. Sam's seat mates were from Liberia and spoke very little English. It was our first time flying back to Africa since our journey five years ago to Ethiopia and honestly, it felt like going home. Crazy right?

Once we landed in Casablanca, we each took up residence in the bathroom to change clothes and clean up a bit. Brushing your teeth and applying deoderant after a long flight is positively renewing. I'm glad that we took our time cleaning up because we stood in customs for nearly 2 hours. Just STANDING. We hardly ever moved more than a snails pace every 15 minutes. I still do not know why it took so long. It was hot and dingy in that part of the airport and I needed to do some positive thinking/deep breathing/digging deep to GET THROUGH the ridiculousness of it all. Plus...jet laaaaaggggggg...

Then it was over and we were through. We ran out to the taxi line and I quickly asked the first driver I saw if he spoke English. Ummmm...clearly he did not. I switched to French and got us on our way to the Casa Voys train station in Casablanca. For some reason, I thought that this taxi trip would be five minutes long. It was more like 25-30 minutes. My brain was fried from traveling and I quickly realized that I was going to need my French to come through for me in a big way because people were NOT speaking English.

After an initial scuffle with the taxi driver over the price (our first attempted shake down of the trip!) we ran into the train station with about 15 minutes to spare to make our train. I had studied up on all of my train station/purchasing vocabulary and it worked perfectly! I think it was about $50 for both of our tickets. Let this be a lesson to you: study the languages you will be encountering on your international journeys. It makes everything so much easier. Also as a side note, we decided early in our trip planning to simply land in Casablanca and be on our way. There isn't much to see or do there (although the name evokes a mysterious Hollywood glamour) and we wanted to spend two nights in Tangier.

Have you seen the film Darjeeling Limited? It is a favorite of my husband and mine. The train travel in that film was fairly similar to what we encountered in Morocco. We booked a first class compartment, which is just a fancy way for saying that there were six comfortable seats inside our compartment instead of eight or ten cramped seats like in the second class cars. There was a snack cart that would come through the compartments every hour or so and a rudimentary bathroom at either end of the car. The seats were comfortable and we were wiped from being awake for nearly 24 hours. We both crashed as the train made its way through the countryside from Casablanca to Tangier. The journey took about 4 1/2 hours.

(Sam on the train...)

Upon arriving in the port city of Tangier, we ran from the train to grab a taxi. Our taxi driver was a bit of a hustler but at least he was pleasant about it. He drove a circa 1970 Mercedes sedan, had on a red and white striped shirt, a cigarette behind his ear and spoke only French. It was like something out of an old movie.

We stayed at the riad  Dar Chams Tanja near the wall of the old Kasbah.


We later discovered Dar Chams was in a GREAT location. I would absolutely stay there again. The owners are an older French couple and were really charming. They spoke almost no English so I was up to bat again with translating duties. By the time I went to bed on that first night my brain was so tired of translating:).  Our hosts got us situated with pastries and our first proper cups of mint tea on the roof.

This was the first time that we heard the call to prayer from mosques across Tangier. I can't fully describe how incredible it was to hear in person for the first time. I loved it. I never grew tired of hearing it and looked forward to it every day of our 12 days in Morocco.


We had the best views of the old city as well as the port from the roof of our riad.

Eventually we settled in a bit and headed out looking for dinner (it was now nearly 5:30 PM). We were taking our cues from Anthony Bourdain and his CNN Parts Unknown special on Tangier. He had talked about Cafe Tingis, Cafe Baba and a magnificent meal at Saveur de Poisson. We set out to find all three.

(But first, old door with blue washed walls? Thank you Tangier!)

We literally stumbled onto the legendary Cafe Tingis! I was so excited. Cafe Tingis is located in the historic Petit Socco (or Little Square) of Tangier and has been around since early Venetian times.

(Fresh oranges in a cart near the Petit Socco)

 (One of the many alleyways near the Petit Socco in Tangier)

(We encountered many beautiful neighborhood mosques. I could not stop snapping pictures.)

Next it was onto the famous Saveur de Poisson. You guys. This the best meal I had the entire time I was in Morocco. Hands down. This wasn't just a meal, it was an experience. This place is only open for a few hours in the afternoon and then after 7:00 PM in the evening. The owner brings in herbs and vegetables from his farm somewhere near Tangier. No one really speaks English. The restaurant is very small and rustic and smells divine. There is no menu and dinner comes in four courses. We began with olives and some kind of insanely delicious sauce and breads and nuts.

Just looking at the above photo makes me feel crazy inside. The next course brought a seafood soup and then the best fish I have ever tasted. The olives? Out of this world. We ate shark for the first time and dove into dishes of food where we had no idea what we were eating. It didn't matter; everything was delicious. At one point I asked for a glass of water and was told, "No water. Only juice". The juice was some crazy pulpy blend of grapes and plums and maybe blueberries? I lapped it up. Dessert was honey drizzled over berries and almonds.

Sam remembered the happy character in the photo above from the Anthony Bourdain CNN special. This man is the owner and spends the evening running around the small restaurant space filling bowls, bringing heaps and heaps of fish and breads, smiling and laughing with the guests. He did not speak French or English, only Arabic, so our communications were pointing and simple phrases. We soon noticed he was bringing us more treats than the other tables (extra berries and honey, more mint tea). Finally as we were leaving, he washed off two sets of wooden spoons and forks, gave them to me and hugged both me and Sam. It was a magical evening and the perfect end to our first night in Morocco. 

If you ever find yourself in Tangier you MUST go to Saveur de Poisson. If you do nothing else, go there.

Next up: Day 2 in Morocco and more exploration in Tangier.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The sky...

Tonight the sky was epic. I noticed there was a rosy light coming through my windows and went outside for closer inspection. I looked up and there were pink wisps of cotton candy clouds with the moon shining brightly in the center of it all. I closed my eyes for a moment and just thanked my Heavenly Father for making something so beautiful.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Playroom Redo

The two hardest working rooms in our house are the laundry/pantry and our playroom. Alright, honestly you could argue that each and every room of our 2800 square foot house is hardworking but that doesn't serve me as well for this post. THIS is about our playroom.

Remember my alphabet wall? Here is another view of it.

We have four kids. The playroom sits at the very front of our house, right by the front door. Most people with this kind of floorplan use this space for their formal dining or living room but puh-lease. We are firmly informal people in this house. We decided years ago to use this space as a playroom.

The space has undergone many revamps over the years. The baby/toddler phase was full of plastic and wood toys and baby gates and color and craziness. Honestly, I don't miss those days too much. Today the space needs to function for two little kids embarking on their first pages of homework, puzzle piecing, drawing, and the occasional doll hospital. It also needs to function as a place to house a large percentage of our family books, an art cart and a prime area to look out the window at the garden. Seriously, we spend a lot of time looking at that garden.

I purchased this white Kallax bookshelf from Ikea about a week ago. I am one of those really strange people who enjoy assembling things from Ikea. Weird, right? Anyway, it took just under an hour to get it together and it is SOLID. I love the glossy finish and generous cubby shelves. The clear baskets on the bottom row were purchased at Target. The transparency makes it easier for my kids to see what they actually have to play with. Since this is a playroom and all, I would like for them to play with their toys. The big red lantern is from Home Goods, as is the crocheted giraffe. That giraffe was a total inpulse buy years ago and I have never regretted it. My ball garland is fashioned from felted wool balls I picked up during my recent trip to Morocco. More on that here.

The big globe is a Goodwill find years ago. We have two children born in Ethiopia and globes have played a necessary part in understanding the journey our family went on to assemble all of us. There is something special about using your finger to trace a story on a globe. It never gets old.

The ball that looks like a colorful soccer ball is from our trip to Ethiopia a few years ago. We bought it at the orphanage where our children were living. See the blue cart in the background there?

There she is! This is the Ikea Raskog cart and it is worth its weight in gold. Although, it doesn't weigh much at all so that analogy won't really work...

This cart is command central for all four kids. I have a few chalk painted mason jars that were left over from another project corralling pencils and markers. The two shelves below are strictly for papers and coloring books. Having all of the art stuff in one simple cart has kept the playroom really clean. Like, shockingly clean.

I made the curtains out of some decorator weight fabric from Hancock Fabric. I always forget how much I hate sewing curtains until it is done and hung and I fall in love. These are the exact curtains that I could not find anywhere.

So that's our playroom space. I have listed a few sources below. Do you have a dedicated playroom in your house? What are your methods for keeping it both fun and functional? I would love to hear them!


Black and white curtain fabric from Hancock Fabrics
Large silver star: Taipan Trading
Large red wood lantern: Home Goods
White bookshelf: Ikea
Bookshelf clear baskets: Target
Globes: Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Goodwill
Vintage school house chairs: local thrift and antique stores
Art table: Ikea
Art cart: Ikea
Silver stool:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

DIY: Playroom Alphabet Wall!

Earlier this year I decided to create an eclectic alphabet wall in our playroom. It started with a few fabric letters I had found at Anthropologie and grew from there. Slowly, I collected letters from Urban Outfitters, World Market, off of ebay, thrift stores, and garage sales. Eventually, I purchased several blank letters at Michaels and embellished them myself.

The whole process took quite awhile. I wanted each letter to be perfect, to tell a story. See the letter 'M' there in the bottom left corner? I dug into my vintage button jar and hot glued every cool button I could find. Then I added old wooden game pieces I had. Do the buttons and game pieces have anything to do with the letter 'M'? Of course not. I just liked the way it looked!

I did the same thing with the letter 'D'. This time I also included some vintage earrings and pins I received from a friend. They bejeweled my new "D' quite nicely.

With my letter 'O' I took some gorgeous yarn I had laying around (I don't knit but I love yarn. Go figure...) and simply wrapped it around the form.

I did a little letter prep each week until one day I had them all! It was like Christmas morning. Now it was time to assemble 26 letters on a narrow wall. Initially, I figured I would go in alphabet order. I am slightly OCD and couldn't imagine NOT keeping the letters in order. But once I got everything laid out I realized that I hated it. So I mixed up letters based on size and texture. I kept my Anthropologie letters evenly spaced (I had the most of those) with everything else. Now it all made sense.

I hung each letter on the wall with special 3M Velcro Command Picture Hanging Strips. This stuff is AMAZING. My husband was extremely concerned about me putting 26 nail holes in the wall; these strips made him feel better about my design project.

If you have the time, this is a great project to tackle. It isn't hard at all. What makes this particular DIY work best (in my opinion) is having many different shapes, sizes and textures in your alphabet. And that takes time to acquire organically. I spent many evenings scouring ebay for "vintage alphabet letters" and "fabric letters" and "painted letters". Also for this project, hot glue is your friend.

This is a motif that would look great as an accent wall in a nursery, childrens bedroom, playroom or even an office. In my house, our alphabet takes up the wall between my foyer and playroom and never feels childish or out of place.

Is this a project you would like to try? For more alphabet wall inspiration check out this board on Pinterest!