Category Archives: Sophie

Christmas 2014!

We spent our first Christmas in Angola, and it was great!  We, of course, missed everyone at home, but it was so relaxed and so easy going.


 We had a lot of fun opening presents.  Hattie had a good time opening presents, but really just wanted to eat the gummy bears from everyones stockings and play with which ever iPad she could get her hands on!  You can see Sophie’s pineapple love continued in her swimsuit, and her ornament.  It really was such a good morning!

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We had our selves some oven pancakes for brunch and I started getting food ready for dinner while the girls played with new toys.  We were headed to our neighbor’s home for dinner, an epic party of the Gonzales’, Carrolls and McKissicks!  Lisset had set up a photo booth, and it was the only bunch of pictures that we took all night.  The food was delicious, we had taco night and it was fabulous, green chili verde chicken, chipotle beef, tamales, delicious guac, pumpkin pie, apple caramel empanadas, fancy Christmas punch and awesome, awesome company!  We played the dice game, and chatted for a long time, the kids watch Maleficent and played together nicely.  It was a great way to celebrate with our Angolan family.

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Christmas Eve 2014!

We returned from Victoria Falls on the 21st, and immediately started getting ready for Christmas.  We invited the Elders in our district over for dinner for Christmas Eve and President and Sister Merrill.  We had ribs, funeral potatoes, razzleberry pie and rolls.  It was pretty dang delicious and we had a great time.  While we were in South Africa we picked up some African ties for all the Elders for Christmas, it is always nice to open presents, but unfortunately for missionaries, ties are the winning gift!

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3 of the Elders are from Idaho/Utah and then one of the Elders is from Mozambique.  All of them so nice and sweet and polite, and will eat until the day is well over!  We had a good time, and I love cooking for the American Elders, they always are so happy to have American food!


After we read the Christmas story, opened ties and visited, our guests left and we had the girls open their Christmas Eve gifts.  We got to FaceTime with Grandma and OGO while we opened presents.  They were, of course, thrilled about their PJs.  Sophie is so in love with the pineapples on her shorts and they were so happy with their comfy PJs and SO excited for Christmas!

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Victoria Falls- Botswana

We took a day trip to Botswana, we were right near the border, and could do a day trip to Chobe National Park.  We decided to do a river tour in the morning and then a jeep game drive in the afternoon.  We were slightly disappointed we did either.  There were very few animals to see, a lot of birds, some hippos (from a distance) and in the last 5 minutes some elephants out on the road.  We also got 3 giraffes, but only saw them through the trees.  The good part was that we checked Botswana off our list, the bad part was it was nothing compared to any game drive we have been on in our African time.  Here are a few pictures to prove we were in Botswana!

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The next day was our last day in the area.  We did the last hike on our side of the Falls, which was more of a leisurely stroll around the Falls, than a hike!

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With that our time in Zambia was over.  We had a day and a half in Johannesburg to finish our Christmas shopping and then it was back to Angola for Christmas and New Years!

Victoria Falls- Zambia, Devil’s Pool

One morning we got up nice and early and headed over to The Royal Livingstone for our fancy adventure to Livingstone Island and a trip to Devil’s Pool.  So many websites said you needed to visit Devil’s Pool, but it really isn’t the easiest thing to plan.  The water level has to be lower, in fact, the guide told us that in a couple more weeks Devil’s Pool would be too dangerous, the currents too strong, guests wouldn’t be allowed out there.  In a couple months the Island itself would be closed, and mostly covered by water.  This also was probably the last week that they would have let the girls go out to Devil’s Pool.  We started our trip by taking a boat ride out to the Island.  We left from the dock we had watched the sunset from a couple days earlier, and road out towards the edge of the Falls.

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Then, they took us to different photo spots and let us look over the edge of the Falls from a couple different locations.

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Then it was time for the main event.  We all got ready to swim out.  I had told Jeff that I would just wait with the girls, but the guide said he would help Jeff swim Vi and Soph out to the spot.  Basically the girls got piggy back rides out to the rock where we waited to go into the Pool.  Another of the workers there offered to watch Hattie so that I could also experience the pool, as there wasn’t a very good way to take turns, the whole group went out at one time and waited until everyone finished to return back.  So the 4 of us ventured out.  The first picture shows where we were headed to, we ended up on that small group of rocks right near the puff of mist on the right side.  We sat on the rock right near the Pool and received instructions.  First you sat down on the edge, put your feet in, and then pushed off with your hands in front of you.  When you felt the rock at the edge of the Falls you pulled up to sit on top of the rock.  I was all ready to let the other people go first so we could see how it worked, when he motioned for me to go first.  I was terrified, and then sitting there waiting for the girls and Jeff to come over I got to look down into the abyss for quite some time!  It was the coolest and most terrifying thing I think I have done.  The guide sat next to us the whole time and his friends video taped and photographed the whole thing, all the while walking along the edge of the Falls, and holding the camera out over the edge to get the good shots… holy crap, I swore he was going to slip and just disappear… but no one got hurt and we all had a good time, the girls thought it was super cool that they got to participate, and we were glad they were able to.  After our turn I headed back to shore to take Hattie, who had decided she was done being good.  It really was so much fun, and such an experience!

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After our adventure we decided to hike the lower Falls area, a hike called Boiling Pot.  Down was not that hard, but we didn’t have a hiking backpack for Hattie and Jeff carried her up the steep trail… we were tired after that whole ordeal, but the big girls did a great job keeping up and carefully holding the rail on the slippery trail/stairs.  The bridge in the last picture is the bridge separating Zambia and Zimbabwe, and as we were hiking down we saw someone bungee jump off the side.  I maintained my stance that none of my family was going to participate in such an activity!

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On the way back to the hotel after the hike I had to take some pictures of Hattie excitedly pointing at the zebras, she just squealed with delight every time they were nearby.

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Another fun exciting day in Africa!

Victoria Falls- Zimbabwe

One of the days of our visit we headed across the bridge to Zimbabwe.  We wanted to see the Falls from the other side and to visit a new country.  The views were totally different, and there was a good long walk around them, the girls did a great job hiking and keeping up during this trip, we were so proud of them.  We ran into more baboons, and there were a lot of places we kept trying to get a panoramic with the girls, but there were a lot of trees and shade, our phones hated that low light!

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We visited a craft market, got a few new items, some of the last that we wanted to buy in Africa, a new stone carving of our new larger family and a nativity from Zimbabwe, as well as some masks for my Dad’s collection.  Then we ended our day in Zimbabwe with a stop at the Victoria Falls Hotel for lunch.  It had a great view of the bridge and was a delicious lunch, for much cheaper than we expected for the nicest hotel in the town.  The baboons were running wild on the grounds, and one almost took the girls out, but I didn’t have my camera ready, bummer.  You can also see a variety of crocodile options on the menu… we stuck with traditional chicken caesar salad!

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Many of the days we explored in the morning and then spent the afternoon in the pool.  The zebras loved the grass around the pool and would regularly eat right behind our chairs… we had to take a couple zebra selfies!  We also sat at the pool bar with fancy drinks often, as that is where the internet worked the best.  So the girls enjoyed their fancy Shirley Temples and lemonades regularly!

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Victoria Falls- the Zambia Side

For the first week of Christmas break we headed to Zambia for a week long trip to Victoria Falls.  We stayed on the Zambia side, but got to visit Zimbabwe and Botswana on our trip as well.  We stayed at the Zambezi Sun, a sister hotel of The Royal Livingstone, but that was much more child friendly.  There were zebras everywhere, and we were actually in the national park for the Falls, so we didn’t have to pay entrance fees for the Zambia side, which was nice, we entered several times and did a couple different hikes while we were there.  We were just so happy to be on “holiday!”

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The first full day we were in Zambia we headed into the park and explored the main hiking path.  On our way out to the Falls area we saw the zebras that had been eating outside our hotel windows.  The first set of windows of that building were our rooms… the girls were thrilled about the many, many zebras that were on site.

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We entered the park and were greeted by SO MANY baboons everywhere… it was cool and a little scary, we felt like at any minute they may just go all “Planet of the Apes” on us.


We walked 2 different paths on our first day.  The first walk took us out towards the bridge that crosses over into Zimbabwe, and we were accosted by men trying to convince us to bungee jump off the bridge, I didn’t let Jeff entertain that thought for very long, I’m such a killjoy!

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Then we walked the path that let us see all the falls on the Zambia side.  90% of Victoria Falls is on the Zambia side, with 10% lying in Zimbabwe.  We were there during low season, which is how, later, we were able to visit Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island, but we found the Falls to be very impressive anyways.

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That afternoon we headed to the crocodile park.  When there are crocodiles in the area that cause problems or are out of their home area they are caught and brought to this rescue place.  Some of these guys were HUGE- seen in the photo where our guide is SITTING on top of one of them.  The next set of pics you can see the sequence of the crocodiles coming out of the water when they heard our voice.  Apparently they are attracted to noise, so with the girls and the guide talking, they just started walking right towards us (you can see Vi’s wary face in that shot of her with Jeff and Sophie).  It was crazy.  We also saw Godzilla, the most aggressive male in the park.  The guide poked him with a stick and he just jumped right out of the water (they angle the sides of the pools so he can’t get fully out in one jump, but still) it was crazy!  We also had booked the park tour this day so we could see feeding time.  Where they just throw bunches of raw meat at the group of crocs and they fight over who gets it.

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The next area was the snake area.  The girls got to pet the baby crocodiles, though Hattie wanted little to do with that activity!  Then we saw a huge bunch of different snakes, cobras, pythons and, of course, the black mamba, they had 2.  Crazy nuts!

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 The last stop of the day was to the Royal Livingston.  We headed out to their deck to see the sunset over the top of the Falls.  You can see the slight mist coming off in the distance, that is where the Falls “fall.”  It was gorgeous and beautiful (it rained most everyday at least a little, that is why the deck is wet), until Hattie dropped her shoe off the side of the deck.  Luckily it landed in the mud.  Unluckily for the bartender on duty that night, he had to go fish it out, as guests aren’t allowed near the waterside because of crocodile risk!  Such a fun first day in Zambia!

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Christmas Activities!

This was our first Christmas to stay in Angola, so we decided we should put up the tree and decorate the house!  I had seen a super cute Pinterest house with bright stripy stockings and bright decorations.  As we didn’t have our normal decorations I decided this was the year to try it out, and see if it was something I liked.  Problem was, there was no sourcing for the cute stripy stockings, and the only ones I could find online were clown socks!  They didn’t have a heel, but after much ado regarding ordering (they said they would ship to my mule in time, but ended up not even being processed, so I called another place and the lady was at a clown convention and just asked around until she found the colors I wanted and sent them that day) I finally had the stockings I wanted!  We made many of our ornaments and then luckily found some neon green and pink baubles at Kero.  Lastly, I used old egg carton pieces and created the wreath that hung over our stockings (no fireplaces in Africa!).

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We managed to get our Christmas cards addressed, stuffed and mailed before we left for our trip… not too shabby!

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For Family Home Evening one night we decorated cookies.  I didn’t want to make a bunch of small gingerbread men, so we made giant gingerbread heads to decorate (and they actually weren’t gingerbread, they were chocolate sugar cookies, and delicious!).

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We tried to do as many festive things as we could to make the hot weather feel more like the Holiday season.  I love that as long as we are together we have a good time!

Santa Claus is Coming to MB

The week after Thanksgiving we have our Children’s Christmas Party (otherwise everyone leaves for the holidays and no one is here to play!).  This is the other party I am in charge of for the compound, and it generally is an easy one, the hardest thing is finding a Santa, and this year my friend Robin suggested someone who agreed easily to help us out!  His wife was super cute and bought a Mrs. Claus costume to wear as well.  This year I only had Santa there for a short period of time, it gets so hot in the rec center, and the kids are usually done visiting pretty quick.  The girls had a good time decorating cookies, and Hattie started her streak of crying at Santa, we had 1 whole year of no crying!

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MB Thanksgiving 2014

Catherine and I were in charge of Thanksgiving again this year, and once again I probably stressed myself out more than necessary!  But it was a great party, lots and lots of good food, lots of beautiful tables and a lot of fun.  This year I had enough time to delegate the kids areas out to others, and it saved me a lot of hassle.  Kate took it a step further and didn’t even have tables set up, she taped fabric on the ground and the kids had a picnic, it was perfect!  We also had a lot of activities set up and made sure the teenagers knew what they were supposed to do to help (and at the end of the day the got gift cards for their helpful service).  We hosted a table with our group of friends, and it was fun to visit, and enjoy their company, as always.  We do enjoy our friends quite a lot.  We have so much to be thankful for this year (and every year), and it is always nice to take a small break in the business of regular life and remember all that we have been blessed with and the good in our lives.

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November Happenings and International Day 2014

Hattie has been getting in all kinds of mischief the last little bit, she is such a sneaky little thing, quiet and stealthy!  Thank goodness she is just so adorable!  She loves playing with the broom, she has an obsession with shoes (she insists on putting them on right away in the morning, and changes them a couple times a day) and she loves pens… which has hurt the many white surfaces in our home… stupid white couches.

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Sophie got to go on a field trip to a national art museum (I didn’t know one existed…) and her teacher posted some pictures on the blog, which I love, because she doesn’t tell me much about what she saw or did.

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International Day 2014 happened at LIS, always fun, always hot, always SO much good food.  There were more booths than usual this year, and that meant more food, and, man, some of those countries went all out.  There were dumplings from China, full on meals from Columbia, Israel and South Africa, taquitos, burritos and more from Mexico, beef brisket sandwiches from the USA booth, crepes from Russia, maple cookies from Canada and so much more, that I can’t remember.  We always have a good time eating our way through the countries!  The girls had a fun time, and dressed in their country colors, and I had to get a shot of Violet and Henry together.  Also, a couple shots of the Mexico and China booths!

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