Here are some of my favorite pictures from our Christmas at home, including our annual family photo shoot (we were very tired so we didn’t take as many pictures as we usually do)!
Here are some of my favorite pictures from our Christmas at home, including our annual family photo shoot (we were very tired so we didn’t take as many pictures as we usually do)!
December went by in a blur, partly because I think we stayed so busy!
Ben won the daddy of the year award when he played in the rain with Mikayla this month. She had so much fun getting messy with her daddy.
I spent the first week or two prepping for camp and helping out with it while Ben finished up last minute reports and end of the year work stuff. Max even made his debut as baby Jesus during the camp play. He was not so thrilled about this and cried through the whole thing! After the staff Christmas party we hit the road for a week of fun and relaxation in Nelspruit.
Decorating sugar cookies at camp. Both students and staff had a blast with this!!
Simo and Simo hanging out at the Christmas party
Max as baby Jesus
Jabu and Max
Max hanging out with Bravo
Max hanging around while we decorated the Christmas tree.
Max "placing an ornament on the tree".
Hanging with Katie and Max at the Christmas party.
We spent a few days just the four of us hanging out in Nelspruit eating junk food, shopping and not cooking! We actually went to the grocery our first day and spent over $100 bucks on junk food and candy. Totally spoiling ourselves. Then Katie joined us and we continued the trend. We ate at some really fancy and yummy restaurants like Orange and Saffron. You can read an article about both of them here. We were also able to start and finish all of our Christmas shopping (nothing like a little last minute shopping)! And of course we took a couple trips to Kruger National Park to "see the animals". I am hoping to post some of those pictures soon. Mikayla and Ben even hit up a water park that is in Nelspruit one afternoon while Katie and I shopped. She had so much fun and that was all she could talk about that evening. Ben said she was really brave and went down the big slides all by herself. That kid never ceases to amaze me!
Sibling bath time fun!
Don’t you wish you were this flexible?
Max wasn’t sure what to think about the rhinos at Kruger.
Family photo time!
Max’s first dip in the pool. He was not a big fan, but to be fair the water was freezing!
Mikayla loves jumping in the pool!
On the 22nd we headed back to our house to start prepping for our Christmas festivities. I spent the 23rd making the annual batch of cinnamon rolls and even made a gluten free batch for Katie. I also cleaned the house because over the next few days we would have a houseful! Ben had some friends come in that evening, Chris and Kara, and they stayed through the 26th. There were also a few other random visitors hanging around the mission that joined us over the next few days.
On the 24th we had a pig roast to celebrate Christmas Eve. It was a hot day, not sure I will ever get used to it being hot over Christmas. We had a lovely time and invited pretty much anyone who was still around the mission for the Christmas season. I think we had between 15-20 folks over for lunch/dinner that day. Plus I think of all the pig roasts we have had, this was the best cooked pig. It was so tasty!!
The next morning was Christmas, so of course Mikayla woke up extra early ready to start the fun. We had our annual family photo shoot and then opened up packages. Mikayla was so much fun this year. She was so excited and appreciative of each and every gift. She would exclaim things like, "this is brilliant" or "marvelous" each time she opened something new. We spent the rest of the morning playing with gifts and then hosted a big breakfast for Joe, Katie, Chris and Kara. It was a fun and relaxing day. We also managed to play a little Settler’s of Catan that evening.
Mikayla talking to Lylah on her brand new Doc McStuffins cell phone. She thinks she is big time now!!
And that pretty much wraps up our December and our 2013! January and February will be busy months of traveling (we head to the US in just two weeks)!
The Adkins side of my family has a tradition with taking pictures in trees (You may have caught on to this from past posts). Max is still a little young to be sitting in a tree on his own, but we tried our luck last night and came up with a couple of decent shots.
Look mom, I’m flying!
And a little scared!
What, you don’t hang out in a tree everyday?
In case you hadn’t noticed it has been awhile since I have done a "This Week’s Happenings". There are several reasons for this, but I won’t go into them for now. What I will do though is give a quick rundown on what we have been up to for the last two months.
We celebrated the Feast of Mother Cabrini.
Joe all decked out in traditional gear for the feast day with Mikayla.
The kids marching in for the mass in celebration of Mother Cabrini.
Mikayla and I got to go see the Queen Mother.
We also took some pictures of the whole Cabrini staff.
I hosted lots of baking classes with some of the high school students. We made anything from pancakes to cookies to cakes to pizza. It was a lot of fun getting to know the kids better and sharing with them my love for baking. I think they enjoyed eating everything the most! They also enjoyed taking lots of pictures of themselves!
Played with sidewalk chalk a lot and enjoyed eating fresh mangos from our yard. She is becoming quite the little artist!
We hosted Thanksgiving for 20+ of our staff members. People were coming and going all afternoon and evening. It was fun, but I will say I slept really well that evening!
We had each of our guest complete a leaf for our Thankful tree. It was quite full when everyone left!
During school time Mikayla wrote a really cool story in her journal. See if you can figure out what it was about! She has also been doing some great artwork in her journal.
We let Mikayla decorate our Christmas tree. She was really into Christmas this year and enjoyed every aspect of it. She is actually still celebrating. Today (December 30) she wrote a letter to Santa!
We did lots of fun family activities as part of our Christmas countdown. Including making salt dough ornaments, gingerbread cookies, and crafts!
Making salt dough ornaments.
I baked over 500 cookies and popped popcorn for 150 as part of the hostel Christmas party.
We turned an old nightstand into a doll house for Mikayla’s Christmas gift. I am pretty sure she loves it!
We packed up the car (including our tree this year) and headed to Nelspruit, South Africa for a week long vacation and the Christmas holiday. We ate a lot and relaxed even more!
We made cinnamon rolls…can’t have Christmas without them!
We took our traditional Christmas jammies pictures with cocoa!
We headed to Kruger Park with the Sister Barbara and Sister Diane for a little game drive. We saw a lot including elephants, zebras, giraffe, leopard, hyenas, monkeys, a really cool chameleon and lots of others. It was rainy and muddy, but we still had fun. Mikayla even got to use her adventure pack her grandparents got her for Christmas!
We Skyped and chatted with a lot of family and friends.
We went to the doctor and found out I was pregnant! Baby Kickert #2 is due July 4th!
We rang in the new year with our friends Peter and Callista and their daughter Aviva. I hope to get back to doing our weekly updates soon.
When we first had Mikayla I knew that I wanted to start some sort of tradition surrounding her birthday to make it extra special. The first two birthdays we did countdown days based on the year she was turning. Each day she would get a small present or activity to do as a family. For her first day we did a one day countdown to her birthday and her second birthday a two day countdown. In theory this year we would have done a three day countdown to her birthday. But then I got to thinking about future birthdays, when she turned ten we would need to do a ten day countdown and at 18 an 18 day countdown…that seemed a bit daunting! So, this year I instituted a five day countdown for her birthday and will hopefully continue this in years to come. Each day she got to open a small "gift" or as she called them "prizes" (that is how she has been saying surprises as of late). I think she really enjoyed each one, plus it helped her to get really excited about her birthday! Here are what we did for each day of the countdown.
5 – She got a small notebook and several pages of stickers. She loves to stick stickers inside a notebook so this was a hit. Unfortunately, she used most of her stickers that day!
4 – Popcorn and movie night. Ben said up a projector to project the movie on our living room wall. We popped a big bowl of popcorn and let her go to town! She thought it was really neat watching a movie that big and sat really nicely for the whole thing. I think she might be ready for a real theater experience!
3 – Campfire complete with roasting marshmallows and hotdogs. Sister Diane walked over during this "event" and Mikayla told her all about what was happening!
In her bag I put a felt hot dog, a marshmallow and fire made with pipe cleaners. Here she is "starting a fire" with her pipe cleaner fire.
2 – Felt finger puppets. I whipped these out during her nap one day. She hasn’t quite figured out what to do with them and how to put them on, but she plays with them like they are stuffed animals or babies!
1- Mickey Mouse dress up kit made from a little felt and some hot glue! This one was placed in a special purse made from our friend Dacia back home. She is loving some Mickey Mouse lately and so I thought this would be perfect and it was a HIT as was the purse! Now when she watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse she wants to put on her Mickey outfit. So cute! I wonder if she will want to wear it to her Mickey birthday party next week?
We did lots of fun things on her actual birthday, more to come soon when I am not so tired!
I never got around to posting last week’s happenings because we took a long weekend trip to Nelspruit, South Africa. I was too busy enjoying some family time, relaxing and seeing some really cool things (more about that in a bit). The good news is that you will get two weeks worth of Kickert living in one! Get excited!
After work on Friday we packed up the car and headed to Nelspruit, South Africa. We visited here at Christmas time and it is a great place to go to get away and enjoy some "western" time. On Saturday we did some shopping and picked up some goodies. We of course stocked up on tortilla chips and salsa! I also found a small craft store inside a store called Mica. It was beautiful. It was like going in a miniature Hobby Lobby. I didn’t get much (besides a few supplies for Mikayla’s Mickey Mouse Birthday Party coming up in a few weeks), but it is nice to know that it is there. Now I can start thinking crafts again and actually have somewhere to pick up the supplies.
On Sunday we loaded up the car and headed to Blyde River Canyon, which is about an hour away. We experienced some of the most beautiful scenery we had ever seen. The pictures don’t do it justice (you can see Ben’s full album here), but if you ever find yourself in South Africa, you should check it out. We basically drove around and stopped at different viewpoints. Some of the viewpoints you had to walk to (although not very far) and others were right beside the car. Amazing!
Obligatory tree pictures! I am always on the lookout for good trees to snap some pictures in. I LOVE this picture of Mikayla! She is such a ham sometimes!
We saw several waterfalls on this trip, but this one was my favorite!
Skipping rocks with daddy!
And of course, what would a Kickert family trip be without Ben being a little goofy!
Another Adkins Family Tree shot.
We want to go camping down by this lake.
Another amazing waterfall!
On Monday we laid low and did a bit more shopping. We had planned to take Mikayla swimming, but it was windy which made it a little too cool for swimming. She did go "swimming" in the bathtub that evening though! On Tuesday Ben got up and did a little repair work on the vehicle, then we packed the car and headed back to Kruger National Park. At first we didn’t see much of anything besides impala and a couple of elephants way off in the distance. We were getting a little discouraged and then out of the corner of my eyes I saw these guys.
That’s right folks, we have two cheetahs. Beautiful creatures and we were so close to them. When we saw them, we immediately turned around and "stalked" them for a bit. There were times when we were less than ten feet from them. One of the best animal sightings we have seen to date. Here are some more shots of the cheetahs (forgive us we took a lot) and some other animals we spotted. (More pictures can be found here).
Some more impala, these guys are seriously everywhere in the park!
We saw lots of these guys flying around too.
These are the first hippos we have seen out of water. Of course it was from a distance, so it is hard to tell what they are.
I think this guys lashes were beautiful. We watched him eating for a bit and Mikayla kept calling him Horton!
The weather is starting to cool off a little at night time so we decided that we should build a fire pit in the back yard this week. The other night we got out our new camp chairs (even Mikayla has one) and sat around the new fire pit enjoying some chili. Felt a little like a fall evening!
Doesn’t Mikayla look so grown up in her "Junior" Camp chair? Please ignore Ben’s combination of shorts, dress socks and hiking boots.
This stubborn goat ended up on our porch one afternoon and we couldn’t get rid of him. He fell on the porch at one time and because of the wax couldn’t get up and was stuck on his side for several minutes. He was scared of the dogs, so he just froze. Ben tried to chase him off with a broom, but we eventually had to pull him by the horns. Unfortunately, I think the dogs got the better of him because we found him dead outside the fence in the morning.
I also managed to do a little baking and cooking in the last few weeks. I made some pretty tasty chocolate chip cookie bars one day. I really wanted cookies, but didn’t want to invest the time in making them, so I made bars instead. The next best thing! While in Nelspruit I found some recipes I want to try in the next few weeks.
This is the Piña Colada Cake I mentioned making for Easter dinner. It was good, but not my favorite dessert. If I make it again I will make a lot of changes and alterations to enhance the flavor.
For part of my birthday Rita made me this fabulous bowl. She mentioned she uses one similar to it for making bread, so I gave it a go. Look how pretty it is! I would love to try it as a Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie.
In case you missed my Facebook update this morning, Christmas Season can officially begin in our household. Today was Cinnamon Roll Day! Mikayla and I spent the morning making my Grandma Clark’s famous cinnamon rolls. Which in my mind symbolize Christmas. I love them so much! Ben asked today why we don’t make them more often and I said they would lose their mystique if we made them more than just at Christmas time. Last year I posted about the tradition, you can read about it here if you want.
Since cinnamon rolls are so big for my family, I have spent the past couple of years making triple or quadruple batches to fulfill our desires for their gooey goodness. However, this year I just made one batch since I didn’t figure they would ship very well (sorry guys). It was strange only making one batch and we were finished before lunch (this has never happened on cinnamon roll day)! We had to make a few slight alterations (like swapping honey for the corn syrup), but they still taste a little like home. To all the Clark family out there – we will be enjoying some cinnamon rolls this week while thinking of you!
We didn’t manage to take but a couple of pictures today (Ben left with the camera), but here are some pictures from several years ago when my sister and I made cinnamon rolls with my Grandma.
Making cinnamon rolls with the best sous chef around!
Sister and Grandma preparing the surface. Please note the cinnamon sugar shaker on the left. This was given to me a couple of years ago and I really missed it this year when making. It makes the cinnamon sugar part a lot easier!
Watching the master at work!
Christa and me! (This was pre-Mikayla, Tanner and Taylor)!
We have had many firsts since being in Swaziland, but as Ben mentioned in his Thanksgiving post this was probably one of the most memorable. Although we didn’t get to celebrate with our family and friends from back home, we did get to celebrate with some very special Swazi friends. And even though I didn’t get to make deviled eggs with my grandma or eat my sister’s green bean casserole, we still had some delicious eats. Ben was in town all week, so we ended up having Thanksgiving a few days late on Saturday. Here is a run down of our menu / evening in pictures.
Mikayla’s turkey napkin rings
Mikayla’s textured THANKS banner
Let me preface the food run down – we can get most foods we want in Swaziland, but some are very difficult and near impossible to find. We searched around for a turkey and ham in all our usual spots and then got a great lead on a turkey from Sharon (the childcare director) and the sisters stumbled upon a hunk of ham at a more "Western" grocery store. Some of the foods we had to alter a bit, but I will explain that more as we go.
Turkey before. This was our first attempt at making a turkey and I think it turned out pretty well. We made a rub of olive oil, fresh rosemary, garlic, Italian seasoning, black pepper, salt and then a dusting of cajun seasoing over the whole bird. The we stuffed him with celery, onion and carrots and roasted slowly until the cute red button popped!
Turkey after – isn’t he beautiful? And I don’t even like turkey! Thanks to Ben who did most of the work on this guy.
Steve Kickert’s sweet potatoes, which I think were a recipe from his grandma (but I could be wrong on that one). I know you are thinking, those just look like regular potatoes, but they are sweet potatoes. In Swaziland the sweet potatoes are red on the outside like we are used to, but on the inside they are white.
Ham pieces cooked in brown sugar, cloves and a little water. I miss ham!
Turkey all cut up and then green beans, mashed potatoes and the world’s best gravy courtesy of the sisters. Seriously wish I could make gravy as good as this!
Sausage and apple stuffing. I found this recipe last year and it has become my go to recipe for stuffing (which ironically I only make at Thanksgiving – I think I will change that though).
In this picture we have my Grandma Clark’s famous cooked apples and my Grandma Adkins deviled eggs. Just a note on the deviled eggs. We were unable to locate sweet pickles so Ben took some sweet and sour pickles we found and altered the juice. It wasn’t quite the same, but it worked well enough. We also had some butternut squash and a wild green (weed that resembles Spinach) cooked up by Sharon.
Homemade dinner rolls
For dessert we had an apple braid (not pictured, but posted about previously). We also had this pie. It looks like pumpkin pie and tasted like pumpkin pie, but was actually butternut squash pie. I couldn’t find pumpkin, but butternut squash has the same texture and similar flavor so we rolled with it. In the end we were very pleased with the outcome! You should try it sometime. Just take your butternut squash, cook it and puree. Then use like you would canned pumpkin. I used this recipe my friend Catherine found for me. For the crust I made a recipe found in Betty Crocker cookbook. I originally made the crust found in the recipe above, but it ended up crumbly for some reason. If I were to do over again I would have covered the edges of the crust with foil so they wouldn’t burn.
**To cook the butternut squash cut into large chunks and put in a shallow microwave dish – skins up. Add a little water to the pan and cook until tender. Take peel off and then mash with a spoon or fork.
We ended up having 10 guests including us. The three of us, Sharon (childcare director), Esau (Maintenance manager), Johannes (Agriculture manager), Ncobile (Office cleaner), Ndumane (used to live at the hostel and now works in maintenance), Mrs. Mamba (works with pyscho social department and is also a teacher at the primary school), and Mzamo (works in the office with Ben doing HR). The sisters helped with some of the cooking but didn’t make it to the meal.
In this picture (starting with Mikayla and going clockwise) you have Mikayla, me, Ncobile (the "C" is a clicking sound to start the name), Johannes, Esau, Sharon and Ndumane. Those not pictured arrived later.
After dinner we had the usual conversation time (be sure to read Ben’s post mentioned above for details on this) and then introduced them to the Wii! It was great fun and of course Mikayla bopped around and was Miss Social Butterfly! We also enjoyed a great Thanksgiving song courtesy of Mikayla.
All in all we had a great time, enjoyed some fantastic food (if I do say so myself) and wonderful company. We hope everyone had as good of a Thanksgiving as we did.
Last year I wrote about how making cinnamon rolls was a family tradition with my mom’s side of the family. Another tradition I have always taken part in on Thanksgiving and Christmas is making deviled eggs. According to my grandma, I have been making these eggs with her and my Aunt Beverly since I was around five. It is something I look forward to every year and take very seriously! Just ask Ben! Here is the process.
Next, very carefully slice the eggs in half and remove yolks into a separate bowl.
Mash the yolks up really good! Add mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and sweet pickle juice until you reach desired consistency. You just have to use your judgment here, years of experience make a difference!
Finally, scoop mixture in boiled egg whites and sprinkle with paprika. These are really best if made the day you will be serving them!
Last, eat and enjoy time with family!
In case you didn’t know, Ben and I graduated from Western Kentucky University (three times for me actually) where the mascot is Big Red (basically a big red blob with a huge mouth)! Everyone, at some point or another in their WKU career have a photo op with Big Red. Here is a picture from my glory days.
Over Thanksgiving, we decided to head to a WKU basketball game. Mikayla loved watching all the people and playing with the pom-poms from a little girl behind us. Even though it was well past her bedtime and went into double overtime, she still had a blast. However, I would say her favorite part of the game was meeting Big Red. After she got up close with him and took her picture she kept pointing to him around the gym. It was so sweet!
I think she was trying to figure out why his mouth was so big!
Hanging with Grandpa.
Checking out the pom-poms! Notice her cutey Big Red clip!
After Big Red, I would say popcorn was the highlight of her night!
Watching the action with Grandma!