et Voila! | Côte d’Ivoire

Here we are in Abidjan…poised to begin another adventure together, this time alongside our son.


I immediately fell in love with the food available here…from delicious pastries to fresh seafood but I felt like a fish out of water and searching for something to make this new place feel like home. I was initially a little uninspired to write about our arrival here because I was struggling a bit to fit in those first days. Lots of new things in my life…new city, being a new mom, new environment, new language, new friends, new routines, etc. Never being one for liking too much change, this is always an adjustment for me but one I end up appreciating and even relish in the end and one I know will get easier with time and practice. New doors are opened to me, new ideas and new experiences abound.

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Face-to-Face | Mountain Gorillas

Our final weekend during my parents’ visit last January/February was the ultimate crescendo to a wonderful 3 weeks together…getting up-close and personal with mountain gorillas!

Crouched down, admiring the large silverback 10-15 feet in front of me, and looking through my camera lens, the 40+ year old got up from his relaxed pose he had been holding for several minutes now.  He came right up to within a foot of my face, while I kept my camera and eyes down so as not to intimidate him. Running through my head were thoughts and visions of him headbutting me or shoving me down the incline I was on. Instead, he stopped to stare me down and then kept moving brushing past me as he made his way between other members of our group standing off to the sides. As strong and ferocious as he seemed to be towering down at me, his brush against my shoulder was deceivingly light and delicate. A fact I was quite thankful for in that moment! In describing what it was like to come face-to-face with this silverback…I can only say that it was equally one of the most incredible experiences and most terrifying moments I have ever had. It is not one I will ever forget. And this was just the start of our hour spent among the Kwitonda family.

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Nyamirambo Women’s Center | Basketweaving

After the fun we had doing pottery in Gatagara, we set up another activity with VAYANDO at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center in Kigali during my parents’ and aunt’s trip to Rwanda last January/February.

My husband and I love Rwandan baskets…the colors and patterns! Anytime we found a new pattern or color scheme, we could not resist getting one or even two. The stacks and stacks of baskets we have around our house is a giveaway that we are obsessed. Having gotten rid of a decent amount of our decorations before moving, I would find festive baskets of all sizes in the colors of the holiday.

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Earth Trembling | Intore Dancing

More from our visit to Rosamond Carr’s on our way back from Gisenyi during my parents’ and aunt’s trip to Rwanda last year…

Roz Carr’s gardens were the ideal backdrop for the Intore dancing performance we arranged for our visit. The performance consists of three components, the women’s dance – or ballet, the men’s dance – dance of heroes, and drums.

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Rosamond Carr’s Gardens and Imbabazi Orphanage

Another adventure during my parents’ and aunt’s 3 week visit to Rwanda…

On our way back to Kigali from Gisenyi, we stopped by Rosamond Carr’s Gardens and the former Imbabazi Orphanage. As we waited for our tour to begin, we meandered through her gardens…an oasis of colors, flora, and birds. Endless varieties of flowers brought from around the world to populate her property. We only wished my aunt, a florist, was there to witness these beautiful, endless rows of intertwined flowers.

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Our Rough Ride | Congo Nile Trail

The adventure continued with my parents and aunt from Kibuye to Gisenyi…

We all have those trips that we think we have all planned out, itineraries, and printed google maps to get us from place to place…but there are those times when best laid plans don’t go your way. This adventure was one of them but it will be one we will all be talking and laughing about for the rest of our lives…there is no way we will ever forget about it.

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Bats Overhead | Lake Kivu

More adventures during my parents’ three weeks in Rwanda in January and February last year….

Napoleon Island 

From our hotel in Kibuye, we arranged a boat trip for the five of us out to Napoleon Island. All I could find on travel sites and other blogs was limited information about visiting Amahoro (meaning peace) Island, also known as “one bar island,” and Napoleon Island home to a colony of fruit bats. Other than that, I didn’t know how or where to set up the boat ride or what the boat ride entailed. But as our first water weekend stop in Kibuye, we set it up for the morning of our second day and just hoped for a nice boat ride. We had no clue what an experience we would have when we got there.

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Trying our Hand | Gatagara Pottery Cooperative

Hard to believe it’s already been a year since my parents and aunt visited us in Rwanda for three whirlwind weeks touring Rwanda. A lot has happened in the last year…finishing up our two years in Rwanda, having a baby, and moving to Cote d’Ivoire and with all of this I never finished my run down of their visit and details of the places we went and things we experienced. So in a new year effort to get back on track, I will do so now…

Shortly after arriving in Rwanda, I had a great day spent driving out to Gatagara Pottery Co-op, learning about their process, and shopping through their beautiful products. Read about that visit hereKnowing my aunt’s love for pottery and ceramics from hearing stories of her past travels and knowing both my parents would enjoy the visit as well, I knew this was a must-stop on their tour of Rwanda in January/February last year.

Gatagara Pottery 5_JPP

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Baking Hacks | Christmas Baking with Ease

I love to bake, especially around Christmas time, and after two years living in a country at a high altitude which complicated baking, I am excited to be back in the US this Christmas to enjoy the season!


Over the years, I have learned some baking hacks from friends and family, out of trial and error, and by necessity. I have compiled a list of helpful hints for you to use this holiday season. If you have some of your own, please share them so we can all make this an effortless holiday baking season!

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