Friday, July 14, 2017

In Which I Meant To Write About Breakfast But Got Distracted By Elephants!

On the second day of our safari we woke up at 5:30am to get a head start on all the animals! First we found some elephants, including one Andrew thought might be less than a week old. So I took about a million pictures :)
 
I made a comment about how I wished I could get closer and suddenly, Andrew lent us his zoom lens, which improved the quality of our pictures about seven thousand percent!
The picture on the left might be one of my favourite pictures I took the whole trip.
After the elephants it was time to see if we could find our leopard friend again.
Our patience was rewarded when "Curiosity" (as Sam named him) came out to play again.
At about 8:30, Dennis and Andrew parked under a tree, pulled a table and chairs out from the truck, and set up an amazing breakfast for us.
What an incredible, memorable, place to eat breakfast.

Then we went and found some more elephants.



I don't know that I'll ever get over seeing elephants roaming in the wild. It was just so amazing to see them interact with each other and living their normal lives. However, there were more incredible experiences to come and I'll be back on Monday to tell you about them...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Beginner's Luck On Safari

A week and a half ago we left Lake Naivasha bright and early and headed off on our safari. Our friends had arranged for us to go on a private safari with a guy they knew from school. Andrew was an amazing guide and he was great with the kids. It was so nice to not have to rush and just have everything be on our schedule, especially with the kids.
I'm sure you've all heard of the Serengeti. That is the famous wildlife area in Tanzania, which borders Kenya. On the Kenyan side it is called Masai Mara. The place where we went on safari was a conservancy which borders the Mara. The conservancy is land rented from 500 Maasai families by some safari camps and there is a big emphasis on wildlife protection. You can read more about the conservancy we stayed on here.
It was about a five hour drive from Lake Naivasha to the safari camp. These first few pictures are scenes from the window as we drove through, and out of, the Great Rift Valley. The last fifty or so kilometres to the camp were on a rough, washboard, gravel road. We were so jostled around that at one point Rachel and I looked at each other and just started laughing hysterically. It was like the laughter was being jostled out of us. Andrew joked that we were getting an "African massage."
Our safari vehicle had open sides so we could get up close and personal with the animals. And take good pictures! We had a driver, Dennis, who was awesome and could get us over all sorts of terrain and really close to the animals.
The animals in this picture are topis. There are a type of antelope. We saw a lot of topis.
This is either an impala or a gazelle of some sort. Sam, especially, got really good at identifying impalas, Hunters gazelles, and Thompsons gazelles. He would point them out by name and I was like, "I see an animal!" We joked that Sam is going to be a safari guide when he gets old enough.
We also saw a lot of wildebeests. They are a pretty funny looking animal.
When we weren't spotting animals, we were enjoying the scenery. For some reason, this picture just says, "Africa!" to me.
I had no idea we were going to see ostrich in the wild! Spoiler alert: The following day, Andrew lent us his zoom lens and our pictures improved significantly. I can't remember why, but we couldn't get too close to the ostrich. But still, we got to see ostriches!!!
The kids loved looking through the binoculars to see what animals we might spot. Andrew explained to us that because the animals in the conservancy grow up with the safari vehicles as a part of their daily lives, they aren't scared of them and so humans (in vehicles) can get quite close to the animals. Or the animals feel comfortable getting close to the vehicles.

We had to be really quiet (I was proud of how quiet the kids were), and Andrew warned us to not stick anything out of the vehicle. He explained that the animals (like the lions, for instance) just see  the vehicle as a big animal so won't attack it. However, if an arm was sticking out, it would probably be fair game. This is how we were able to get so close to animals without being in danger.
Then we hit the jackpot! (Warning: This was also known as the grossest part of our safari but I tried not to include any really graphic pictures.)
We found twelve lions with a fresh kill. And by "fresh," I mean like it had been taken down just minutes before. There were two lions, three lionesses, three older lion cubs, and four baby lion cubs. Andrew figured the one male lion had eaten recently as he just sat back and watched. You can see him in the upper left corner of the above picture.
Dave got some great video of the lions growling (talking!) to each other. The male lion obviously wanted first priority in eating, but the one lioness was hungry too. And Andrew figured that one of the lionesses was the one who took down the kill.
Four of the lion cubs were still nursing and not interested in meat but the older three were probably in the process of being weaned and eager to get their share.
We saw lots of great interaction among all the lions and it was pretty cool/gross to see. (If you want to see more pictures/hear a more graphic description of them eating, let me know. I think this scene will be imprinted in my head for a very long time. As Sam commented, "I was hungry before we found these lions, but I'm not now." And I was very glad I was a vegetarian! Ha!)
The sunsets on the savannah were incredible. I took a lot of pictures as the sky changed. It reminded me a bit of Saskatchewan because you could see vast amounts of sky.
We had heard from another group at the camp that they had seen a leopard earlier that day. Andrew and Dennis knew where to look for it, and we drove out to this ridge. After a while, our patience was rewarded and this leopard cub, which Sam named "Curiosity," ventured out towards us. He got braver and braver and eventually ended up about five feet from our vehicle.
Unfortunately, it was getting dark, so even after playing with the settings on our camera, this is the best picture I could get. I decided not to share the 37 blurry photos I have of him :) You're welcome.

This ended the first drive of our safari. We had two evening game drives (from about 4:30 - 7:30), and two morning drives (from 6am to about 11am). This one just whetted our appetite for more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July To-Dos

It feels a little silly to write a list of July goals when there are only three weeks left but I really want to get some things done, and being able to refer back to them on the blog is actually kind of useful for me :) Tomorrow, I promise I will be back to more exciting blogging, although maybe some of you get excited about seeing what I want to get done each month! Ha!

1) Tackle my TBR pile. This was a June goal, if you might remember, but I realized it was an unrealistic June goal so it's back on my list. With the 24in48 Readathon coming up next weekend, I'm hoping I will be able to diminish this pile a little.

2) Start, and finish, our Kenya trip photo book. We're going to the States at the end of August and I'd love to be able to pick up our completed book then. Since it took me over two years to finish our Southern Road Trip book and almost a year to finish our road trip book from last summer, this is indeed an ambitious goal!

3) Menu plan for the rest of the month and eat out less. Currently the menu plan for this month shows... nothing. Not a single meal. I've given myself a couple of days grace due to returning from a big vacation and being tired, but I really want to curb our eating out habits. If I menu plan and stick to it, we should be able to accomplish this goal.

Question for you: Do you menu plan? What are some tried and true meals for your family?

4) Deal with stuff... This is a really boring goal but I want to deal with the kids' school stuff (go through their boxes of schoolwork and file things or recycle them), our pictures which haven't gotten into albums yet, and all the souvenirs from Kenya. See, I just have stuff to deal with.

5) Make a "summer bucket list" and a "summer schedule" with the kids and do some things on it. I have a whole Pinterest board filled with fun summer activities (or activities I decided would be more fun to do in summer), and I want to be intentional about accomplishing some of those things. (You can check my Pinterest board out here if you're interested.)
Build in a simple predictable schedule for summer days

6) Make a new summer wreath. I have this one from a few years ago and I've decided it's time for something new. I just haven't decided what the new one will be yet. However, I should be able to find a fun idea from my "Wreaths" Pinterest board. (You can see it here, if you care!)
7) Start working on my sermon. I am worship leading at church at the end of this month and preaching at church mid-August so I would like to get a start on the sermon. First of all, I should probably figure out the scripture I am preaching on. Ha!

I realize my goals for this month aren't particularly exciting, or lofty, but I will be so happy if I can get them accomplished. Do you set monthly goals for yourself?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

So About Those June Goals...

I'm taking a break from Kenya posts for a few days because I have to sort through 636 pictures before I can blog about our safari and it's going to take me a bit of time do that. Ha!

So back at the beginning of June, I wrote a post with my June goals. (You can read it here.) I meant to publish this post the day before we left for Kenya, but life intervened (as it often does), so you're getting it today instead. Because I'm sure you've all been holding your breath to see how they went. Ha!

1) Drink more water.

I felt like I did fairly well on this goal. I was trying to keep track on my FitBit but it was too much for me to deal with, but I would say on the whole I drank between one and three bottles a day. Since a bottle is 750ml (just over three cups), I was pleased. Also, I only drank coffee-hot chocolate about every two days (with a few minor exceptions), instead of every day so I managed to cut back on that too. (Update: Since returning from Kenya my caffeine rate is incredibly high but I'm blaming jet lag for that one!)

2) Make serious progress on my To Be Read pile.

I really should have known better than to set this goal during a busy month. While I did get rid of a few books off this pile (the ones that were beyond useful), this pile has not significantly changed. I'm going to make this a July goal instead.

3) Finish the kitchen art.
Done and done! Yay!

4) Find some good thick books to read in Kenya

I was definitely set for Kenya reading. I read five (almost six) books while we were gone. My favourite one was probably Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo, about the sinking of the Lusitania during World War 1. I also discovered a new mystery series by Allison Brennan which I am eager to read more of. It's her Lucy Kincaid series.

5) Get all the dandelions out of our yard and MOW THE LAWN.
Before
After

This was probably my biggest June accomplishment. The kids helped A TON, and Dave provided moral support, but I finished the last of the back yard the day of Rachel's birthday party, and I have to say, I'm pleased with how nice the yard looks. Just don't look too closely at the back flowerbeds :) Ha!
 
6) Find a house/yard sitter.

I also managed to accomplish this goal and the gift for our house sitter has already been delivered so I don't even need to add it to my July goal list!

7) Weed and plant the front bed.

Before
After

Thankfully, this is also done. And it makes me happy every time I'm out there. 
 
8) Celebrate Rachel's birthday, three baptisms, Father's Day, and the last day of school.
You can read about Rachel's birthday celebration here, we celebrated the three baptisms the Sunday before we left, and we marked the last day of school too. Phew.

Unfortunately, the weekend before we left was crazy so Dave gracefully agreed that we could celebrate Father's Day in August. (Our first three weekends home are insane.)

9) Clear old pictures off of the iPad to make room for new ones. I never actually got anywhere with this but we didn't actually take any pictures on the iPad in Kenya, so it wasn't actually that big of a deal. Phew.

10) Go through the kids' clothes and fully complete the size/season switch over. Thank goodness Sam was patient about trying on flannel lined jeans in 25C (77F) weather, Rachel was (mostly) stoic about getting rid of clothes which were too small for her, and this has been accomplished.

11) Try not to go insane. I'm not sure this goal was accomplished. You'll have to check with Dave on that one! Hahaha!

Tomorrow I will try to post my July goals and then on Thursday, I will get back to blogging about Kenya.