Always a Happy Place

What if I told you this time of the year used to be my darkest. It felt like the biggest downside to moving to New Mexico was having to leave my South Carolina roots and family traditions behind. Thanksgiving became my “trigger holiday” as I missed the sound of everyone gathering and endless plates of good food. No matter who was upset with whom, on Thanksgiving we always came together and my Granny’s table was always a happy place.

A few years ago I decided to recreate those traditions and create my own memories. For whatever reason (maybe because it kept me busy and distracted from my sadness) I hyper focused on setting my dining table. It’s now become a tradition of my own. No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a fabulous table darling! I now dream and take delight in planning what the theme will be. Dark and Afro-moody or bright and classic? What was once depressing is now one of my most favorite days…and for that I will always be thankful.

Bargain Hunted: Authentic Persian Rug

I love hunting a good bargain, but this one may go down in history as one of the greatest!

According to Wikipedia, Heriz rugs are Persian rugs from the area of Heris, East Azerbaijan in northwest Iran, northeast of Tabriz. Persian Heriz rugs are typically crimson red and Persian blue, combined with varied neutrals. It’s featured pattern include a central medallion motif surrounded by rectilinear vine-scrolls (as cited by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs).

Here’s a side-by-side of my thrifted Persian heriz rug and a similar one found online.

Finding an authentic, vintage Persian rug is beyond exciting. I can only imagine it’s journey and whether it had been passed down for generations. I certainly plan to do so. The history of this rug was only the part of this amazing find. The other part was the price! Brace yourselves…

As soon as I eyed this magnificent piece I drifted towards it. I had to blink several times to make sure I was reading the price right! I immediacy dragged the entire rug stand over to the cashier to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. Priced for $24.99!! * Nearly faints* but not before I paid so no one else could grab it.

My thrifted Persian Heriz rug in my home.

5 Year Housiversary

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since I took a leap of faith and became a homeowner! At that time, the only thing at the forefront of my mind was to put down roots so my son could have a neighborhood to grow up in just like every classic tv show. I remember after closing going into a deep depression wondering if I had taken on too much. We went from a 600 sq ft one-bedroom apartment to a 1600 sq ft three-bedroom home of our own in what felt like overnight. Even though I sacrificed and saved in a small apartment for nearly 3 years, nothing prepared me for the anxiety felt on closing day. Is it really over after months of searching through dozens and dozens of houses? Signing the huge stacks of mortgage documents definitely made it all real, but nothing felt better than knowing I was DOING it despite my fears. Let me change that, nothing felt better than knowing I DID it!

5 years later I have zero regrets. My home has hosted countless house parties, backyard cookouts, and Sunday dinners. Our extra bedroom has turned from a game room to an office to a welcoming spot for our exchange student turned Moroccan daughter, and now a place for my kid brother who’s permanently visiting. The joy I have felt in my home has been immeasurable. The best and most rewarding decision ever! With that, here’s to 5 years that went by in a blink of an eye and to many years to come creating unforgettable memories in a home filled with peace, love, laughter, and lots of friends and family!

A Scary, Merry, Keep Hope Alive Christmas

Albuquerque’s art scene is truly one of the best! Factor in the recent Black Lives Matter protests, never ending COVID and arrival of Christmas, the nation’s current state of hope, anger and pain couldn’t be clearer.

Last night while cruising down Central, we ventured through picturesque, family-friendly Christmas decor in Nob Hill…to trendy, pop culture art in the University Area…on down to Downtown’s grungy back alleys. There ain’t no place like Route 66 baby! Where Pennywise dons a scull Santa hat and bomb ass murals pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman and Malcom X. A few aliens escaped Roswell to let there be Peace in Burque. Or maybe they were a creating a distraction from the T-Rex surrounded by little shop of horrors.

Check out a few photos and see for yourself…

Moroccan Connections

On August 4, 2017, my family and I welcomed an exchange student from Casablanca, Morocco into our home!

Arriving in America marked Zineb’s first trip out of the country without family and friends. Neither of us knew what to expect. In the first few days we learned about each other. As time passed, we learned from each other.

Here’s our story…

May 2017– Within days of filling out a host family application, I was told there was a possible match. We were swept in the world wind of meeting other exchange host families and parents and undergoing the screening process, all while frantically removing the piled junk in our spare bedroom that we had been using for storage.
Although, we knew Zineb was our match, we couldn’t contact her for at least a month until she received official notice and approval in her home country. Oh, the anticipation!

July 2017– We received official notification of Zineb’s arrival date and we placed our very first call! I actually dialed the number in Morocco not even thinking about international call fees. We eventually figured out that talking through social media was…well much more practical! One more month and she will be here!

August 2017– I knew there was no turning back as my son and I stood at the airport with welcome signs and balloons in our hand, searching the sea of faces for Zineb. It took for-ev-errr but there she was! Suddenly it hit me…I have a teenager! What do you do with those?! I would soon find out!

Zineb shared gifts she brought from her home-a boys Moroccan outfit for my son and a traditional Moroccan dress/Kaftan for me with matching shoes. So cute watching her get settled in!


October 2017– The first month was rough! From juggling early morning drop offs and afterschool pickups, to buying halal foods and cooking dinner every night, to explaining things I’ve never thought to explain before! Although Zineb speaks nearly-perfect English and has quickly adapted to our culture, I know the transition is difficult for her. Through all the excitement, I can still see the sadness from missing her family and friends.

November 2017– Zineb turns 16! We celebrated with a huge “Sweet Sixteen” party! Every day gets a bit easier…

My cousin visited for Thanksgiving and we cooked a feast! Zineb made Moroccan treats from scratch. As we all sat around the table and shared our blessings, I felt whole – as if Z’ was part of our family all along.

December 2017– This month marks Zineb’s very first Christmas. I never laughed so hard from trying to explain Christmas traditions, like why we leave out milk and cookies for Santa. I wasn’t laughing however when Zineb opened a UPS package of presents for under the Christmas tree (spoiler alert!). I’m quite sure my son had something to do with reassuring her it was okay to open them!

This month also marks our first family trip! We went sledding on the dunes at White Sands National Monument, an incredible experience. The sand really does look like snow. Then, we spent the night in El Paso, TX ( one hour drive away) and visited the shops and sights near the Mexico border the next morning. Driving back on Christmas Eve with hidden presents to wrap (what the kids hadn’t opened already) made for a very long night! Yet, nothing compared to watching my son and Zineb’s excitement on Christmas morning.

January 2018– I never imagined I would feel so fulfilled as a host mom. Since her arrival, Zineb has been patient with us as she shared her culture and traditions. We are still learning to be mindful of her prayer times and respectful of the foods she can not eat. This month also marks the halfway/mid year point.

February 2018– Viva Las Vegas! When your best friend is moving to Las Vegas, NV and invites your family along you DO it! Although much of our time was spent unpacking boxes than shopping and sightseeing, we had a ton of fun!

March 2018– Denver here we come! This time it was all work for me, having to attend a conference. I managed to skip a few sessions to explore downtown Denver with the kids. We made the most of the trip spending nearly 4 hours in IKEA and visiting my cousin and his family in Colorado Springs.

Spring Break– Zineb travelled to California to visit a fellow Moroccan exchange student living there with his host mom. So glad to have the support of other host families near and far!


April 2018– Prom anyone?!? Oh the reminders of a having an instant teenager! It was an all-day affair from hair appointments to doing her makeup. Zineb was absolutely stunning! I was a bit nervous as any mom would be on prom night. All’s well that ends well.

May 2018– Where did the time go? Last day of school is May 23rd. The exchange program’s pre-return orientation is May 26th. Everyone is a bit somber, trying not to think about the inevitable. My grandmother visiting us is a great distraction. Zineb told me she reminder her of her own grandmother-a gift to us all.

June 2018- 10 months gone-just. like. that. We survived something new and unfamiliar, yet we became so close that it was hard to let go. Zineb from Morocco had become “Z” my Moroccan daughter. I felt relieved (that I survived with minimal damage) and sad (because her presence felt so organic) at the same time.

On June 5th, we were back in the same airport, with the same signs. This time, or hearts and smiles were different. They both grew.

Today, Zineb is 17 and on track to graduate high school in Morocco by 2020. She plans on returning to the US to pursue college.

Zineb came to study in the U.S. through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad Program, hosted through AFS.

To learn more about YES, go to https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/kennedy-lugar-youth-exchange-study-yes-abroad

If interested in becoming a host parent, please visit https://www.afsusa.org


Gold Rush + Railroads

Welcome to the wild, wild west! Spring break led us to Durango, Colorado where we were surprised to find snow still on the ground and the historic downtown trapped in time.


Couldn’t leave without a taste and see of the local breweries! 2 thumbs all the way up for Ska Brewery Co.


A quick stop at the Animal Shelter was our final adventure. A kitten nipped at our hearts, so we decided she was the one and renamed her Durango! After filling out the paperwork, we were told we couldn’t adopt her. Durango hates other animals…and that includes a Schnauzer by the name of Smokey that we have at home! In the end, no animals were harmed…but my kid’s heart was left a bit broken after saying our last goodbyes to Durango.


Natural Wonders

Location: Camel Rock, Santa Fe, NM

You can see it from the highway. Large rocks forming into the ship of the desert.  After staring at it a while, it started to look less like a camel and more like ET. By the end of the trip we couldn’t decide. One thing for sure is it’s a must see!

According to news reports, a piece of the camel’s nose fell off years ago.