The Spinning Compass: Blog en-us (C) K.D. Williams Photography (The Spinning Compass) Fri, 30 Dec 2016 17:40:00 GMT Fri, 30 Dec 2016 17:40:00 GMT The Spinning Compass: Blog 120 96 New Years Tradition I want to take a minute to talk Tradition ... What is your New Years Traditions, do you make resolutions?  Do you have special food?  And why do we do these things.

For our family, since I can remember we do the traditional southern foods - ham, collards, black-eyed peas and cornbread.  I know every year I make myself some resolutions.  Most I never stick with BUT, I try and that is what counts.

So why do we do these things?

I know that we say it is for luck, health and prosperity.  But where did these traditions start and are they similar all over the world?  

Well guess what, it is not just here in the states but all over the world.  Every culture has their own version of a New Years celebration and dinner.  They are all very similar as well.  It is very interesting to read about. 

Here is a good article that talks food:

When was the first New Years celebration start?  Well according to, the first recorded celebration is back in the Babylonian era.  Although it was at a different time of the year due to the difference in the calendars from then vs now, it was for the purpose of celebrating the New Year.  The celebrations lasted 11 days as well.  Julius Ceaser did institute the change in the calendar making Jan. 1 as the New Year.  So as you can see we have celebrated the New Year as a New Beginning for many, many years.  

I am a history fanatic and love to read, so please click on the links above and do your own research - knowledge is power!

Please tell me about your traditions, your culture and your research on the New Years.

]]> (The Spinning Compass) 2017 Expat Explore Family Jan Love Marriage Photography Sundays Travel history new beginnings new year read research Sun, 01 Jan 2017 05:45:00 GMT
New Year New Us!!! For the past year we have gone through many changes and many of you know I had to have several surgeries over the last 2 years, so we haven't been able to put the time and energy into this business as we should be ... BUT... that is all changing.  We have made new goals and decided to have a fresh start.  We have came up with some amazing offers, contest and ideas for those loved mini sessions.  As we make these changes we want to thank you for all of your continued love and support throughout the past 2 years and the continued love and support that you show us.


So for some of the upcoming changes:

  1. Our logo is now officially Trademarked!  What an accomplishment for us on the business front!
  2. We will offer more appointment times for your portrait needs, along with more Mini sessions.
  3. This year we will run the Mini’s as followed:
      • Indoor Mini’s - 7 days (4 slots Mon – Fri 7-8 & 10-5 one weekend– depending on weather)
      • Outdoor Mini’s - 10-5 one weekend (depending on weather and lighting we may also offer slots during the week)
  4. We will also have Special “Day Out” Events where we will post a few days in advance where we plan to go and if you want to join us for mini’s then you are more than Welcome to have a “Day Out” Mini.  Example: Bethabara Park, Old Salem, etc.
  5. We will offer more specials, more mini's and more locations
  6. Onsite studio appointments or we can bring the studio to you (lights, back grounds, props & all)
  7. We will have a referral program & return client specials
  8. We would love to collaborate with more businesses, so let's spread the word!
  9. We will have more blogs weekly - we would love feedback on what you would like to talk about!
  10. We will have a Contest every month... At the first of every month we will post a "Photo of the Day" Challenge, it will give us a chance to interact with each other and create a helpful and supportive group.  PLUS!!!! At the end of the month those that participated in the challenge EVERY DAY will be entered into a contest!!!  The prizes will be announced monthly when we post the "Photo of the Day" Challenge information.  ***You will only be able to win 1 time every 6 months.
  11. We will offer a few more slots to our Exclusive Holiday Lifestyle Sessions - We have several highly limited sessions around the holidays, where we will come to your home and document your celebrations, to take family pictures in a private setting and to capture those special unscripted opportunities that you wouldn't get in a studio.  We usually just offer 1 session per holiday because this also is a time for us to be with our families but we will increase the sessions from 1 spot to 4 spots depending on the holiday.  
  12. We will offer more event photography specials, so that we can be there to help you capture your events!

In the next few days you will see a lot of information coming out from us, so be prepared and let's start this year off right!!!!

Also, please remember that we do more than just portrait photography.  We also do events, birthing, wedding, engagements, lifestyle, staged, travel, landscape and stock photography.  Just ask us for more info.

Again thank you for your unwavering support!


]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Family JustDrive Love Marriage Mini's New Us New Year Photography Resolutions Sundays Travel appointments family nc photographer north carolina photography sessions Sat, 31 Dec 2016 13:00:00 GMT
Contest Time Let's start this New Year off right with a GIVEAWAY!!!! 

What do you get, you ask... The winner will receive one free session with me OR 2 free mini sessions of their choice. This is valued at over $150.00's!!!!

Now the hard part what do you have to do to win this prize???? 

Well, its really quiet simple ... Just like our page, share our page and then tag someone that you want to be photographed with. 

For more chances to win: Go to our Instagram & Twitter Page and do the same: Like, Tag, Share!

The winner will be randomly selected on Jan. 7th.

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Facebook challenge contest family fb marketing mini's photography photos pictures portraits Fri, 30 Dec 2016 15:00:00 GMT
DYI Decor I love to decorate our home for the holidays but I try to keep it on a budget.  As most of you know I love coupons and apps like Ebates, Ibotta, and etc.  So I am always keeping up with sales and trying to match items for the best deals.  I fail a lot of times just because I do not have the patiences or I run out of minutes in the day or heck my ADD kicks in and I totally forget or get distracted ... but I try, isn't that what counts!  The thing with saving money is that you have to plan ahead and sometimes that is hard to do for me.  But you also may have to delay your decorating depending on what you need to buy.  So while some are decorating at or around Thanksgiving, I may not decorate until after the 7th, due to the sales - they get better as you get closer to Christmas.  

So this year we decided to do a new color for our home and for the first time in a long time we decided to put some decor outside for Christmas. Since we haven't been in the states much this time of the year, we just never stressed over it.  But this year we have our grand babies that are getting older and paying more attention so we just had to go all out.

We went to Michaels with my coupons, apps and matched it with their sales.  They were having a 50% off and a 70% off, so for under $40.00 we got 9 wreathes, 9 bows and 9 little holly bushel thingies.  We then went to Target when they were having their spend $100 save $50 deal and we got our new color scheme and several other items.  After that we were done!  Now the hard part is to put it all up, hahaha!

To make my wreathes:

The plain basic cheap green wreathes - fluff them out, add a red bow to the top, put a little pop of color or decor (we used the holly bushels), use some wire string to tie it all together more securely and there you go!  You can add lights or anything else you would like but it is so simple to do!

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Family Love Marriage Photography Sundays Travel bows christmas decorate diy enjoy family happy holidays Tue, 20 Dec 2016 14:16:01 GMT
Holiday Time What does this time of the year mean for you and your family?  For me its about spending time with loved ones, remembering and cherishing traditions of those that are no longer with us and just believing in all of the magic in this world.  

My great grandmother was one of the most influential people in my life and she passed in my early teens, probably when I needed her strength the most and maybe that is why I hang onto her memory, but regardless it still feels like it was yesterday to me.  I remember her all year long but around the holidays it is like I am overwhelmed with little thoughts of her.  The way she played Silent Night on the piano, even after arthritis had almost crippled  her fingers.  How she loved us unconditionally and whole heartedly.  I can remember the "doodle bugs" and her song she would sing about them.  I can remember the way her house looked and all of the little details.  Every holiday we had Christmas at her house and our family seemed like it was so huge and so full of love and happiness during that time.  It was like no matter what the world was throwing at us, the world was erased during these visits with her.  

My grandma (my great grandmothers daughter) is another one of those women that I will never forget.  She passed away when my kids were very little and I hate that my children never felt the love from these two, as I did.  I feel like after they passed everything changed - the holidays weren't the same, the family traditions changed and we all drifted apart.  

My Uncle Carl, Aunt Reba, Grandma Stanley... the list goes on and on when it comes to the people that I admire who are no longer with us.

It just seems like family and traditions are not as strong as they use to be.  Relationships aren't as strong as they use to be.  It just seems like the respect and care is lost among us now, it is hard to make time for each other and when we do we always are distracted.  It seems as if lines are blurred and its more about "tolerating" people instead of enjoying each other... oh and don't get me started on the distractions and seeing everyones heads in their phones, and yes I am guilty.  Sometimes the family dynamics are upsetting and we don't get along as well as we should and then other years we are happy and loving, so you just roll with the punches, and move on!!!  Don't get me wrong it isn't always perfect and we always have our fair share of issues but we try - and that is what counts!!!  I am not a perfect mom, wife, grandmother, sister, daughter, niece, etc but I love my family and I wish them nothing but the best regardless of what is going on at any given moment.  But that is what makes us humans - we change, we grow, we love, we argue, we aren't perfect, we move on, we come back together again.

As for my house we decorate, we try to make a ginger bread houses, we take tons of photos, we cook dinners or breakfast (depends on who is around) and we just try to enjoy each other.  Some years just seem harder then others, in the past my husband was overseas working during the holidays, or I was as well... so this year we are extremely excited because we are all here together!  This year we have been remodeling our home so it has been a little crazy, and the decorating isn't going up like I would like but oh well, we have next year and the house is looking amazing!!!  
What about you, what do you do for Christmas or the Holidays? My GrandsonIt warms my heart to see my grandson playing on the piano that I played on as a child. The very one that my great grandmother would play music for us.

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Facebook christmas expat family holiday photography Tue, 20 Dec 2016 14:00:53 GMT
New Recipe! So I am trying to eat fairly decent, no ordering out, cooking and using as many fresh ingredients that I can.  Every Sunday (or whenever I have a minute) I try to make a meal plan for the week and get my grocery items together. But since I am also trying to get back into couponing since I haven't done much of it in a while, it can be challenging.  You and I both know that most of the time, the items that have coupons are the very items that are not the best for us.  They don't have coupons for veggies!!!  Although Ibotta gives you money back for veggies sometimes. Ok, I am going in another direction here, lets get back to the recipe!!!  

This week I decided that our menu will look something like this: 

Veggie Packed Spaghetti 

Steak Roll Ups with steamed veggies

Pierogis Chicken Soup & Sliders

Like I stated above my goal is to use fresh organic items, I know that I have to use "some" processed foods but I want to keep it to a minimum and I want to make sure even it is gluten free, whole wheat or and organic.

So Monday I decided to do Steak Roll Ups.  I got the recipe of off Pinterest - yes of course!  But the link to the actual recipe is Flank Steak Roll Up.  It is over at Hunters Healthy Kitchen.

Even though I am a photography, my camera phone SUCKS - yes it is an iPhone but it still sucks and I am not perfect so trying to stage my cooking for great pictures isn't for me (just yet, maybe I will work up to it hahaha)... No I like to show the real thing, because I am just like you, my kitchen may not be the cleanest or my chopping method may not be the prettiest and I definitely do not have a clutter free home!  So right now my pictures are real time and are not perfect!

Flank Steak Roll-Ups 


  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 green pepper, small dice (I added this)
  • 6 oz button mushrooms, diced (about 2 cups) - I only did 1 cup as I don't care for mushrooms much
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (I thought I had some so I didn't buy any but realized that I didn't have it, so I didn't use)
  • 2-3 lb flank steak, sliced in half 
  • 1 pkg baby spinach 
  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced provolone
  • 1 tbsp canola oil (I used olive oil bc I just never use canola)
  • I added a few drops of a red wine
  • tooth picks 


My dicing isn't pretty but hey its cut!


  1. Cut up your Veggies, Organize your ingredients and prepare a pan for the meat!
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, green peppers, garlic, thyme, pinch of kosher salt (himalyan), and pinch of pepper to the pan. Allow to cook until the the mushrooms begin to caramelize about 15-20 minutes watching to make sure mixture does not burn. Before removing I added a touch of red wine and let it simmer done into the mixture.  Remove from pan and set aside. 
  3. Most flank steak is on the thicker side (mine were really thin but long, I mean really and I hated that). Run your knife through the middle of the flank steak to get 2 thin pieces if this is the case. If your flank steak is thin enough to roll up then leave alone. Careful not to rip through the flank steak. Place thinly cut flank steak on to the cutting board, season both sides generously with salt and pepper. If using two pieces then season the other steak and follow directions for both pieces.                                                
  4. Lay flank steak flat after seasoning. Add the mushroom mixture, sprinkle the top with spinach and lightly press down, then add the provolone slices. Starting at the bottom of the flank steak roll up tightly, making sure the grain of the meat is against running horizontally. Put in tooth picks to secure each roll, about 6-8. With a sharp knife slice each roll into identical pieces.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the same pan as before over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Once hot brown 2-3 minutes per side and transfer to a sheet pan. You may have to work in batches to brown each roll up, once done browning place the sheet pan in the oven for 10 minutes.                                                                                                           (the stained pans are the best pans)
  6. Remove from oven and enjoy with arugula salad. (I paired it with steamed veggies & cauliflower mash)                                                              (not the prettiest outcome, like I said my steak was very very thin!)

This recipe was amazing, the steaks (even as thin as they were) were absolutely amazing! 


Our Version of a Healthy Veggie Packed Spaghetti:

The inspiration for this was a recipe that I found online and I changed it to suit our family's needs.  


  • 1 lb gluten free, whole wheat or any kind of spaghetti, broken in half (I used gluten free)
  • 1 tub of cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium green, red, yellow and orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large can ripe olives, drained and sliced


  • 1 bottle (16 ounces) Italian salad dressing (I used one from Wholefoods that was organic)
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Cook the pasta according to normal package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooling off I sautéed the cherry tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and onions in a pan with a dab of olive oil.  Just for a few minutes (I did this because my son doesn’t care for “raw” veggies).
  3. Combine the pasta, veggies and dressing.  Toss, shake whatever necessary to get the pasta saturated. 
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours; you can make this the night before as well.

I made this during my grandkids nap and it literally took me just a few minutes, it went into the fridge for later.  The hardest part was the chopping of the veggies.  You could cheat even more by buying pre-chopped veggies.  Later in the evening, my son had asked me what was for dinner and it suddenly hit me that I had forgotten that this was a vegetarian type of meal and I knew that my family wouldn’t be fulfilled so… I grabbed some organic breaded chicken sandwich patties from the freezer and threw them into the oven at 350 for 15 minutes with some organic jarred spaghetti sauce topped with provolone cheese slices.

The spaghetti and chicken didn’t go together perfectly but it done the job and surprising EVERYONE loved the meal!!!

I hope you try these meal ideas.  I always try to find super easy and healthy options!!!  Feel free to post comments or your own recipes!



]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Family Love Marriage Sundays cheese chef chicken cook cooking coupon dinner easy fast food frozen healthy no chef photography recipe spaghetti spinach steaks try veggies wine Tue, 06 Dec 2016 13:47:50 GMT
Mail Order Food Subscription We recently tried Pantry Boy (, it is a Mail Order Food Subscription that I had seen on Groupon.  I have been wanting to try these services for some time but I have always been worried about the quality and quantity of these services.  I mean come on anyone with males in their home know that you have to cook for an army in order to satisfy them, and I also like to have leftovers for lunch the next day.  Let me stress this, NO ONE in our family is overweight, the guys are just good eaters - HAHAHAHA!  The appeal to these services are obvious: they come pre sorted, pre decided, pre cut, pre measured and all you have to do is follow the instructions!!! How easy.  No wasting money at the grocery store on impulse buys, no over thinking what you will cook, no wasting ingredients that you purchase too much of... it just makes cooking - EASY AS PIE!!!! Hey who knows maybe even after you are relaxed from not having the stresses of cooking dinner you may just be in the mood to bake that PIE!!!! 

Then one day I was just browsing Groupon and I seen Pantry Boy, and I immediately couldn't resist.  The reason that I chose Pantry Boy is because it is primarily for Slow Cookers/Crockpots and we all know how much I love meals that are easy to cook in a Slow Cooker.  With Pantry Boy you can choose Omnivore, Carnivore, or Vegetarian and then you choose 2 or 4 people shipments.  Heck they will even through in a Slow Cooker with a 10 week commitment.  You can cancel, hold or edit your shipments as needed - which is awesome because we travel fairly often and this would defeat the purpose of saving money if we couldn't put a week on hold.  I checked out their menu and was a little nervous because I have picky people in my home, but thought this might be a way to get everyone to try new things.  It took about 8 days for the first order to be processed and shipped, but I got updates the entire time so that I knew what was going on.

The day came and I received a message that the box was out for shipment and I couldn't be happier, no honestly, I was excited to try this service.  The Fedex dude set the box on the door step (they usually don't even ring the door bell or knock which is so annoying but that is another topic) and I heard his truck so I went and grabbed the box.  Immediately, I began opening it up .... and I was so happy with everything that I seen.  First the box comes extremely insulated and has several ice packs located near the meat.  Each meal was bundled and labeled and the recipe sheets were right on top.  You couldn't mess this up if you tried.  One thing I was surprised about because I either missed it on their website or it wasn't there but all the items were labeled with "organic, local farm fresh" type stickers.  That was an extra added bonus because the ingredients looked fresh and extremely good.  

Arrived & Packed   Arrived & Packed

Arrived & Packed

Arrived & Packed

I did my first meal that day and realized that my fears of the quantity were real.  I had to add a little something extra from my own pantry to make enough food for my family of 4.  But, I will say it wasn't missing much, it just needs a little extra of each item and it would have been plenty.  I received 3 meals total and to break up the "Slow Cooker" meals I did them every other day.  I just sat the bundles in the fridge so that nothing could get misplaced and checked on them every now and then just to make sure things didn't go bad or look bad.  The following days I did the other two meals and quantity is my only compliant because with all three meals I had to add a little something extra to make it a big enough meal for our family.  I loved the variety and the freshness of the items, they were sealed and well packed so they didn't go bad during these few days.  The instructions were clear and easy to follow (it also gave instruction so you could also cook these meals by stove if you liked).  My son wasn't pleased with the meals but as I said earlier, I have picky eaters.  I was happy that he at least tried everything.  Everyone else seemed to enjoy the menu but just wished their was more of it.

In the end, I canceled the subscription just because of the quantity, I felt like if I have to add my own items then I wasn't saving much money or time by doing this and wasn't that the point?  I may try some of the other services just to compare the price, quantity and menus in the future but I may have to order 6 person meals if they have them since 4 person meals may just be too little.  The same goes for this service, if I ever receive notice that Pantry Boy has increased their quantity then I would love to try them again as well!!!  If you stress over what to cook or the price of food at the grocery store or not having enough time to go to the store then trust me this service is amazing and I highly recommend it!!!  The quality was great and maybe for most families the quantity will be as well.  


]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Family Love Marriage Photography Sundays Travel cook cooking crockpot dinner family food healthy home home cooking meals no time pantry boy slow cooker try it Tue, 08 Nov 2016 13:25:22 GMT
Amazon Prime As you guys already know, my husband and I travel A LOT!!!!  We have found that Amazon Prime has became our best friend during these travels.  While we were overseas I was struggling with the fact that everything was different from home from the food to the tv shows, I was feeling a little lost and overwhelmed.  Then a friend mentioned that she still gets to watch certain shows or order certain items using Amazon Prime and I was sold, I had to check it out.  We started with the trail period and I was able to download books, shows and movies!  Then I started noticing the many benefits of Prime, so after our trail we decided to keep it.  We have had it for almost 2 years and I absolutely love it!  

I can order grocery items from PrimePantry and ship it to any address on my list.  The prices in PrimePantry are comparable to that of your regular grocery store and they offer coupons as well.  While we were traveling and my mom was watching the kiddo's, my son messaged me with an emergency - he was upset because he was out of one of his favorite cereals and rather then bothering my mom with it I just placed an order and sent it to the home and the cereal crisis was solved!  I have also placed orders for donations to local food drives.

I have an iPad but I use the Kindle App more then I use my Ibooks App and one of my favorite perks with Prime is that we get a free book every month.  Yes, a free book!  Now don't get me wrong it isn't on the best sellers list but you get to choose from a few options each month.


Below is the link for a trail period, please check it out and see all of the benefits for yourself!

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Amazon Coupon Expat Explore Family Kindle Photography Prime PrimePantry Shopping Thrifty Travel Sun, 14 Aug 2016 23:56:24 GMT
First Stop! New Orleans! I have always been drawn to NOLA, I can't remember when I first learned of the beautiful and ugly history, all I know is that I have wanted to visit for the longest time for many reasons.  NOLA is amazingly rich in history (good and bad), art, music, culture and food and I couldn’t wait to experience it especially with my hubby by my side.

I felt at home from the moment that we arrived.  It was like my soul was finally at home, does that sound weird, oh well I am a little weird anyway.  After only a few hours of exploring around the French Quarter I knew it by heart.  I could tell you right now where every and anything was.  I guess I fit right in because I have always loved the “dark”, “weird”, “unusual”, the “outcast”, “free thinkers”, the artist and of course I have always loved everything related to vampires, witches, voodoo, all religions, and especially HISTORY!  I will admit I was an Anne Rice book lover, I also loved the Originals, so that was some of it as well.  But the main thing about NOLA is its history.  The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly – it is rich in history and culture like nowhere that I have ever been.  I am one of those people who have learned a little about a lot of things, I have dreamed of being a writer so I researched tons of myths and fictions, I love history especially early US History so for me, NOLA has just called to me!!! In a way, NOLA is just like me, I do not fit into one mold, I do not identify with one thing or another – I like a little of everything and I try to respect and learn from everyone and everything.  NOLA has a history that is so dark but yet beautiful (just like a lot of historical towns), her past wasn’t easy, it was downright brutal in some aspects but through it all they have remained a place for all to come and be respected.  NOLA has examples of so many different races, religions, countries, people and cultures that you have to admire how beautiful it has become because of the good and bad.  NOLA has also been a place of inspiration for so many things and without that “melting pot” of a history that was / is there, then we would not have the beautiful history, food, art or sounds that inspired some of the best of our world. 

I highly recommend learning as much as you can about the history of this city and take a tour or two of the plantations nearby.  We went to the Oak Alley and the Laura Plantation, but there are many beautiful plantations in the area.  I will admit that I was expecting a toned down version of the horrors that probably took place so I was shocked when the tour guide at Laura Plantation gave us a very descriptive look at what life may have been like.  Our guide didn’t hold anything back as she talked about the past and I enjoyed that deeply.  Our past is something that we can’t change, but we can learn from it through honesty, knowledge and respect.  We can also look at our past history mistakes and find ways of helping things that are going on today – we can’t forget that slavery is very much still active today in Africa and other parts of the world; along with child labor, trafficking and human sex slave trafficking.    

For me touring NOLA was fascinating, the buildings are amazing.  The food was delicious and rich and I haven't tasted anything so good.  The people were so nice and helpful.  It was kind of funny that outside of the religious St. Louis Cathedral you had “pirates”, Palm Readers, homeless people conversing, voodoo sellers and etc. but yet everyone seemed to be respectful of the other.  To me that showed that regardless of the past, the present or the future that this city will make it one way or another.  I am sure we just had a few good days and it isn’t always so nice, because seriously, come on, what city has peace and harmony all the time, or maybe it was the fact that I have built this place up in my mind so much that I just didn’t see the bad things, whatever it was I loved being there.  I loved hearing the jazzy sounds from the bars and restaurants, I loved smelling spicy mixes throughout the Quarter from all of the local shops, I loved walking by the street artist set up everywhere,  I loved walking into the Voodoo shops and looking around after meditating in St. Louis Cathedral, I loved walking into the Cemeteries and exploring the history after riding in one of the many carriage rides around town.  So for me this is my favorite place out of all of the places that I have ever been. 

But I wasn’t nervous, or anxious about being here I was just comfortable and excited.  I wanted to take in as much as I could about the history, the people, the sights and sounds and especially the food.  We took pictures of everything that we could.  Did I say that the old buildings are absolutely gorgeous.   Learning the history of where the people came from, the traditions that they brought with them (including voodoo) was enjoyable to say the least.

We explored the Garden District, the Lafayette Cemetery, the St. Louis Cemetery (this one cost and you must go in with a guide now), Jackson Square, the water front area, the French Market, and so on.  I think we walked over 10 miles a day while we were here just looking at everything we could.  I personally wouldn’t do one of those paid tours, although they do give tons of history on everything that you may not otherwise have unless you google everything.  We explored most of the city on our own with the help of my pre planning and tourist guide books, but I kinda wished we did a few tours but they are just so expensive.  We did have to pay for the tour of St. Louis Cemetery and we did one of the mule driven carriage rides and that guy gave us more history and information then we could have asked for.  The few cabs that we took also had drivers that were more than eager to give you the insiders scoop as well. 

***I will post our itinerary and tons of pictures (they will be available for purchase as well) once I get my computer back from the shop so you can see how we did it all in the short time frame that we had.

One of my favorite stores that we visited while we were there: Wicked Orleans – you must stop in there and tell them that we sent you.  The staff was excellent and they shipped a jacket that my husband had fell for while browsing around so that we didn’t have to carry it too all of our destinations.  I plan to contact them some upcoming photo shoots that I am planning because they had an excellent variety of out of the norm clothing (pin up is what I am looking for right now).  Also don't forget to stop by the French Market for your local items.  While shopping there we made some friends with people from all over the world.

We stayed at Hotel Modern and it was small but very nice.  The staff were attentive and helpful. 

As you will read from the next trips, somehow I subconsciously booked hotels that were all in that “art deco” early 1900ish style.

Places we ate at:

I don’t know what it was about NOLA but everything we ate was just amazing.  It’s like people put their heart and souls into the seasoning or something because I have never tasted food like I did there and I am not exaggerating.  We have traveled a lot in the past few years and have tried everything from Wildebeest sausage to Turkish Kabob’s.  Do not get me wrong we have tasted some amazing food but for me there was just something about the food in NOLA.  You also have to remember that I get sick extremely easy after all of my surgeries.  There is no rhyme or reason for it and it isn’t one food over the other so there is no way for me to plan or predict it.  But I didn’t get sick once while in NOLA, nothing that I ate bothered me in the least bit, which was a very nice surprise (and more reasons for me to just move here right lol).



139 Carondelet St

New Orleans, LA

I must explain the story on how we found this place and I swear every time we tell people the story we can’t help but laugh and I guess you just have to know me to understand.  We were walking down the street on the day full day in NOLA and I guess the person handing out flyers (probably the owner or manager) seen us looking at the buildings discussing our breakfast options and this man suggested Hobnobbers.  Okay, I got to back up a little let me just say I mean this in the most positive good way I can explain this story but this was a bigger man, with tattoos, wearing a tank top and a hat; he had an outspoken personality and as I am typing this I am laughing to myself because we didn’t know what to think of this person and he was pointing to a place that was literally a hole in the wall.  But his personality won us over, he reminded me one of my favorite cousins and I just trusted him or maybe I was a little afraid but none the less we allowed him to walk us down the street into a building, down a hall way to our destination.  You know me I reference movies a lot so I was a little panicked by this point but I was so in love with the city that I just like okay, let’s do this thing (besides I had my amazing husband with me so I knew I was safe).  When I say hole in the wall, trust me I mean it and had he not personally walked us in I do not know that I would have tried it.  But OMG I am telling you the people were so friendly, good downhome southern people.  The food was perfectly priced (cheap I might add), the portions were huge and it tasted so good.  I hate we found it on our last day and that they closed so early because I was wanting to try everything on their menu. 


Another Broken Egg -

2917 Magazine St

New Orleans, LA

We went out to explore the Garden District and got caught in the middle of a horrible storm, but since we were on a time crunch we explored the area any way.  What is a little rain? This place was definitely needed for that chilly rainy day, we both ordered a nice cup of coffee (mine had a little amaretto in it!) along with our meal.  It was very good food, decent prices and it was a nice location. 


Gazebo Café

1018 Decatur St

New Orleans, LA

While touring the area, stop on in for one of their amazing frozen daiquiris.  I tried the peach and let me tell you it was awesome!!!  We split a ½ portion of Muffuletta along with a sampling of Fried Alligator.  The staff was friendly, it is an outdoorsy environment so you get the sights and sounds while enjoying lunch or dinner.  It was an amazing little lunch.


Café Du Mounde

813 Decatur St

New Orleans, LA

I had honestly forgotten about this famous little café when we booked our trips.  I know it is mentioned a lot in the different movies and it is world renowned but it totally slipped my mind until my aunt reminded me to stop by.  I am so pleased we did (at least 2 times actually).  We split an order of their Beignets and we had to try the Iced Au Lait.  Did I mention that I fell in love with the city and the food here? Ok, I will say it again, we were not ever let down while in NOLA.  Later when we got home we had some items shipped to us from several of the little stores that sold pralines and coffee and such – well we also got a box of mix for the Beignets and I hate myself for looking but these things are horrible in calories!!!! Just do not ever look up the calories in one of these amazingly tasty donuts.  Also make sure you have cash when you come here because they do not take cards. 


Another tip from our cab driver who by the way was the best and I wish we got his name because he gave us a lot of insight into the history and city while we were riding around with him.  But he stated to take refrigerated biscuits broken up a little fried in a little oil then topped with powdered sugar is close to the Beignet.


The Market Café

1000 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116


Again another restaurant with outdoor seating and usually a band playing.  We stopped here one night for dinner and we got the same thing here … Muffuletta, their version of the Taste of NOLA (red beans and rice, jambalaya and gumbo – like usual I omitted the gumbo for safety with my food allergy to shell fish).  And once again we were pleasantly surprised with the taste and sounds of this beautiful city.   


Magazine Pizza

1068 Magazine Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

This was one of our late night dinners in the room after walking all day sightseeing, not eating but snacking.  We ordered a Philly Pizza and it was very good and not expensive.  They didn’t take forever to deliver either. 


Frank’s –

933 Decatur St

New Orleans, LA

We had taken one of the carriage ride tours around the French Quarter and our guide suggested Frank’s.  Since I get sick so easy I was scared to eat at the restaurant, so we did take out and enjoyed it in our room.  Just like most of the buildings in NOLA, this one was narrow and small but pleasant. With that said, they were extremely nice to us and even catered to my food allergies by allowing me to switch the Gumbo for extra Red Beans & Rice on their Taste of New Orleans Plate.  My husband ordered the Muffuletta (1/2 portion that is) and we got the Tiramisu for desert.  Let me just say that OMG this was some amazing food.  Who knew that something so simple as Red Beans and Rice could taste so good!!!!  The Muffuletta and the Tiramisu were both equally as tasty!!! 


Hard Rock Café

125 Bourbon St

New Orleans, LA

After our flight and checking into the hotel, we stumbled across Hard Rock while walking around.  We have a habit of stopping in at all Hard Rocks and getting a drink at least.  I have glasses from all over the world.  The staff were very very good here and gave us a lot of tips and advice for the area.  Unfortunately, I feel that Hard Rock should change up their menu per location because I am starting to grow tired of the same menu.  We had the same thing in Johannesburg, Finland, New Orleans, Seattle, etc.  They have maybe one “area favorite” that is more of a local taste but usually it is expensive and I haven’t found them to be very tasty.  



BB King’s

1104 Decatur St

New Orleans, LA

We enjoyed the atmosphere here, they had a group performing and I will tell you that they were really, really good!  The food was enjoyable as well.  The staff was very nice and attentive both times that we went here (we went twice one because of the music playing).


We will be coming back to NOLA, probably a lot so I will update our guide as often as I can.



]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Family French Quarter Garden District History JustDrive Louisiana Love NC Photography NOLA New Orleans Photography South Travel Vampires Wanderlust Wicked Wed, 13 Apr 2016 22:15:00 GMT
Vacation Time!!! Well what happened was….  Isn’t that how a good story always starts (well that and a few drinks) … But seriously my husband and I joked with sister that we should tag along when she visits my niece the next time she goes.  And wouldn’t you know it she was going in a few weeks and she since she is a bargain hunter like me she gave me some places to look for cheap tickets.  So the search began, until I remembered all those dang miles we built up – we would lose them soon if we didn’t use them, so I looked at that instead.

What do you do with those miles that you accumulate?

My husband and I had so many miles built up from our travels overseas that we decided to take a REAL vacation, for the first time in a long time!!!  In all honesty, my husband works so much overseas that he hasn't been home long enough to enjoy what we have here in the states, on top of the fact that this past year was one hell of a ride with my illness, surgeries and such.  So with everything we have endured I think it is time for us to enjoy some time off exploring the US.

But where do we go and for how long?  I know most people do not have the luxury of taking a month long vacation but luckily we could since my husband was home for an extended period of time (or permanently if we didn’t take another overseas contract), we had no jobs to rush back to, we had the bills paid and omg the flights would be FREE!!!!! Who could turn that down???  Plus, we figured before we do jump back into a job whether locally or abroad we better take advantage of this time and do a trip now because who knows when we would be able to do this again. 

I have always wanted to visit New Orleans, Washington State, Las Vegas, and my niece was in Colorado so that is where we started.  I challenged myself to see if I could make this kind of thing happen in the time frame that we needed it too.  We had to be in Colorado on the dates that my sister was there, and I wanted to make sure the dates we chose used the least amount of miles possible so that we could get the most for nothing. 

But we had sky miles so what, we still have to pay for a hotel and transportation, so how in the world would I pull this all together for very little and that is where GROUPON came in, and Ebates.  By purchasing online, I was able to secure the dates, get cheaper prices, and use Ebates to get money back - how is there anything better than that?  I was able to find decent cheap rooms in the areas that we needed, but I had to juggle the dates to make it all work smoothly, which was no problem as long as we hit Colorado when we were supposed to.  I will admit that I was nervous about the rooms, I had never stayed at the places we rented and the reviews were OK, not bad and not perfect, but hey how much time do you spend in a room anyways really. 

We had our rooms, we had our flights, now transportation – thank goodness that was a little easier to some degree.  I knew that Vegas and New Orleans had fairly good public transportation, so I googled and read blogs on that to be sure and for New Orleans we got the Trolley Pass $15 for 5 days and it pretty much took you to most of the hot spots or at least close to it.  We decided to rent a car for one day during our NOLA trip so that we could see the plantations and what do you know - HOTWIRE to the rescue (we did have some issues I will discuss in another blog)!!!  Since I had such a good experience with that I used HOTWIRE to book a car for Seattle because our plan was to spend a little time in the city but spend most of our time along the coast.  We also purchased a car for Colorado from them as well.  Vegas was a little difficult for us, we knew we could get around fairly easy but we wanted to go to the outskirts for some hiking trips, but did we need a car the entire trip or just a day or two?  So we waited on renting a car until we knew, plus we would wifi everywhere we were going, we had the apps and we could get one later.

So the basics were covered, the research was done, I had an Itinerary for our days in each city (to try and follow but not a big deal if we got lost as we usually do), now food and entertainment … OH GROUPON … Yes, I love Groupon … and I found everything I could imagine for all of our cities, but I also found by searching online that NOLA has a free guided tour from Free Foot Tours and it is pretty easy to find things to do own your own (plus like I said early we have the apps and wifi at most places), so we didn’t use it too much for NOLA.  But don’t let that deter you Groupon has a ton of listings on there for some very good deals.  We did use Groupon for several food places in all of our destinations and a few entertainment ideas as well.

We had our trip pretty much mapped out and prepaid so we knew our budget ahead of time from that point forward.  We got our flights to each spot for less than $40.00 (a few flights had a service fee), we got our rooms for very cheap and we had some of our meals and entertainment already paid for and all for great deals.  Now it was packing time – HOW THE HELL DO YOU PACK FOR 20+ DAYS???  Not only that how do you plan for temperatures that range from cold, wet & cold, hot, hot & humid?  What about shoes?  You guys know me, you know I love shoes, so how do I narrow it down to just a few items?  I Googled and searched the internet, I read Pinterest articles on how to pack from pro’s, I researched the weather for the average temperatures … BUT I still couldn’t figure out the best way to pack.  I am so impressed with those ladies that claim they can pack ONE CARRY ON that last them 30 days, really ladies I give you a standing ovation.  I couldn’t even if I had no choice to.  I don’t know if it is the Gemini in me, the ADD in me, or what but I am so indecisive and anal about the what if’s that I cannot bring myself to pack 6 pieces of clothing that are interchangeable like those articles advised.  Now listen, I am not a girly girl, I am not finicky or picky but what if on this day I want to be dolled up, what if I get there and this doesn’t go good with this… so for me it was my trusty ol’ trunk.   We get our trunks from Walmart in the automotive section, they are sturdy and are within the size requirements for the airlines.  I prefer these over any expensive luggage you can buy (and they are like less then $20.00).  My husband decided he would do the same, that way we would have room for our souvenirs as well. 

I must thank my sister for giving me the idea of the cheap flights that lead to this trip of a life time!!!  What a dream it is for me to visit these places that I have wanted to visit since before I could remember and as photographers - OMG I cannot wait at all!!!!  Plus, going alone with my hubby for 20 days to places that neither one of us have been too is just a dream in itself!!!

We were all set!!!  Now let the journey begin!!!

Oh wait, we weren't done there ... We decided that once we got home we would then drive to PA (another place neither one of us has been to) and visit some of my good friends up that way for a few days!!!!

Ok, now we are all set!


]]> (The Spinning Compass) American Airlines Colorado Ebates Expat Explore Family Groupon Hotwire JustDrive Las Vegas Love Marriage MilesforMilestone NOLA Photography Seattle Skymiles Sundays Travel United States Washington blogger ghost town nc photographer travel travel blogger travel photographer wanderlust Sun, 10 Apr 2016 04:30:00 GMT
Time to Coupon Since I came back to the States I have realized that the groceries here are EXPENSIVE!!!!  So, that means I have to get my butt back into gear and start couponing again.  I use coupon all the time this and I think I was really good at it, but when we moved to Swaziland I no longer needed to (nor did they coupon).  To me saving 10 cents is a savings!!!!

To be successful in saving with coupons, you must and I mean MUST be organized.  So I got myself a Staples Mini Binder, business card pages (to hold my savings cards), some coupon pages, sheet protectors and dividers.  I started following some amazing blogs and Facebook groups to help me get back into the swing of things.  One is Coupon Mom, this site does a great job of helping you find the best values at different stores and where to find the coupons.  Then I just get the Sunday paper and search for online printable coupons.  

I always try to get the grandson involved as I am doing things, so I came up with a fun little game for him.  As I clip the coupons I just through my mess onto the floor so that he can pretend to copy more, or just play in the mess and guess what HE LOVES IT!!!!!

Like I posted in a previous blog, I also joined programs like Ibotta, Ebates and Savingstar.  Between all of this I am hoping to take a chunk off of our grocery bills!!!!

I am new again at trying to clip coupons, so any advice is greatly appreciated.  Tell me how you save, what you do, what apps or websites that you love.



]]> (The Spinning Compass) Coupons Expat Explore Family Grandson Love Savings Shopping Travel Fri, 25 Mar 2016 12:00:00 GMT
Birthing Photography Birthing Photography

What is “Birthing Photography”?

A photographer is with you during your labor stages, while you are giving birth and some time afterwards.  The goal is to capture that once in a lifetime moment that you want to remember forever.

Why should you hire a “Birthing Photographer”?

I get asked a lot of times, why can’t Dad just take the pictures – and my answer is simple : If dad is taking the pictures then who is holding your hand, who is encouraging you to push?  And for dad, he is stuck behind the camera and while he is still enjoying it he is missing moments.

Is “Birthing Photography” expensive?

Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap; I have even seen other photographers compare it to the cost of hiring a wedding photographer.  That is because with “Birthing Photography” it can be a lot harder to do then a portrait, mini session or even a wedding for the simple fact that with child birth anything can happen at any moment, nothing is set in stone, not much can be planned.  This makes planning hard on both the “parents” and the photographer.  We keep our schedule slim during your last 4 weeks of pregnancy, so that we can do everything in our power to be by your side.  During this four weeks we have to plan our lives around the possibility of your impeding labor.  We also have to plan careful around this time for you and our other clients, so we don’t loose those precious moments for anyone.  We do everything in our power to be with you during this precious time and for a short period afterwards.

Our goal is to be there when the time is right, to the best of our ability.  We try to work with you during your pregnancy so that we get to know each other and also so that we can know what complications could arise during the labor process.  When we think you are close to giving birth, we will be packing our bags as you are yours.  The goal is to be completely ready to go with all of our gear in hand at any time of the day or night. 

As you know labor is one of those times where modesty is out the window – so I truly feel that getting comfortable before the big day is crucial for everyone involved, which is why I made a little list of our process for our “birthing clients”.  But I do know that sometimes things happen and you can’t always predict when our little ones will join us especially with unexpected preterm deliveries, so we try our best to work around all situations

Our process:

  1. First meeting with parents to be, just to chit chat and get to know one another.
  2. Keep us updated regularly on your progression during the pregnancy.
  3. We like to do a pregnancy photo shoot with our “Birthing” clients, this way we can talk more and get a little more comfortable with each other.  We can also set up a package to do several times during your pregnancy leading up to the big day.
  4. Second meeting (depending on how early in the pregnancy you have contacted us).
  5. Check with your doctor and the hospital that you will be delivering at about their procedure for having an outside photography, I can assist with this if needed.
  6. Then the wait begins.

Once you are ready or think you are ready:

  1. Call me if you have to go to the hospital for any reason, because these things can happen fast.  Once I get your call I will be on stand by waiting for further information.
  2. Once you have a confirmed active delivery, then I will head your way; this is usually around 5 – 6 cm.  Unless your doctor has other plans, then you just let me know what they are and we will work around them.
  3. What expectations do you have… any shots that I must try to get (siblings, mother, father, cord cutting, etc.).  Just remember that birth’s are unpredictable and I cannot get in the way of the hospital staff, nor can I violate their rules.  So we do our best to get as many wonderful shots as possible.
  4. I will be there during your labor and birthing process for a determined amount of hours and then after birth I will stay for an additional hour as the staff cleans the baby and finishes up their duties.  Once you are in a room and rested I will come back for another hour to get some nice family baby shots.  ***Unless we specify otherwise in our meetings.
  5. If you have chosen a package with me then we will do a newborn session roughly 5-7 days after the birth.   ***If you do no choose a package and want to do a newborn session then we can do that as well for an additional charge.


I highly recommend choosing a photography package from us so that you get the best deal. 


If you cannot or are not comfortable with a birthing photography, then I also offer a “First Moments” Package.  This is for 2 hours after you have given birth but before you leave the hospital.  I try to do this when you have your most precious visitors (grand parents, children, etc).


Contact us for more information, packages and prices.

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Birthing Photography Child Birth Children Expat Explore Family Love Marriage Photography Travel Thu, 24 Mar 2016 12:00:00 GMT
Cold Season Man this cold season has been bad for our family.  This last bought of nasty germs in our house we decided to finally try the Essential Oils with an Oil Diffuser, up our vitamin intake and use some new alternative medications.  After all of my medical situations I am a big believer in natural remedies and try anything that may help.  I also worked in the healthcare field for many years and know that FINALLY, the doctors have slowed down on over medicating for cold and virus'.  In the past they would give antibiotics and medications to treat your symptoms, now they tell you to try over the counter medications before coming to them.  I only go to the Doctor when I have exhausted all other options because I really hate being medicated and not feeling "normal".

For the household we used the diffuser with Now Essential Oils.  It made the whole house smell amazing but not only did it smell good I do feel like the Peppermint and Eucalyptus Oils really did open us open.  I will try other brands because I have heard some pro's and con's on Now Products.

For our grandson we used Hyland's Baby Tiny Cold Syrup and I must tell you that it worked wonders.  I have never been so impressed with a cold medication before in my life.  He had the worse runny nose on the first day but then it turned to being a congested little nose.  He was drooling so much because he couldn't breathe out of his nose.  That first day we noticed that he was sick, he was a miserable little fussy pot, but after one night of taking this medication he was like his old self the next day.  Even though he wasn't feeling good, he was a lot happier.  We gave him Hyland's before nap and again at bedtime and it just did the trick.  So for anyone with a small child this is a MUST HAVE!!!  We also did a few drops of the Oils (mixed with Coconut Oil) into his bathwater and it seemed to help his congestion a lot.  


If you have any information please share your thoughts and remedies!!!!

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Alternative Expat Families Family Flu Natural Natural Health Sickness Travel Wed, 23 Mar 2016 21:06:39 GMT
Savings! Hey guys just a quick update I am working on a blog on my best savings tips but for now here is my favorite savings tip:


Sign up for Ebates!!!!$encryptedUserId&eeid=28187

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Photography Travel family life rebates saving Sun, 28 Feb 2016 18:43:57 GMT
Surgery Update As most of you know, I had to undergo surgery AGAIN this past Wednesday (2/17)!  After returning home from Swaziland, I had to see multiple doctors to try and figure out the why’s of my illness that landed me in an emergency surgery situation and fighting for my life afterwards.  After seeing a travel specialist to rule out any “African” diseases, my PCP to rule out any “normal” medical diseases or conditions, my GYN to rule out any “female” medical diseases we decided to do an “exploratory” surgery.  Since I had seen these doctors and each one did so many test, and so many different scans and not one of them could find a definitive reason for my health issues present or the illness in Africa, since nothing was ever consistent or “normal” we decided that the best thing UNFORTUNATELY was to look inside and remove the cyst on my right ovary that seemed to pop up on the scans occasionally, varying in size from 4 – 7cm.  Going into the surgery, I was unbelievably scared and anxious but who could blame me after my last operation. 


Luckily for me, I had some of the best at our local hospital.  They were prepared for the worst and they took time with me and my situation.  In all my years of not only working in the medical field but also with my personal health scares, I have never had a team of people so thoughtful, caring, compassionate and helpful, then I did with this surgery.  I mean everyone from the check in staff to the doctor.  Having the treatment that I had made my experience so much easier on me.


Upon waking up I learned that I had once again had massive amounts of scarring from the last emergency surgery which was the cause to the problems that I was having since that surgery last April.  I am not sure about South Africa’s normal protocols for abdominal surgeries but in the states they do everything in their power to try and reduce the chances of scar tissues and that is not an easy thing to do.  I hate to ever question a doctor but I feel like had they taken the time to do some of the normal protocols then I may not have had the issues that I did.  Then again sometimes there is just nothing you can do about an emergency surgery, it isn’t neat and meticulous it is about saving your life.  But I do know that the days following the surgery last year I was not mobilized early, they kept the catheter in and kept me bed ridden for weeks which contributed to my problems in my opinion.  I do know that had they made me get up and move around I would have complained and been in tremendous amounts of pain but I would have done it, just as I have done now and with my previous surgeries.


At any rate, I am thankful once again to be alive regardless of what they did or didn’t do last time, they saved my life by removing the infection and unfortunately we will never know what caused the illness that led to the surgery or the cause of the fever afterwards.  I always tell people it is kind of like the question “which came first the chicken or the egg”, we will never know if the ovary became infected first causing the illness and the need for the emergency surgery or if SOMETHING caused the illness leading to the problem in the ovary.  Then afterwards we will never know what truly happened to me to know why I didn’t heal properly or timely, we will never know what happened or why.  But it doesn’t matter now, I am alive and all my test are getting better.  I do have to heal from this recent surgery but I am doing a good job so far.  I have 3 more scars to add to my collection on my abdomen that will remind me of how precious life is.  I am going to continue my path of living a healthy lifestyle and I will do everything I can to live for the day.


This surgery was no easier or harder then any other that I have had but since I have been down this road several times I now have a system for it, is that sad or strength?  To me I see it as strength, there is always strength in knowledge…. So I am going to help some of you out and give you my list of preparing for this process and please remember each operation, each surgery and each person is so different so adapt this to what is best for you:


  1.  First, listen to your body and know your body – if you feel something is wrong don’t stop until you get the answers you need.  Ask for test, do your research and do not ever think Doctors know everything because they don’t – no one does.
  2. Get a second or third opinion – this time I seen 3 doctors, did 4 scans and a multitude of test before I finally agreed that surgery was our last option … luckily for me I didn’t have gung ho doctors, they were all with me on putting surgery at the end of our list, they did everything that they could until they finally said “we are backed into a corner and the only option forward is surgery”, it wasn’t what anyone wanted but it was what we had to do.
  3. Once your surgery date is set, do your research on possible problems and ways that YOU can avoid them.  Don’t overlook, “Googling” can make you be too paranoid so find that fine line between being educated and being paranoid.
  4. Go grocery shopping for after your surgery.  Get easy to make items, as well as plenty of high fiber, high nutritious items like fruits and veggies.  Keep your processed foods to a minimum.  But I will admit one day I just wanted a cup of noodles but instead of water I used bone broth as the liquid so half good half bad but totally tasty!
  5. I personally suggest getting the ingredients to make a couple of soups or meals in advance and possibly freeze those so that you can heat them up when needed.  Soups are good for healing for many reasons but mainly because your bowels will need time to get back to normal after the operation, anesthesia and medication.  The soups I liked and found beneficial were: Bone Broth, Cabbage Soup, Chicken Avo Soup and of course Chicken Noodle.  But you can do any type of soup.
  6. Stock up on premade juices – I am usually a fresh juicer kind of girl but after a surgery you will not feel like standing there; so invest in some really good brand of premade organic juices like Suja (but I don’t care for the taste honestly but I haven’t tried them all so I continue to try them) but Evolution is really good as is Trader Joe’s Cold Pressed Juices.  Watch the sugar content and make sure that the only ingredients are the ones from fresh fruits and veggies.  If after a few days or weeks you feel up to making smoothies I suggest using a good protein powder, a good mixture of greens and fruits as well as almond or coconut milk.
  7. Stock up on your pharmacy items: ibuprofen (best choice for after surgery from what I was told), stool softener, laxative, Pedialite (in case you are nauseous), and anything else the doctor may suggest.
  8. Have a heating pad or blanket for the sensitive areas and for the gas pain that you may feel in your shoulders (I felt it for days, some feel it more or less then others, mine personally was horrible).
  9. Have a plan set up on where you will sleep, who will help you with your daily items, what movies will you watch while your down, etc.  Just have your area set up before you come home so that when you come you then you don’t have to burden others or make yourself any more uncomfortable then needed.  I had a chair by the couch that had my phone, ipad, a book, coloring book, tissues, bottle water, a trash can (in case I got sick), some gum, remotes, etc. right there within reach.  I used a chair so that it could easily be moved if it was in anyone’s way.  My husband, son, daughter and mom were all on hand to help as needed but I am a stubborn person and didn’t ask for help much.
  10. After the surgery try to get mobile as quickly as possible and I don’t mean running a marathon but I do mean walking to the bathroom, taking a few steps at a time, even just changing your position...  These things will help you feel better faster; it will help the gas dissipate sooner.  I personally would alternate between sitting up, relaxed, sitting straight while taking some really good deep breaths and then laying totally flat and let me tell you flat hurt like hell, it felt like I couldn’t breath at times from either the gas or pain or something but I focused on breathing and after a few times it got easier. 
  11. Breath, Breath, Breath oh and meditate – however works for you but breathing through the pain will be a lot better for you in the long run.  Focusing on breathing, or meditating will take your mind off of the pain and will help balance you during this tough time of doing nothing but healing.
  12. Keep your brain in check! Read, play video games, mediate, coloring, writing – whatever you like – just keep your brain busy so that you don’t go stir crazy and over do it trying to push this healing process.
  13. Do not compare your process to anyone else’s, we are not the same when it comes to these things.  Healing is very personal to you, so go at your own pace and do what feels good, listen to your body and when you become tired or weak then take a step back and relax!!!!


I hope this list will help you, I am no doctor and I can’t make any claims about what I am suggesting but this is what worked for me.  I hope you never have to use this list but if you do, I hope it helps you in some way.

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Expat Explore Health Marriage Photography Post_Surgical SouthAfrica Surgery Swaziland Travel adhesions always_something appendectomy breathe cyst healing ovarian pain relax scar_tissue tips tricks Sun, 21 Feb 2016 19:22:34 GMT
Update I am sorry it has been so long since my last post.  I have had a lot of medical appts and flying back and forth to Swaziland, so I have been extremely busy.  BUT I have been writing like crazy, now I just have to put it on the website.  I am having surgery next week and will have a lot of down time to work on this, so be prepared for several good blogs. Some topics will include: more about Swazi, some product reviews, and just life topics such as gun control/conceal carry (I know its a hot topic lately). 

I am also looking for a few models and businesses to do some collaborations with - free for the first 10 potential clients.  Email me if you are interested.  

Come back to catch the new blog very soon.


]]> (The Spinning Compass) Africa BigGameParks Expat Explore Family Going Health Home InternationalPets JustDrive Love Marriage Missing Mlilwane Photography RescueAnimals Safari South SouthAfrica SummerfieldBotanicalGardens Sundays Swaziland Travel Traveling_with_pets Wildlife blog chronicappendicitis femalehealth health surgery update Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:48:01 GMT
International Pet Travel I have not been on here in a while due to all the craziness going on but (I promise to be posting more soon). I wanted to put an update for my fellow expats that need pet travel information.  I will update as I go but for those leaving Swaziland, this will help.

From my experience and what I know .... you should use a company close to your home in the states, but we had to use one based out of Atlanta I will include her contact information at the bottom,  they are great to work with I absolutely love them .... I can walk you through the steps if needed or help in any way, just email me ...
I will tell you coming from the US to South Africa was some hard prepping but I was nothing but pleased with everyone involved.  She arrived safely and happy.  During the travel I did get updates and I knew where she was at any given moment.
The company contact we used: Igna Traub International PMC Animal Land Pet Movers Tel: 404 713 3766 Fax: 678 466 7042 - the communication with Igna and her contacts from SA were absolutely wonderful.  Any question that I had was answered within a few hours (time difference included).  Everything was explained and they were so understanding to our situation.
The vet we used in Swazi is (00268) 7820 2600 or 78249736 Dr. Alberto Sabbione's he will come to your home, is easy to work with and are great as well... here are the steps that I had to do for justice to travel back home (traveling there was harder so this was a breeze):
There is a lot of paper work that has to be filled out in advance, and Pet Movers will go over this with you.  But for us to get Justice home here is what we had to do:
2. DA2PP, BORDETELLA, and Updated RABIES VACCINE (others maybe needed depending on exiting country and entering country)
5. Current Heartworm medication updated
Cage (cage has to be big enough for her to turn around, stand up, sit down and lay down - the normal travel mate carriers)

Two screw in bowls attached to it. - it is recommended depending on your situation to fill those with water and then to freeze it overnight before putting it in the cage, this will melt as the animal travels and makes it easy for transport so it doesn't spill out.
Collar and Leash hooked to her cage (not on her)
Bag of dog food
Any medication or heart worm medication labeled with her name tapped to the cage.
Because we had to go through a very strict procedure to bring our dog into South Africa and Swaziland, we were prepared for the exit.  Our cage was purchased in the US, but I am sure you can find a similar one in SA. 
I will update this information the more I travel with our little baby girl.
]]> (The Spinning Compass) Africa Expat Explore Family InternationalPets Photography SouthAfrica Swaziland Travel Traveling_with_pets Wed, 06 Jan 2016 16:10:17 GMT
Mkhaya We have been in Swaziland over a year and still haven’t went to Mkhaya, so guess what… EXACTLY…. we scheduled our tour and went this past weekend.  We didn’t realize that the tour was an over twice as long as the other safaris in Swazi but that just made us even more excited!!!  That just meant we would have more time to capture photos of more animals. 


When you make the appointment they tell you the directions for the location but what isn’t explained and I think it should be is that you are going to park and wait BEHIND a small community store near a “village”.  There is a sign there that lets you know that you are at the right place as well as advising you to not encourage begging.  I will admit I felt uncomfortable sitting there behind this little store on a dirt road and before long we had a bunch of children playing around our car and asking for everything from water to money to things inside our car.  It is hard to not give them a bottle of water or a pack of candy while we are sitting there in cars waiting for our guide.  We joked and laughed with the kids as they danced and tried to keep our attention while begging us for things.  Our guide was extremely late meeting with us and we had no way of contacting anyone since the main office is closed on weekends.  Once our guide arrives we are taken to a “farm house” and told where to park our cars, where the bathrooms are, and we are treated with juice and water bottles as we wait for our guide to return with a safari vehicle.  The first half of the safari was absolutely wonderful.  We learned a lot of interesting information about the animals, the park and our guide during our tour.  They have a lot of the usual safari animals except big cats.  They also have a few things that we haven’t seen at the other places such as lots and lots of babies!!!!  Seeing a baby zebra or giraffe is something that you have to see for yourself to truly understand the feeling we got.  I was overjoyed to see the babies in the park; it made me realize that Swaziland is a leader in conservation.  


Around lunch we are taken to the central destination for those that are staying over night as well as where the lunch is served.  They offer a buffet type lunch that includes bread, an entrée and a dessert.  You have a little museum and a shop right there as well.   I must say that this lunch break was so enjoyable mainly because of the people.  As we were eating we had monkeys watching us from a distance in the trees and a few Nyala’s just walking around without a care in the world.  We were slightly disappointed to learn that they only do the traditional dance for the dinner guest, but they surprised by quickly changing and coming back to do a few songs for our group.  Afterwards they joked with us and wanted to see our pictures of them before we left. 


On the second half of our park safari we were greeted with another driver Unfortunately this driver wasn’t as friendly as the first driver because he was in a rush to get us back to the gate because we were running late (at no fault of our own).  We didn’t see but one animal on this return journey and the driver was flying through the park.  He kept saying how we took too long at the lunch and he had to meet his next guest, we tried explaining that our trip had been behind from the beginning because the original guide was late.  But it didn’t matter he was determined to make it on time for the next guest, but for us it was really upsetting.  He did slow down when he came across a rhino but after I got one picture of it he continued saying he must get back and sped off from the animal.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see even one elephant during this safari trip and since they are one of my favorite animals I was disappointed just a little. 


I will admit, I couldn’t believe we paid so much more then we usually do for what we thought was going to be a longer guided safari and lunch to only REALLY have the same amount of time as the other safari’s, but we just basically paid extra for the lunch and to top it off we even saw less animals and were treated poorly on the return journey.  


Even with the disappointment of the trip back to our car, our trip at Mkhaya was amazing.  In the US, we have no idea the feeling of what it is like to see these animals in their true natural habitat outside of a zoo or a cage.  To be able and witness a baby only a few weeks old surviving and being in the wild is one of those things that I will never forget.  The animals that we did see at Mkhaya were just beautiful, healthy and WILD plus I did see a few “first”, which is just plain unforgettable to me.  The first driver and the women at lunch really made this trip special and that is why I know I will return to try Mkhaya again.


I will say that I still think Hlane is my favorite safari in Swaziland even though I do plan on returning to Mkhaya so that we can see the progress of a few of the babies.  Mkhaya is different from the other safari’s by the fact that you have more time in the park and I assume as long as you are not running late, then you get to see a lot more animals then the other parks, it was just a bad day for our tour.  In no way does the few negative events that happened during our trip change my mind about how wonderful the park and all the parks in Swaziland are.  I know everyone has a bad day from time to time, we are human and mistakes happen. 


You will see:

Black Rhino

White Rhino







And more


A few notes about Mkhaya:

In order to visit Mkhaya you must reserve your safari in advance. 

Do not be discouraged at the meeting point (although I do think they need to make it a little more “tourist friendly”.)

They have 10am or 4pm safaris




]]> (The Spinning Compass) Africa BigGameParks Expat Explore Family JustDrive Photography Safari South SouthAfrica Sundays Swaziland Travel Wildlife Tue, 28 Jul 2015 01:45:00 GMT
Hiking in Swaziland We woke up this Sunday with the intentions of going on a Hike, like last weekend we are trying small hikes to build up my strength.  This weekend I was tested a little more than last weekend, the hikes were more then we thought they would be, but I didn’t give up so ultimately I am proud of myself and I had an “AHAAA” moment.  While we were hiking I kept doubting my own strength’s and I was putting up blocks in front of me.  I kept saying I can’t do this, it will be too hard, too difficult and I didn’t even want to try the trails that looked more difficult.  At one point my husband made me mad because he kept being so sweet and supportive and I was just like “you don't know how this feels both mentally and physically, you are not healing from ANOTHER surgery” and he just looked at me and said “but I know you, you will regret it later if you don’t do this, you are the strongest person I know and I will carry you back if I have too”… how could I argue any more, I knew I was having a pity party, I was having a mental block on my own strengths.  So down the trail we went and when I say down I mean DOWN!!!!   Once we got to the bottom, I kept looking back up thinking “up is harder omg, I won’t make it”… but we when the time came to come back up that path, I pushed through the fear and just kept going!  After this hike, I got tricked into the next one, we wanted to see the rock art but didn’t know that it would be another DOWNWARD hike which meant the uphill hike back was going to be hard on me.  But I kept wanting to stop but not wanting to disappoint myself and my husband I kept going.  Once we were back up to the top of the hike after we seen the art I was amazed at how far I have come in my healing.  Hearing my husband say that he was proud of me was the best feeling in the world.  But my “AHAA” moment was really seeing how lucky I was at having someone beside me who was willing to carry me if I couldn’t carry myself, don’t get me wrong I have known this since I met him but some times you forget that and to be broken down and need that support then realizing through your own self pity that you DO have that support is just amazing, and my other “AHAA” moments is that I can do anything that I set my mind too, I can prove anyone and everyone wrong including myself, I may be a little slower then others or I may complain a little more but I will always accomplish anything if I truly want too.  We finished our day laying on the couch relaxing from a hard day out in the beautiful land of Swaziland under the hot African sun.



With the beautiful untouched mountains and land the Malolotja Nature Reserve is the best place to spend some time.  Whether it is the canopy tour, a short hike or a long hike the choice is yours.  They offer campsites and cabins to accommodate your needs.  The reserve has 44,479 acres (18000 hectares) of mountainous terrain.  The area is home to a variety of animals and birds as well as plants and wildflowers.

We only wanted to do a short hike since I am still recovering so the receptionist was very helpful in helping us pick a path and marking our map for us (they provide a map for you).   The scenery is amazing but that is nothing new with this little country.  We are novice hikers so we had a hard time understanding the map vs. the markers.  But we found a view point and decided to just take our chances and go as far as we could.  I was skeptical because of my weakness from my surgery but I did my best and we went as far as we could.  I will tell you these trails are not easy but the views are AMAZING!!!!  The paths are defined but I admit I was confused on the markers, but that is probably just me. 


Nsangwini Cave Shelter / Bushman Cave Art

You get to the cave by going toward Piggs Peak / Maguga Dam from the Maguga Dam Road watch for a sign that is posted off of the road (but the first sign points to the right and has no road near it but keep going there is another sign) it is approximately 7km from the Maguga Dam. Once you are on the well-maintained dirt road drive about 7km.   The path to the starting point is a little discouraging but keep going and follow the signs.  Once you arrive you will see a little hut with someone sitting inside it, the fee for the hike is E30 per person.  They will be your guide down to the cave and it is a DOWNWARD HIKE, make sure you have on your good shoes because it is very rocky and some areas are slightly slippery.  The Bushman Cave Art is suppose to be Swaziland’s best example of the time past.  They were discovered in 1955 and have been a popular view point since.  The artwork ranges from 400 to 4000 years ago, the guide told us the clearer images were the more recent ones.  The Bushmen used coal, animal blood and red ochre to make the paintings.  Each image has a meaning too it and it is believed that these images were painted during a shamanic trance.  The images depicted were animals that were important to the group and their people.  The pictures they drew of themselves were hunters but they were portrayed as being taller than what they were in real life, some had feathers, some had spears and then they had more “other worldly” with heads of a preying mantis (according to the guide).   It is thought that this den/cave was used for rainmaking ceremonies due to the images of the elephants (which is believed to be a symbol for rainmaking).  The guide will let you stay there as long as you like and she will answer any questions after she goes through the speech about the art.  Take your time because the hike up is not so easy (at least for me but again I am healing from a surgery), but our guide was so understanding and took several breaks for me.


]]> (The Spinning Compass) Africa Bushmen Cavemen Expat Explore Health JustDrive Malolotja Marriage Photography Rockart SouthAfrica SummerfieldBotanicalGardens Sundays Swaziland Travel Mon, 20 Jul 2015 08:47:09 GMT
Summerfield Botanical Gardens I know its been a while since I posted anything, but I have had to focus on healing and we haven't done a whole lot.  We did go to Hlane again and as usual we loved it.  But other than that we haven't been out much.

This past Sunday we decided to try and find the “only” baobab tree that is SUPOSEDLY in Swaziland… well we were not lucky in our search, we found a few references to it online but no one mentioned the exact location. We used the references we found as guides, but we did not find the tree!  If anyone knows where it is please let me know.  We will find the trees in the countries that they are native too but I wanted to share this tree with the guest of Swaziland and if we ever find it I will let you know where the location of it is.  I have never seen one in person but I hear that they are amazing. 

After driving around Manzini for a while we decided to head to Summerfield Botanical Gardens for lunch.  I must say that this is probably one of the prettiest resorts that I have seen so far.  I basically have no words to describe Summerfield because it is absolutely stunning.   We toured the grounds and took a few pictures to share with you.  The bungalows are spacious and well decorated.  The pool is very nice and fairly large in size.  The grounds/gardens are well kept, beautiful and serene. 

I must say that the restaurant is so far my FAVORITE “sitdown” restaurant here in Swaziland.  The restaurant is not only relaxing, but the views are also amazing and the food is delicious.  The seating at the Grand Palm Cascade is very “quaint”; you are on a small Gazebo or in the Pavilion’s with a thatched roof and you have views of the lake no matter where you sit. I tried the Sirloin Skewers, which came with rice and veggies on a pie type crust.  The food was perfectly prepared and tasted very good.   The price is a little on the higher side but so worth it because of the setting, the portions and the quality.

I must say we plan to return many more times in the future!


Check out: 

]]> (The Spinning Compass) Africa Expat Explore JustDrive Photography SouthAfrica SummerfieldBotanicalGardens Sundays Swaziland Travel Mon, 06 Jul 2015 07:32:20 GMT