Friday, October 31, 2008

Four Foods on Friday #53

Here are this week’s four questions.

#1. What kind of pretzels are your favorite?

The big giant soft pretzels you find at specialty stores or a county fair - with huge crunchy bits of salt, and molten cheese for dipping.

#2. What’s your favorite way to eat pancakes?

With fruit, syrup and cool whip on top. I also like to add things to the batter as I cook - first few pancakes will be plain, then I'll add a chocolate chips in the next few, frozen blueberries in the next few. Or, I might divide the batter out into bowls. One bowl will get Ovaltine (malt chocolate), one will get strawberry flavored Carnation breakfast drink powder and chopped up frozen strawberries, one might get the vanilla flavored breakfast drink, or just a few drop of vanilla extract. Mmmm! How about pancakes for lunch??

#3. Do you make garlic bread from scratch or buy frozen?

Yes. I like garlic bread anyway I can get it.

#4. Share a recipe that calls for mozzarella cheese.

Right now, I'm craving sliced tomatos, baked with mozzarella cheese. Simple, but heavenly! And I have these Trisket(sp?) crackers, not the original/plain style, but a version with rosemary. Doesn't that sound yummy? Rosemary crackers with tomatos and mozzarella cheese baked on... oh, if I only had some mozarella!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oddly similar

Got our veggie delivery and it almost looked planned ... since when are bell peppers, honeydews, pomegranate, eggplant and lettuce all the same size? That's ok, I have knives...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I finally did it...

First time in almost a decade. I got a flu shot. For many years I got the shots regularly and I started getting sick after the shot. Sicker each time. Everyone says it is impossible. The flu shot does not make you sick... blah blah blah. I know what I know. Being a mobile type, I was never around the same doctor for more than one shot, one illness... I have no proof, but I came to believe.

The last straw was back in '99. I got the flu shot, got painfully, horribly sick, and was nearly hospitalized with pneumonia... I swore off flu shots. I get tons of other wierd immunizations, they are ok - but not the flu shot. I haven't had one since that bad attack. I've caught colds since. I think as much as anyone. I've also gotten very ill with bronchitis. But not during flu season. Usually on vacation, after exposure to new cooties and airline travel. And if I'm going to get sick anyway, why get poked? Except, perhaps, if I want to try and time the illness to be more convenient - but I never tested that theory... I was really too miserable that last time.

Why do it? Sigh... because I am a mom. I actually believe in vaccines, even if I have my doubts about the whole 'babies as pin cushions' idea. I think infant innoculations should be spread out a bit...all that toxic crap flooding their tiny little bodies all at once! No way! Work with your doctors, moms. Space 'em out! Anyway, I believe in the science. Even flu shots. So, even if I have been convinced that they really are out to get me, and I do, I believe it is personal, and not the general tendency of flu vaccines.

Today I set a good example and took the kids with me for the flu shots. Brian was very brave. After a follow-up check of his condition - after that cold/flu/bad asthma attack of last week - we went with the nurse for the innoculations. He hopped right up on the table. Asked me to sit next to him, but watched the nurse (a new friend for him after all the attention last week) prep and poke his arm. The needle pinched a bit, and he started to say "Mom! I don't like..." but then the nurse said, "All done". He was amazed at how fast it was. Honor wanted me to go next, so Brian held my hand so I would be ok... I was :-) (so far...), then it was Honor's turn. She tried to be brave, but she was scared. This is new - she's handled needles better in the past. Probably a age/phase thing, but you could see her think... the giggles disappeared and the smile turned upside down.. the tears started. Poor little big girl! Fortunately, the nurse had time and patience, and we talked her through the process. She managed to sit it out with my arms around her, no yelling, and quick recovery. It was a fast shot. A sticker and lolly-pop helped.

My arm is barely sore. I don't feel fevery. Perhaps after nearly 10 years, the flu shot gremlins will have moved on. Forgotten about me. Taken their sport elsewhere.

We'll see....

... wonder if the local hospital has wireless??

Hope I make it through the next couple days of Halloween party and carnival fun at any rate!

Shut up already!

Thought I'd just say it for you!

Yes, this is yet another post mentioning that amazing beef brisket... No, I am really not doing this to tease anyone! Sorry. I just like to cook, so humor me...

I like cooking up huge chunks of meat like that brisket, because I love the fun with leftovers.. leftovers as leftovers are good as is, but I mean, why go through all the effort of cooking a large dish if you cannot experiment with some of it??

We had about 2 servings of the beef left. I warmed it up and sliced it into little shreds. Heated the oven to 400F - here's the recipe I came up with for baked beef enchiladas:

Saute onions, garlic and pepper in a small frying pan.
Melt 6-8oz of cream cheese into the veggie mix.
Add one can of green chilis
Stir in the leftover beef, with remaining juices

Grease a 13x9" baking dish

Warm up tortillas, and roll 3-4 tbsp of the meat mix in each.

Place in the baking dish, cover with enchilada sauce, and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Good as is, or serve with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

Good for dinner last night - stretched 2 servings of meat into a meal for 4 with enough leftovers for one lunch. Mine. I offered to let Brad take it to work, but he did not want to carry it... too sad for him!

Cuddley reader

Meant to post this last week, but Brian had me distracted with his illness... too cute not to share though.

The kids school is continuing their 'Year of the Reader' for another year. They are very inventive when it comes with ideas for getting the children and their families involved with reading. For fun at school, they hold a couple of 'Cuddle up and read' days. The kids get to wear their pajamas to school and bring a favorite book and cuddle toy to read with. Honor's class had a PJ day last week. Pink dress, pink socks, and pink poodle - she's our princess!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mighty hunter

We have the most spoiled fish in the world. He's a Betta Splendens, aka a Siamese fighting fish, and looks somewhat like this guy in color:

This is not our fish. I got the image here. Our fish is a bit scruffier, and has a lot more attitude. His fins are a prettier turquois shade as well. He'd never just sit peacefully at the top posing for a pretty photo. No, he turns toward the camera - either out of curiousity, aggression, or search for food. I give up. Thank goodness for the internet.

Anyway, the kids had been asking about fish, lizards, and other pets. We have 2 cats, and I thought that was enough, but they kept asking. I decided to get them a fish in a bowl at the beginning of school last year. I thought about getting a little aquarium, but several sites actually recommended against a tank with a filter. So, he has a bowl. After voting on a variety of names, like Rainbow, Kitten, Gladiator, etc. he was dubbed, "Dolphin". Dolphin has lived happily on our dining room table for over a year now. May seem strange to keep an animal on the table, but it keeps him, and us, entertained.

The kids talk to the fish and like to watch him. Bettas are interesting and interactive fish. The cats don't bug him beyond drinking out of his bowl. The kids are a bit worried about what we will do when we leave. They want to take Dolphin with us, but I do not think it is possible to safely transport him. We will have to find someone willing to take in a very spoiled fish.

How do we manage to keep a fish here, and how did we spoil him? Well, we use bottled water, with a few bits of 'chlor' crystal... no idea what it is exactly, but it works to keep his bowl nice. We were sold some pellets for food, but they are more for tropical fish. The diet for a betta is recommended as follows: "Diet: Carnivorous - Prefers live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, krill and tubifex worms. Will also eat frozen foods. Some high protein flake or pellet food may be used as well depending on the fish." um...? Where do I get these things?? Not here! I also worried about feeding raw foods, or thawing bits of frozen, etc. So I just started him on cooked meat scraps, with the odd vegetable added once a week for helping his digestion. If it works for us and the cats, why not a carnivorous fish?

I wanted to start him slowly on the new foods as I didn't want to hurt him, but he quickly developed an attitude. After giving him meat, the next feeding was to be pellets. I put the pellets in. He just looked at them... then swam to the side of the bowl and looked at me with his brow furrowed. I don't even bother with those pellets anymore - he won't eat them.

We brought back some betta food pellets from the US when we were on leave, and he likes those... ok... but he prefers the good stuff. He watches when we eat and definitely makes it known that he wants his share. I usually cut his food into tiny crumb-sized bites, but if the food is soft, like broccoli, or a very tender meat, I give him a bigger chunk. He likes to stalk, attack, carry his victim around the bowl a few times, and finally rend his prey to shreds in a stealthy and dramatic fashion... you know... how wild bettas usually take down cows in their natural habitat (or mosquito larva - whatever.)

Yea... and Dolphin really loves that beef brisket I made on Saturday. He ate what I gave him, and his broccoli, then went begging on Brad's side of the bowl. Spoiled rotten!

Monday, October 27, 2008


See, or even listen, to the new widget tool above. Labeled "Listen". I grabbed it from my sister-in-law's blog, Smiles & Trials, but I didn't add it for her, sorry Christine. I thought it was nifty when I first saw it, but I didn't think much beyond that. I added it because one of her commenters reminded me that not all who use the internet are able to do so in the same manner many of us can. Some can not see well, or at all. As someone who wore a heavy prescription for most of her life, I should keep this in mind. So, this widget addition is dedicated to Claudia Baker, a Smiles & Trials reader.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Hooray for beef brisket! Wow, that's good stuff! It can be a tough cut, but full of flavor if cooked slow to yummy tenderness. We got a brisket the other day, on a whim, and I popped it in the oven Saturday morning.

I got a large baking sheet, lined the bottom with aluminum foil, put the brisket in. I added a bit of teriyaki sauce, covered it with more aluminum foil, sealed the edges, and put it in the middle rack of the oven at 250F. Cooked it from 10am until 6pm when we served it up with baked potatoes and asparagus. oh yummy! Tender and juicy beef! Good leftovers tonight, and even more leftover for tomorrow. I had suggested we use some for awesome beef burritos, but Brad won't hear of it... doesn't want anything to mute the taste.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween '08, Part(y) I

We love Halloween, and this year our building is filled with a bunch of new residents who also love the season. One difficult thing about being an expat, is not being with family and friends back home for these traditional American celebrations. Halloween revelry is a very American thing. (We're trying to spread the fun of it.) There are other holidays and traditions we miss out on too. While we might enjoy the culture and events of our foreign address, it is good to have a close community so we, and our kids, don't have to miss out on the holiday traditions we have loved since our own childhoods. Residents got together, created decorations, games, gathered food and prizes ... very successfully. Much spooky fun was had by all!

Ok, we know that Halloween is NOT until next weekend, but that weekend was already filled with other Halloween activities. This was OUR Halloween activity. Some photos - enjoy:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Getting Ready

We're getting ready for Halloween celebrations. Perfecting costumes. Organizing parties. Decorating. etc. Lots of work.. but lots of fun. We had our first Halloween party tonight (pics later).

We have been planning for the party in our apartment complex for weeks now and I and another lady were in charge of planning games. One of the games I created was a bean bag toss. I had most of the things I needed, but realized that the only beanbags I had were two that Grandma knitted for the kids. Couldn't send those to a party, outside, with who knows how many kids. I couldn't be sure that the bags would survive tonight, and the kids like their beanbags. So...

I have plenty of fabric scraps, and beans. I decided to make some beanbags. The target was a box painted like a haunted house, so I made up simple little monster beanbags. The best part though, was Honor decided to make beanbags too. She had to have me help her with the first one (the red one below), and I had to add some extra stitching on both to keep the beans in, but on the second one (the blonde guy with green skin), she picked out the fabric on her own, cut the pieces, found a needle and thread ... THREADED the needle without instruction (all done on her own because I was in the other room on the phone!) ... and after I knotted the thread for her, she sewed it up, added beans, and finished the project on her own. Pretty crafty for a 5yo! Here is a photo of our beanbag family... and this is AFTER surviving a wild night of partying.

Honor and Brian decided to use construction paper and make decorations for our entry wall. The wall isn't done yet, I'll post pics later, but they did a great job on their artwork.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Native Americans in Cairo

Very cool that Brian's third grade class had a series of lessons on Native Americans. Of course, he is attending an school with American curriculum - but it is has such an international feel, that except for the English, it can be easy to forget. He has studied other cultures in a variety of multi-cultural lessons, and he has Egyptian culture, and Arabic as a foreign language... easy to forget that he might not be missing out on subjects wholly American after all.

I understand that land use, water, food needs, shelter, trade, religion, etc. are common angles used to view and study any culture - past, present, future - and so the study of Native American history would be useful no matter where you are, but it was still a pleasant surprise to me. Brian was very interested. When he brought home paperwork about a project, he told me, "Mom, I am glad that you do not work any more - you are home in the afternoons now, and I really want you to work with me on this." You better believe that I said I really wanted to work with him too!

Thank goodness for the internet. I sat Brian down with a browser, and sent him off researching items on his selected area of interest - the Great Plains. I only gave him ideas of what he might look for - word and images, but left him to go after what interested him. He jumped right in. I also left him to do his paragraph on his own. It ended up that he and his Dad finished up the writing. Brian and I spent several days designing his 3-D display. He needed to show housing and life in general for Native Americans in past times.

Brian was fascinated by the buffalo, and wanted a buffalo in his scene. The only plastic one we had was a tiny thing. Brian was not interested. The only models we were likely to find around here are the water buffalo - NOT the same thing, and if 'Made in China', even the coloring would likely be way off. I'll never get over the GIANT blue rabbit that Honor once got in a set of plastic farm animals. That mutant creature towered over the biggest oxen in the set!

Brian started his creation with the teepee. We worked together to tie sticks, measure and cut fabric, and paint. Brian researched designs, and we worked together to make it happen. He painted a wolf face to add to the teepee on his own - free hand! I was very proud of him. Brian also painted the background on the scene/poster board and cut out images to fill in a village setting. He made a cochina doll, a hunter, at school.

For a buffalo, I decided to sew one. Fortunately, I hoard fabric scraps for just this sort of an emergency. Brian has never done any sewing, so I did the majority of work on it, but I explained to him how to plan the shape (3d, not 2d - it takes more than sewing two buffalo sillouettes together), and how to sew the pieces inside out, then turn it right side out - ugly seams on the inside. He stuffed the model - which, is not as easy as it seems... for a little toy with skinny legs, it took patience to do it right. He wanted it to stand up, and that took firm stuffing. Then, after a little lesson, he neatly sewed up the closing seam.

Then... the night before he had to turn his project in... Brian got sick! Poor kiddo. He worked so hard. I emailed the teacher a photo of Brian and his finished project... not the same as being there to show off his project and see his classmates' work, but it helped. We turned his work in yesterday, when we went to pick up his homework, and he got to see the other kids' projects while we were there.

Here is a picture of his scene:
.... a close-up of that awesome wolf painting!
... his paragraph....
and one with the researcher and his final project. I am very proud of the effort, time and work that he put into this!

4 foods on Friday #52

I thought I'd play this meme again - cooking is always fun and diversionary.

Here are this week’s four questions.

#1. Name something you use cream cheese in/on.

Bagels. How original.

#2. Do you use yogurt in any recipes?

Yes... most often in fruit smoothies, sometimes in place of milk with cereal, sometimes in meat sauces.

#3. Macaroni salad. What do you like/put in yours?

Macaroni salad? Plain macaroni with mayo soupy stuff. No. Too weird. No matter what you do with it - and I am a fan of deli-type salads of all sorts. I like some pasta salads (with oil and herbs), but not macaroni salad.

#4. Share a recipe that you use sour cream in.

Tonight I made a dish with corn bread. I like to use corn bread in casseroles as it's a great topper that my family loves. I keep basic mixes on hand, but I always add sour cream to the mix to make it moister than normal. I do this even when making stand-alone corn muffins. I can't stand dry, crumbly corn bread. Sour cream, or, in a pinch, mayo, makes all the difference - hate turns to love.

I didn't feel like cooking this evening, so I 'cooked' by can opener. This dish always turns out well:

Lightly greased 9x13 baking dish, oven preheated to 350F

Bottom layer of leftover mashed potatoes

Add 1 can black beans (drained), 1 can corn (drained), 1 can ready-made chili

Add smoked sausage links - pieces, or cocktail sized.

Make the cornbread mix, adding 1/2 cup of sour cream. I also stirred in about 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Spread on top.

Bake until the bread topping is done. Approximately 45 minutes. I set my timer for 30 minutes and then check every 5 minutes until the bread is golden.

Probably not the healthiest meal(!), but I do not make it often. The whole family enjoys this dish. Serve with sour cream as a topping, if you like. Depending on the beans and chili you might use, salsa or guacamole may be good sides as well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I can't breathe

Ok. No parent should ever hear their kid saying those words. Ever. Especially not in the middle of the night, after emergency inhalers have failed to work. "I can't breathe. I'm scared!" No. It should be illegal for children to get ill.

Welcome to October. The burning times. The air is stupid-toxic this time of year and it affects Brian badly. We have been keeping him on Claritin, which helps keep allergies at bay very effectively, but he caught one of the cruds that are currently going around - apparently the flu, bronchitus, and strep are all on the move - he had heavy congestion, slight fever, even some nausea for several days. Not awful in itself, sounds like a mild flu, but with the air polluted like this, he got hit with a massive asthma attack as a symptom. I was awake with him from 1am, Saturday night/Sunday morning, through to the morning. Very near to waking Brad and saying, get Honor, we're going to the ER. Problem is, while the ER here 'works' - and they took very good care of Honor when we had to take her - it is not equipped for children. A not-so-perfect hospital full of sick people, is not a good place to be when you are sick. Sorry, but it is not up to standards we are used to - I don't care how nice, educated/trained, and helpful the people are, and they really are... if the place isn't clean and equipped, then it is NOT clean and equipped. The ER didn't even have a child-sized blood pressure cuff when we brought Honor in. Anyway, I wanted to avoid it if possible, but we would have gone - in a flash! - if he had not stabilized... emergency care would have been fine, I'm sure, but going there, just in case, would not have been worth the risk. I kept him on his meds and steamed the bathroom to a misty sauna, etc. We only had a little while to wait before we could go to the clinic and have him treated by professionals that we know.

Poor little guy was stuck on oxygen and nebulizers for most of the day Sunday. They were thinking of sending to the hospital for overnight observation, but gave me the nebulizer and sent him home when his oxygen levels went up and stayed in the 'low, but ok' range. I've been sleeping on the floor in his room every night. He's getting better, and xrays came back clean - he was very rattley in his chest and we checked him out thoroughly. (I was happy with the lab - NileScan, they did a great job).

We think he is doing better today. His breathing is better and he isn't needing the nebulizer as much. I'll be sleeping by his bed again tonight though. More doctor appointments tomorrow. This will be 4 days in a row out of school. He was very disappointed. He had worked all last week on a social studies project, and it was to be turned in on Sunday. Tomorrow he is missing a field trip. We stopped by the school today, saw his teacher and turned in his project. He was able to get some of his classwork and see his classmates' projects too. He was feeling good enough to play and argue with his sister this evening, but he was very tired at bedtime. Still working on getting this out of his system, still fighting whatever cootie it was that triggered the whole thing.

Me, I'll sleep ok on the floor - it's pretty good for my back actually. But I'll be setting the alarm to wake at odd hours to check on him. I'm tired from several night of this - but I would not be able to sleep a wink in my own bed at this point - it's too far, all ?30? feet too far. Brad has to work and get Honor to school so I'm taking all the night shifts. I think the running to appointments at all these different places is harder - it's tough trying to find places with no street signs, few well-marked buildings, no decent parking (with a kid who is too tired to walk - and too big to carry!), etc. Thank goodness we have a good driver - with his own well-kept cars - to get us around. We've known him since we arrived and he's always taken care of us. He showed up after 8pm last night to take me back to the lab to pick up Brian's results - he has a full day, up early, driving all over, but he came and gave me another 30 minutes of his time... and would not accept extra pay for 'over-time'. We've also got a good friend and neighbor who has been picking up Honor from school, and has even taken her to school a few times, when Brian and I are stuck somewhere across town.

Sigh... apparently I was in need of more grey hairs. I sure hope Brian can kick this gunk out his lungs soon!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Real Invisible Things

So, it was another dinner conversation. Somehow, for whatever reason, we brought up the question, "What is real, but invisible?"

Brian shouts, "I know! Air!" and immediately went on to talk about air and wind, etc. I could tell Honor wanted to join in, so I leaned over and whispered into her ear, "Sound." She threw that out with a big beaming smile and turned to me for more.

Brad and Brian continued to talk about how air might be visible.

Brian asked if the air could be blue, but still be invisible? We weren't sure. Dad asked, if it's invisible, how do you know it is blue? Brian also tried light, but of course, you can see light, you just can't get your hands on it.

Brad suggested that if you blew up a balloon, you could see the air. Both kids immediately disagreed. Dad wanted to know why not, because you could tell by the balloon's shape that air was in there. They couldn't explain, but I said it was because if the balloon was closed with the air inside it, you know it's there, but how could we see it? Might as well be invisible. Or even blue.

In the meantime, we were trying to explain how correct the different answers were, or if there were exceptions - for vibrations, we pointed out that you can see waves, and they are vibrations, as is light - sometimes you can see these vibrations, sometimes not. And we continued to try and come up with other things that are real, but that you cannot see, like thoughts....

Then Honor said, "I know! ... Earwax!"

Out of the mouths of babes. The conversation deteriorated from there. Brad pointed out that 'the back of your head' is real but you can't see it. Brian started going in depth about internal organs. I just did my best not to snort gravy, as I demonstrated another (correct!) answer to the original question: laughter - real, but invisible. (Laughing is visible. Laughter is sound, therefore invisible, mostly... )

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our little piece of earth

Ok, more like our meager collection of pots of dirt... but we are trying!

I truly wish we had a garden. I'd be happy with an itty-bitty small one, really. Next best would be a good-sized balcony with decent mix of sun and shade. Heck, I wish we just had room to turn around on the balconies we do have! One of these days...

Anyway, here are a few of the new members of our household. Wish them luck - on our balconies, they need all the help they can get! ah well, I like to think we are doing just a little (a microscopic amount maybe) to help freshen the air. At least the kids are learning to incorporate greenery into their lives. Start young and get it ingrained as a lifetime habit.

Here are Honor's babies. Don't mind the ugly pots. Nobody can see them from outside, so I don't bother with fancy pottery! I turned old pots over to use as mini-tables to raise the plants to a height where they'll have a bit of sun, but still some protective shade from the wall. Honor chose two pots of brightly colored moss roses, and some pretty yellow-flowering plant. She has her old, spindly, geranium that has somehow managed to survive the summer, and in the black pot in front, she has the tiny sproutling that she 'hatched' from seed.

Not sure what the name of that purple blossom plant is, but Brian chose it and a nice miniature rose bush. I lifted his plants up with extra pots too.
Here are my newest plants. A collection of pretty succulents, and (in the background) a potted mint plant. I've grown several of these outside before, but never in a container. We'll hope for the best!

I wish I'd had more experience growing up with house plants. We had gardens all over, but plants tended to be outside, or almost outside (screened in porch). With as poor of air quality that we have in this city, I believe that every bit of air cleaning we can do is a good thing. I won't pretend to believe every hoo-ah statistic or chart. I am sure that what happens in a laboratory is not the same as what happens in a real house... but it sure doesn't hurt to try. House plants are supposed to help clean the air, and I've even read that they help maintain temps - but I think that is with a room load of them. Even NASA advises using plants for cleaner air.

I've managed to keep a few houseplants alive for several years now. I want to try to add to my collection, but I am still learning to care for them and haven't wanted to punish too many innocent plants as I figure things out! Fortunately, many of the recommended 'air scrubber' plants, are very hardy and easily tolerate the abuses of ignorant plant owners. I mean, just try and kill a philodendron! I had put a pot out on my balcony once, to wash down the dusty leaves, and left it. The wind blew it down and I didn't notice it until the next day - soil spilt, vines bent and broken, and roots exposed for ?how? long... I put it back in the pot. It was fine. I picked up some of the broken bits and stuck them in water. They are still alive. Ficus plants are pretty tough too. My next indoor plant 'want' is a pretty bit of bamboo... hardy, and it also makes many of the 'air scrubber' lists.

Our ficus, recent recipient of a major haircut. This is a hand-me-down plant and is doing quite well. The kids like to decorate this as a 2nd Christmas tree!

And this wall art is some type of philodendron. I wasn't sure what to do with all the vines. I didn't want to cut them, as it is the leaves that clean the air, but I'd prefer to decorate with a little more finesse than two nails up on high with vines strung willy-nilly. However, if you've ever live in a place where the walls are made of rebar, concrete, brick, and cement-like plaster... then you know how lucky I was just to get those 2 nails IN the flipping wall at all! (I nearly broke my masonry bit, and we are a long way from the nearest Home Depot). Simple as it is, the green wall effect is refreshing. Wish I could fill that whole area of the room with plants!
And here is another philodendron-sort. This is the jumper who survived.
So far, so good! May not seem like much - I am so jealous of people with gorgeous plants, happily and easily thriving, all over their homes - but I'm learning. Doing my part to make the world, at least our little bit of it, a greener place.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I was talking with some friends the other day and they mentioned keeping their kids away from the tv remotes and other bits of technology. Kids who are 4-5yo. I guess I can understand this. TV and computer use should be monitored, and we do so. But, isn't it a pain to have to mess with the TV so much? We have always let the kids work the remotes so they can stop, start, pause, and otherwise adjust their own shows. (We do not have cable or satellite - only DVD's and tapes). Brian was able to turn on the TV, change channels and volume, and pop tapes in the VHS when he was 15 months old. He loved Baby Einstein (who knew that toys and simple hand puppets waving around in time to classical music could be so captivating?!) and the Bob the Builder series... I know I remember his age at the time correctly because I remember what house we lived in when he learned, we were only there 5 months. I, obviously, believe my offspring are the smartest children in the world, possibly of all time (of course!), but I did not think much of this remote using. Everybody uses a remote. Like light switches, and toilet flushers... they're a fact of life. Right?

I still don't usually think much of it, as this technology change has happened gradually over my lifetime - it just 'is' - but I didn't grow up with remotes. We had one TV, it had knobs and buttons, and it was dad's. I had to go outside and play.

At school, I didn't have a formal computer class until high school - although we did have various lessons or other rare specials on computer prior to that. Yet, even pre-K and Kindergarten have computer time at our kids' school. Our 3rd grader has keyboarding several times a week - yea, learning to type as well as other ways of utilizing the computer. My 'tech' at home, was a radio. I was not allowed to use the phone until I was...10?, 11? Definitely no computer. I was using power tools and driving things (probably most illegally, definitely the car was - not sure about the boat, riding mower, golf cart, etc.) before I was turned loose with the TV and phone. Yet, our kids have used the TV/VCR/DVD remotes since they were big enough to wrap their chubby little, slobber coated fingers around them. They've used the computer since 2-3 years old. They both envy our iPods, and Brian has been asking for his own laptop - nevermind that we've now got TWO desktops set up for them - he wants a modern laptop like his dad's. Honor is even after my PDA/smartphone! Yesterday she asked to borrow it and sat in her room with it for a good 30 minutes, teaching herself to use the camera, play solitaire, and doodle on the scribble pad. She even sent her Daddy a SMS, although I had to help her figure out that part, the set up and sending - she typed her own little message. "I love you daddy". I don't think my parents would have let me be in the same room with this sort of technology when I was a kindergartner!

NOT a fan of techonology -Ramses was waiting, rather dejectedly, for Honor to get tired of playing with the phone so she would play and snuggle with him, poor kitty.

Gotta wonder what will be 'normal' technology when they get older. What will our 'adaption limitations' be? You know, the ones our grandkids will be making fun of us with?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sharing the good vibes

I am lucky. I have a great family. I have an awesome husband and we have wonderful kids. We travel and live in interesting places. I have gathered experience on all of this - either through my own personal doings, or via what I have heard and read from others, in person, email, or internet. I have always wanted to give back - to do unto others as others have done for us. We've been given helpful hints, warnings and advice on many topics... it seems silly not to pass it on, and we do. We answer questions. We have sponsored new arrivals - formally and informally. We gossip and spread news and other helpful rumors, but wouldn't it be of more benefit it it could be packaged, organized, sortable, and archived? Also, we are usually unable to bring all of our friends and family to visit and share our home - wherever it may be - and therefore, I always like to try and bring our home to them, not just the famous touristy bits, but the real-life parts too.

I have, over the years, tried out various internet tools. I have attempted journals, blogs, webpages, etc. Usually with very little success. Failure is mostly due to technology, or the lack thereof. Traveling to, and living in areas with poor internet can make interfacing with the web a painful and discouraging process. Eventually I gave up and settled on one favorite, easy to use website and uploaded favorite pictures and comments when the whims of the internet gods smiled upon me and allowed the power of upload to flow in my favor.

My sister-in-law is a blogger and she created her "Smiles and Trials" a few years ago. She has done such a wonderful job, that I was inspired to try blogging again. Apparently, I was also trying 'Blogger' again, because when I went to create an account, I found that I already had one, as well as a test blog... set up and hardly touched. I forget where or when I'd dabbled with it, but apparently it was either too new of a tool, or I had bad connection, or both. I ditched the old set-up and started this blog. That was nearly a year ago, and I have truly been enjoying myself, not to mention that I now feel like less of a freeloader - no more take and no give.

Speaking of which, a very witty lady - wise, humorous, and possibly dangerous (meaning that it only the nicest of ways, of course... she'll make you use your brain, and enjoy the process... ), whose blog I have only recently discovered courtesy of another blogger friend's recommendation (thank you Simple Answer!) - presented me with a very pretty award:

“This blog invests and believes, in ‘proximity’ meaning, that blogging makes us 'close'. They are all charming blogs, and the majority of them aim to show the marvels of friendship; there are persons who are not interested when we give them a prize, and then they help to cut these bows; do we want that they are cut, or that they propagate? Then let’s try to give more attention to them! So with this prize we must deliver it to eight bloggers that in turn must make the same thing and put this text.”

Thank you Tobi et al. Besides all warm and fuzzy, I feel honored. It is a pretty prize and I shall now perform my duty as a proximity patroness, and pass this award along to the following bloggers. They are each doing their part to make the world a 'smaller' and more cozy place with their contributions to the world wide web of friendship:

Smiles and Trials

Mama Seoul

Simple Answer

Lulu's Bay

Earth to Danie

Martinis for Two

Wandering the World

Expat Mom

Thank you all. Feel the love, and send it on.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Yesterday, I woke up with a sore throat. Didn't feel ill, just had a really sore throat... didn't want to eat or drink anything because even a sip of water felt like swallowing a tennis ball with sandspurs stuck all over it. I drank anyway. Lots of water and warm liquids. I made some yummy ribs for dinner, and was able to enjoy the taste, but I still hurt. I am pretty sure this was sinus related, so I took a benadryl tablet (diphenhydramine) around 7:30pm. I was asleep right after we got the kids in bed... maybe out before they were.

Woke up around 4:30am and my nose was drippy again. That voice, you know the one, the evil voice that convinces you that if you reconfigure your ringing alarm clock by pushing a secret series of numbers (that you can never remember later) will reset not only your clock's time, but the time on clocks world-wide, allowing you extra time to sleep in. Yea, that one. It got me today. I woke up enough to realize that my throat was getting raw again. So, that voice told me to go get another benadryl. I NEVER take benadryl after midnight! I hate the effect of it even when I take it at night! It works on my sinuses like nothing else will, but it seems to simultaneously knock me out, and completely rob my sleep of any rest-like property. But, that voice told me not to worry about it. I would be able to sleep in. I should stop the my runny nose from making me feel awful again - I'd be a much sweeter mom and wife if not in pain, etc. Besides, 4:30am still left plenty of time for the effects to wear off...

Needless to say, that voice lied. It's Monday, our 2nd day of the week. I had to be up before 6:30am to get the kids ready for school. No sleeping in. Benadryl-head in full fog mode. Urk. I made it, but it wasn't pretty. It's 2pm... I'm finally starting to feel functional. Hope I can sleep tonight. At least my throat feels better.

Little Green Thumb

Honor loves our plants. She has studied about plants - seeds, soil, sun, water - at school, and she is always bringing home seedpods that she finds. The school campus has many flowering (and shady!) trees, and the seeds get everywhere. Good hunting for my little nature lover. She brought home 3 seeds a couple of weeks ago. We placed them on a wet papertowel inside of a plastic bag and after a bit, the round seed she had, sprouted. She's very proud of her new 'baby'.

After letting it grow a few more leaves, we planted it in a pot. Honor has also been asking for more plants for her balcony. Each of our rooms has a TINY balcony - 3 feet deep at the most. Barely big enough to stand in, but room for a few pots. Most of our plants did not make it through the summer - that side of the apartment is full sun and they baked. Some were annuals anyway and it was time to switch them out. We went out this weekend and got a trunk load of new plants. I'll have to post some pics later. Brian picked out a couple for his balcony, but while he truly appreciates pretty plants, he isn't much into the work. Honor loves to give the plants 'love' though, and she helped me re-pot and arrange all of our new and old greenery. Nice to have some green again!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Time off

School has been out since last week for the 'Eid holiday. We've been enjoying the time at home - relaxing and just hanging out together. Haven't really gone anywhere, haven't wanted to. We've visited neighbors a bit, but for the most part, we've been lazy and anti-social. I think we've all enjoyed this bit of quiet family time. Brian and Honor have been playing so good together, they've had a few tiffs, but for the most part, they've been having a blast.

Mornings have been filled with playstation wildness, or cartoon marathons. This morning we watched a couple hours of Teen Titans cartoons. I have to admit, I am glad it wasn't Dora! She is great, but only in small doses. And while I like Sponge Bob, Honor had been stuck on the little yellow guy for a bit too long and I am starting to memorize all the episodes. Teen Titans is a great show. Basic good guys vs. bad guys, but with kids, so it isn't too dark. Good animation too. I also like watching the kids watch. They talk about the characters, joke around, etc. It's fun for me to see how they interact... not to mention how cute it is when they gather pillows, blankets and toys to 'nest' in front of the TV together... it's cute, but it is also very cooperative and mature.

Eventually the TV gets a break and they go play. Hide and seek. Pretend games (Brian is not much into make-believe, but he is very patient with his little sister). Legos... lots and lots of legos-mom-can-I-please-leave-it-out-I'm-still-working-on-it legos all over the place. Honor is just now getting good at building random things with the small blocks (vs the Mega bloc and other bigger sized blocks). Brian is enjoying the kits where he has to follow a diagram to create a specific model. Brad enjoys playing too. I'm only handy to have around when the blocks stick together because I have fingernails.

The kids have been playing a bunch of PC games too, which I prefer over PS2. More thought and strategy is involved with the PC games. Honor enjoys phonics and learn to read games. She also likes music games, and whatever her brother is into. Brian likes his webkins, and although he has pretty much mastered "Age of Mythology", and the "Titans" expansion pack, he still enjoys it. He's also been doing pretty good with that addictive "Fantastic Contraption" game. I think though, that his new favorite game is "Rise of Nations". Why do we let them play so much? Never thought we would be so free with computer time, but it is hard to complain about games that get 7 (and 5) year olds talking about Egyptian, Norse and Greek Mythology (and checking out library books on these subjects), and lately, the different 'age's of civilization. Medieval, classical, enlightenment, industrial, etc. as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the technology of certain nations during these periods.

Did you notice the nifty double computer station? This is part of the 'construction' I've been busy with for awhile now. The 'new' desk top computer is actually scavenged bits and parts of old computers. We're still working out the kinks, but it works well enough for the kids. Recycle, reuse! I am gradually trying to get our house in an organized and friendly set-up. I have re-done some things, and am still working on getting to other things.. but.. I am slowly getting there.

Here's the play area behind the couch in the living room. Both kids use it, but it is mostly Honor's space. She likes to 'pretend' and this is a great little play room that is not separate from where the rest of us hang out.
I managed to get the treadmill out of its dark, sad, little corner in the office, and out into the living room. Not very decorative, but I think it looks much happier now. The red carpet stored on it is temporary - I'm still working on getting that into the office.
The office. Well. This is the 'deconstruction' I am working on. If you squint hard and block out all that 'in-progress' junk, picture a sewing machine set up in the nook back there. Cool huh?
Looky! New bookshelves! We got two of them! It sure helps to have storage places when you want to organize something.
I've progressed a bit since these photos were taken. I see light at the end. The office has been an unorganized waste-of-space - even when completely 'straightened up' (as far as it went in its former incarnation) since we moved in. It was not an inviting place to work or play. I hope to make it a part of the family very soon now. Weight bench, trampoline. Floor space for taekwondo practice and other play. I want to move the kids' easel and art stuff in here. Set up my sewing machine(!), etc. We'll see how it goes...

So, how was your weekend and/or break??

Freedom Fur all

Unless they screw up again.

Gotta love our furkids, but it is frustrating when you cannot REASON with them or ask them questions. For some reason, when we went on R&R over the summer - one cat developed litter box issues and started leaving 'presents' around the house. Not urine, thankfully, but still NOT good! Why?! Different litter? Attitude about us leaving? (We've done it before!) They love the people who came by to watch them? Maybe it was a health issue? They are 11+ years old! It continued after we got back. What's up with that??

We can't ask them - they just look back at us and try to lead us to the fridge. Nor does showing them the mess, and taking them to the litter box work. We resorted to jail. Started out with strict confinement to the connected kitchen/bathroom area in the front - sometimes just the bathroom where their box is. Then they got out in the main part of the house with bedrooms closed... going back to confinement as needed. They were definitely confined at night. What a pain. Had to lock both cats up, when we knew it was just the one. Also, we like our doors open, and our kitties WITH us.

We've been working on this for 2 months now, and for the last two weeks, the guilty party has been very good. Yesterday, Honor pleaded for pardoning the cats and letting them stay out at night. We decided to give it a try. When we went to bed, we found Misty waiting in our bed, and Ramses snuggled up with Honor. I woke up with Ramses snuggled under my chin, sharing my pillow and under the blankets, Misty in his typical 'guard the hallway' position.

I sure hope this good behavior lasts... the kids like being 'tucked in' and kitty-guarded as they go to sleep (usually one cat per room), and I like waking up to purrs.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

4 Food Friday

I love recipes. I read cookbooks for fun ... and yet I tease my husband for reading math books for fun... to each their own. A fellow Cairo blogger Wandering the World posted this meme, which is linked to a blog about Fun, Crafts and Recipes - definitely one to bookmark and peruse later!

Here is my play-along with this week's questions:
#1. Turnips. Love em or leave em?
I am a veggie fanatic - except lima beans, which are not technically food - and I like turnips too. Raw or cooked.

#2. What’s your favorite roasted dish?
Roast beef. Pure and simple. Preferably without anything cooked with it. Just good beef, juicy and fairly rare.

#3. Salsa. What kind of salsa do you like?
Chunky, with a bit of kick.

#4. Share directions on how to make your favorite quick meal, meaning start to finish in about 30 minutes or less.
- Take good steak. Show it to a hot grill - Ssss! Sss! on each side. I like it rare, if you want to ruin yours by cooking it longer, you figure out your own time.
- Serve next to baked sweet potato. Microwave 4 minutes, check if soft, but not mushy. Add time in 1 minute intervals. Remove and wrap in tin foil for several more minutes - it continues to cook and comes out great!
- Simple salad. Handful of greens, cucumber, tomato.

Friday, October 3, 2008

New Addiction

A meme, sort of - but I have only one to list. It's SO addictive that I don't have time for any other addictions currently. The whole family has been sucked in. It's my husband's fault, he found it.

Caffienated Cowgirl at Just this side of normal posted her version of this meme. I'm cheating, but I simply do not have enough good ideas to fill out this whole meme requirement, so if you think you have 5 interesting current addictions to blog about, you can find the rules at her blog.

This game should come with a 'May be addictive' warning - the easy levels get you hooked - so you've been warned:

Fantastic Contraption: A fun online physics puzzle game

(yes, that does say physics - you can call this 'educational' to validate the need to play. AND, you don't need access to the APO to get it either! ;-) !)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bavarian Mint

As in Bavarian Mint flavored coffee. What a nice aroma to start off a lazy day off from work and school.

Actually, my day was started with no alarm clock, snoozing in with my hubby, listening to the kids laugh, giggle, and shout out with a collection of Sega arcade playstation2 games we have. They are finally able to play games together. Handling all those buttons on the controllers is not that easy for little ones to master. Honor has gotten the hang of it though and they are having a great time.

Soon, the little gamers got the munchies and ran in to ask permission to get a pop tart snack - PopTarts and PS2 - what kind of parents are we anyway? Laid-back that's what kind, everything in moderation - I told them yes, and to work together. They went in the kitchen to get their snacks, and as they came out, Misty slipped out the door (still confined at night, although this may be ending because he's not had an accident in weeks now). The kids know the cats are supposed to stay in until I get up and check on them, so they tried to herd him back in the kitchen...he is too big for either to pick up.. "No Misty", "Get him!", "He's over by the other door!" Next thing, they come running in to us.. "Mooooom! Misty got out of the kitchen!"... what did they want? To let Ramses out too. Honor even went in and checked and told me that they hadn't made any messes. So I said ok. Next thing I know... two cats are sitting on my chest purring all over me. Guess it meant it really was time to get up. I fed them, got their box emptied, and cleaned up. Then, finally, it was coffee time.

There's nothing like opening the bag of coffee first thing in the morning and smelling the aroma of good coffee... ah! I've read recently, I forget where, that you do not even need to drink coffee in order to get a boost from it, there was some study that said even smelling it has benefit. I believe it, but I'd do it anyway. Mmm!

We order our coffee from "The Flying Bean". I found them several years ago after becoming quite bored and depressed with the local selection, even counting what was available at the commissary. I do not like drinking coffee just to put bitter caffeine in my system. I like GOOD coffee. Fresh coffee. Coffee that doesn't not have aftertastes of charcoal, or rancid vinegar. If that is all that is available, I'd rather have tea, or water!

"The Flying Bean" website offers nice sampler packs, then, after you try some of their coffees and get a feel for what they have, you can go to their Coffee Selector, which is a handy graph, sorting the various coffees (by name, linked to the product page) according to light/medium or dark roast and light/medium/full body. If you like one variety, you may want to try another in that same graph box.

Also, once you click on a particular coffee, they have more helpful descriptions for each variety. For example, we really like the Flying Bean Satin - a surprise to me, because it is a full-body, dark roast. I usually do NOT like dark roast coffee, at all. They pull it off without any of that nasty burnt, charcoal-dust, taste! It's rich and very smooth. If you click on the link (above), you see that it brings you to a page with a solid description of the coffee "A dark cup of coffee with a smooth, bright taste. A blend of African, Indonesian, Central and South American coffees.", and a flavor profile chart that includes a rating of acidity, body, and aroma (their definition of terms also available). If you like a coffee with a particular flavor profile - you might enjoy another one with a similar profile.

To get the Bavarian Mint, you have to go to their flavored coffee page. Be prepared to spend some time browsing! They have everything from Almond Nut Creme to White Russian Coffee. We love all of their chocolate flavors. Kahlua Fudge, Chocolate Cherry, Peppermint, Gaelic Grogg...

Most coffees appear to be available in caf and decaf, and you can get whole beans, or one of 5 grinds. The coffee comes in good vacuum bags. I ordered whole beans once, but there is not need. The ground coffee stays very fresh.

Our orders are always filled and shipped fast. They ship to APO addresses (yay!) and their website is set up to take foreign orders, too. Never had any experience with that though I am sure you could email them and ask - this is a small company and you get fast and very friendly replies. I'm using their logo to share this resource, with their permission. They also sell tea (haven't tried it yet) as well as gift boxes and equipment and supplies. We been very satisfied with every order we've placed, and will likely to continue purchasing our coffee from them, even after we return to the land of coffee shops on every corner.