Saturday, May 31, 2008

Girl time



My friends and I finally found a nice nail salon locally. Beautiful place. All pink, white, silver and glass/crystal. Very clean, no smoking(!), modern, and the women who work there are wonderful - very professional, and very friendly too. I went with a couple of my friends a couple of weeks ago, and Honor was a bit jealous. They advertise a 'Princess' manicure for girls, so this weekend, one of my friends and I took Honor and my friend's daughter to the salon for a mommy-daughter playdate. I wish I'd remembered to bring the camera. Honor and her friend adored the special treatment. Maybe another time. It's amazing how magic a little bit of pink polish can be.

Friday, May 30, 2008

6 Random Things about me: Cairo edition

I've been tagged by Earth to Danie. She was tagged by a friend in the Netherlands, so she did this meme as an Indian version. I'll follow up with Egyptian style, and spread the word that this is a 'tag, you're it' with local flavor, please.

1) My friend and I took our daughters to a very nice salon for manicures today; the Egypt moment was maneuvering our SUV to park on one side of a tiny intersection, as a couple of kids parked their donkey cart on the other - about 15 feet away. You never know what to expect in traffic.

2) I am so spoiled with delivery everything. Pharmacy, wine, flowers, food, etc. Our kids will be shocked when we get home and find out McD's doesn't deliver in the US.

3) I don't like much of the food here. There's no spice! But I love the fresh baladi bread, and it's easy to find awesome coffees and teas just about anywhere.

4) The 'famous', ancient Egyptian artifacts and other touristy spots are cool, but I enjoy people watching, normal town scenes, and observing every day life even more. I've probably taken more photos out the car window, than at the sites.

5) I hate to shop - very tough condition to have in a place where everyone wants you to buy something.

6) I am an odd one out. Everyone is complaining about the weather getting hotter as summer approaches. I like the hot weather. Wish we had rain though.

The end.

Here are the rules: Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Write six random things about yourself. Tag six people at the end of your post linking to their blog. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

And, although I hardly know anyone yet who blogs(!), I will pass this along to Lloyd, Cairo Mama (now in Seoul), and my super-blogging sister-in-law.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

From the mouths of babes...

I decided to make some simple fudge yesterday - from a recipe on the back of a marshmallow bag - and as I was stirring the sugar and milk on the stove, Brian came in to see what I was up to. He asked what I was making, and wasn't sure what to think about 'fudge' - not sure if he's ever had it. He saw the marshmallows and asked if I was going to use them. I said yes, but maybe he ought to try one to make sure they were ok. He said thanks, and took one. He was quiet a moment, so I asked if it was ok. He said, "I don't think the sample taken was sufficient for me to form an opinion, I need to take another and redo the experiment." So... I said, ok, and perhaps you ought to take one to your sister for a second opinion as well.

The fudge turned out well - I used coconut instead of nuts; rich and yummy.

I think Brian's reading and absorbing of goodness knows what next vocabulary is going well too.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The brooming

While Brian did his homework yesterday, Honor was my helper. I was working on cleaning up the front bathroom, and she wanted to do the kitchen floor. So, I got her a mop and mop bucket. I was just going to give her some hot water, but she looked at it and asked, "But where's the bubble bath?" She ran off and got the pine-sol and I added some to the water. I turned her loose, and went back to my work. She came back a bit later and said, "Ok! I'm done. I did the mopping, the brooming, and that other thing with the yellow thing. Come see!" (The yellow thing was the dust mop.) Apparently this was the order in which she did the work too. Kind of unorthodox, but it got the floor cleaned, and probably the dustmop too :-D

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blue Belt!

Brian took his Blue Belt test in Taekwondo Thursday afternoon. He's been practicing very hard and it really showed. He passed his test easily!

Here's a slideshow of photos from his test:

A movie of his 3rd poomse - a series of movements he has to master for this belt:

The sparring section of his test:
video
and the breaking of the boards. One kick (which I mostly missed), one punch, and one ?knife-hand? strike:
video

Dolphin Day

Honor's class has been studying water, bodies of water, water animals, and properties of water, like whether objects sink or float. Or, do fish breathe under water, or have to come up for air.. is there air in water? To wrap things up, they had a field trip to go see a 'real live' dolphin show... oh yea... going on a field trip!

Hello Dolphin!!

More photos:

And a movie, the music was loud, the show was in Arabic so we never knew what the jokes were about, but it was a nice show. The animals looked happy and well-cared for. Here's a little clip:

video

... ta-daaa!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cool quiz - great result!

I love to play on-line quizzes and this was passed on by a friend in a group I'm in:

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid




You're Egypt!

Curator of ancient mystical secrets, your life on the surface is fairly typical these days. Though you are in denial about more things than most people. Nevertheless, you're trying to convince people that you're safe despite your more volatile and unstable times that seem to be behind you. You like cats a whole lot. You'd probably really appreciate The Blue Pyramid.

I took the "Country Quiz II" and this was my other country personality:




You're Finland!

Refined, sophisticated, and yet sometimes suicidal, you are widely admired. You've spent a lot of time playing second-fiddle, but it turns out you can carry quite a tune on your own. While you were once quite brutish, you are now highly enlightened and an advocate for tranquility. Your favorite city reminds most people of a morality play. You have excellent taste in websites.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tag the Expat

I found this on a blog "Earth to Danie" and decided to play. Cairo Mama, tag, you're it!

5) Name five things you love in your new country:

- The people are very friendly. Genuine 'proud hosts' - look past the 'grab the tourist dollar' attitude some have, and you can still see the real warmth and welcome.
- The overall atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back
- There is always something interesting to see
- The kids' school is wonderful
- Everyone delivers everything! Whenever, whatever, you want it.

4) Name four things that you miss from your native country:

- Good food - oh for some actual SPICE!
- Traffic laws
- Green lawns to walk barefoot in and CLEAN, fresh air to breathe.
- Quiet

3) Name three things that annoy you a bit (or much) in your new country:

- The people can be possessive and too friendly (There's even a T-shirt, "Go away, I only came to see the Pyramids"). Friendliness is ok, most of the time; but I have missed so much of tour guide presentations because locals want to talk to me, or pick up my kids, or whatever.
- Stop honking your horns!
- Stop littering. If people would stop tossing trash on the ground, the clean-up workers might actually stand a chance of catching up with it all. Imagine...

2)Name two things that surprise you (or have surprised you in the beginning) in your new country:

- How green it is for a desert city.
- How amazingly cosmopolitan it is, and how wide a variety of people live here.

1) Name one thing that you would terribly miss in your new country, if you had to leave it.

- The people.

Family silliness...at night!

I am not sure why we have so much fun with this, but Honor has really gotten a lot of mileage out of the line "...at night!", from one of our favorite Spongebob Square Pants episodes, "Graveyard Shift". Good mileage - not driving us crazy mileage. I have to say, when the Spongebob series first came out, I was determined to hate the show, but it has proven impossible. It looks stupid, but it tends to be very clever - and sweet. This particular episode managed to include Nosferatu - yes, THE Nosferatu from the classic '20's silent film - as a silly prankster.

Here is the bit where Honor got her line, from the beginning of the episode when Squidward and Spongebob have first been placed on night shift... and yes, she uses the line like this, quite effectively too - just when we least expect it:
  • Squidward: (customer walks up to counter; Squidward hands him a baseball bat) Here. Please hit me as hard as you can.
  • Spongebob: Psst, Squidward. I'm working in the kitchen (laughs) at night.
  • Squidward: (takes hat off; leans head on counter) Don't hold back.
  • Spongebob: (cuts to Spongebob in kitchen) Hey Squidward. Guess what, I'm chopping lettuce..at night. (cuts to Spongebob in the bathroom wiping it clean with himself) Look at me, I'm swabbing the bathroom...at night. (cuts to Spongebob at the grill picking up spatula, misses the spatula and hits the grill; screams) I BURNED MY HAND...at night. (cuts to Spongebob walking on the counter) Night, night, night, night, night, night, night, night, night, night, night. night, na-na-na-na-night! NIGHT!
  • Squidward: WILL YOU PLEASE!? Here, (hands Spongebob a bag of garbage) give me a moment's peace and take out the trash.
  • Spongebob: Allllllll right! (takes bag from Squidward) Taking out the trash. Taking out the trash...at night. (stops at the door) You mean outside?
  • Squidward: That's where the dumpster is, yes.
  • Spongebob: I don't know, Squidward, (leans face against window) it's kinda dark out there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Playin' hooky


From mayplay

Actually, the kids had a half-day at school on Sunday, so when I went to pick them up, I brought swimming gear and had our driver drop us off at the club rather than bring us home. We swam for a good hour or so, had a relaxing lunch, then hit the pool for another hour swim. I called it quits when I noticed that noses were getting pink from the sun! We walked home and had a quiet afternoon and evening of naps, homework, baths (to get rid of all the chlorine and playground sand!) and tacos for dinner.
Here are more photos, some by Brian:

"Year of the Reader"


"Year of the Reader" is the slogan for the kids' school this year, and they are taking it to heart. They both love books - either reading, just looking at them, or being read to. I grabbed these shots while we were getting ready for school Sunday morning. They were waiting for breakfast, so Brian read some of his library book to Honor. Because of his fixation with the "Age of Mythology" game, Brian has been checking out books on Greek Myths and mythological beasts, etc. ... who says computer games aren't educational??

Weekend with the girls

My friends and I have finally found a lovely nail salon! Several times last year we made appointments and tried to get a pampering session in at different locations here in Maadi, and we had no luck whatsoever. One woman who came to us, was too annoying to our hosts - asked about getting things from the commissary, brought her son along (which would have been ok, had he been behaved or had she kept him in line), etc. That was a pain. The places we visited were either never open when they said they'd be, or were completely scummy. We made appointments at one place, but they overbooked, had too few technicians.. and the place was nasty. Grey, crowded, dingy - TV was on too loud. The women were smoking. It was like a bar. We left. We had about given up hope and had determined that our next try would be downtown at one of the nice hotels - although that was disappointing. Not only is the commute a waste of our time, we really want to support a local business. We live in Maadi, not downtown.

Anyway, the place we went to this Friday belongs to the mother of one of Honor's classmates and she invited us to try it out. What a difference! This place was bright, CLEAN, professional. They actually kept our appointment. The ladies were all very, very sweet and friendly - two we recognized from the scummy, smokey place - looks like they were looking for a good salon too! It was nicely decorated in white, pink, and crystal - very girly. They offered tea, and wonderful cappaccinos. And the prices were very reasonable too. They also have 'Princess' manicures (polish, no clipping) for little girls. As soon as Honor saw the pretty pink flyer for the business, she asked to go too. Maybe next time. It was nice to be spoiled!

Saturday, I decided to treat my hair. It was feeling very harsh and dry - probably too much pool water, but it could just be the dry air and the tap water - or a combo of it all. I find that putting a temporary hair dye in my hair is like a deep conditioner. It doesn't have peroxide to dry it, and the color seems to plump up the hair. It's fun to play with the colors too. They last a good month or two - not sure how they hold up with frequent swimming! Every 3-4 months or so, I use one and it always makes my hair feel soft again. Honor came in as I was trying to decide between two colors, and she wanted to help. She chose the color, then, armed with her own set of gloves, she helped me apply the color (told you I was a brave mom!). She did so good, listened and followed my instructions very well, that I let her have a streak of red in her hair. We only left it in a few minutes, so it was really only a streak of very pale pink! Maybe next time I'll let her have a bit deeper color - leave it in longer - as this wasn't as much of a prize. But, with her newly polished nails (yes, after my manicure, I had to do one for her!) and with her pinkish bit of hair, she was feeling very much the 'big girl' this weekend. She paid me back with lots of attention and good help too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Concert

Brian has had music class this year and to wrap things up, they held a concert. The entire 2nd grade participated with singing, instruments, and a bit of dancing. Brian had two parts. One was playing an instrument in a Japanese folksong called "Deta Deta" - poor kid looked so bored and tired! This concert was after 7pm after a long day. The music sounded great though. His second part was a line in a little song called "Busy (Round About)" which was based on poetry by A. A. Milne.

Dressed up and ready to go. Brian chose his outfit by matching a nice polo shirt to his pants and belt. Honor chose her outfit to match her flower-tiara. Walking to the theatre. The kids were holding hands and I thought it was sweet.
Outside of the theatre.
Brian was taking pictures before the concert.
Brian playing his part in Deta Deta.
Singing in the chorus.
Here is a movie of the Deta Deta song:

video
and another one of the Busy (Round About):


video

Antioxidants

A USDA study analyzed the antioxidant content of commonly consumed foods. Researchers tested over 100 foods. Here is a ranked list of the top 20 fruits, vegetables and nuts:
  1. Small red bean (dried), 1/2 cup
  2. Wild blueberry, 1 cup
  3. Red kidney bean (dried), 1/2 cup[br[
  4. Pinto bean, 1/2 cup
  5. Blueberry (cultivated), 1 cup
  6. Cranberry, 1 cup (whole)
  7. Artichoke (cooked hearts), 1 cup
  8. Blackberry, 1 cup
  9. Prune, 1/2 cup
  10. Raspberry, 1 cup
  11. Strawberry, 1 cup
  12. Red delicious apple, 1
  13. Granny Smith apple, 1
  14. Pecan, 1 ounce
  15. Sweet cherry, 1 cup
  16. Black plum, 1
  17. Russet potato, 1 cooked
  18. Black bean (dried), 1/2 cup
  19. Plum, 1
  20. Gala apple, 1

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I had a very lovely Mother's Day! I was very tired by Sunday evening, and yesterday too... I've been fighting a sniffley nose and not sleeping well... so these are a bit after the fact, but I'm sharing them anyway because I had a very sweet 'special' day.

Brian has been celebrating Mother's Day (week) by bringing me presents from school as he makes them. He gave me a lovely calendar that he made in computer class, as well as a set of Mom's notes and a sweet card. Brian isn't actually done celebrating yet, he's still in process of making me another surprise - I'm not allowed to peek.

Brad brought me home a lovely bouquet of pink gladiolas, with peach and white roses - they're beautiful! Thank you sweetie!! He also got a second, small bouquet of roses and mums for Honor - she loves getting flowers as much as I do.

Honor's class put on a special concert and tea time for all the moms. The preschoolers worked hard to keep the preparations secret - but it was tough not to tell! Finally, the big day arrived and they could show us everything they'd been working on. Honor's class gathers to sing songs for us: There was singing and dancing.
All the moms got hugs, pretty cards, and a lovely golden handprint plaque.
After tea, cupcakes (baked by the children in class) and the goodbye song, we went out to the playground to wait for our driver to come get us. Honor loves to play in the sand. Her shoes are typically filled with sand when she gets home. Dumping them out in the kitchen trash can is part of our daily routine. It's a wonder there's any sand left in the playground.
She made a hand in the sand - she told me not to peek, but I snuck a picture.
Everybody on the monkey bars!
This is a new skill for Honor and she has been getting blisters from practicing. She refuses to quit and let her hands heal!
Nope, she swings, falls, and gets up to go again.
Too much fun! :-)
Tonight we go to a concert with Brian's class. He's singing a part and playing an instrument. We can't wait to go!

I wasn't kidding...

You know, all the times that I complain about the noise here in Cairo? I'm really not making it up: News Article. Next time you find yourself, say, standing out in your front lawn as the sun sets, and all you can hear are crickets, a single car off in the distance, kids playing a block or two away... think of this article and enjoy the quiet!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Evening out to play

We went to the club for swimming and dinner the other night and had a great evening. When we first arrived at the pool, it was at adult swim time, 15 minutes to the hour. Brad went in for some laps, and the kids provided a cheering section on the side of the pool.


Honor couldn't wait to get wet.
Who's silly?
Brian gets geared up and ready to go. btw, his smile changes a little day to day - his top teeth are loose!


Finally! Time to get wet.
We were joined by some friends, and we pretty much had the pool to ourselves.
After swimming was dinner. We sat out by the playground. Our friends stayed too, but wanted to sit inside - they've got a little one. We were all wet, so had to go our separate ways - probably saner anyway, considering that this was a late dinner with six tired and wound up kids! The kids got to play together while we waited for our food though.

Honor wants money to pay - the waiter gave her the check, and when she said she had no money, he took her shoes as payment! Dad gives her some cash to pay for dinner...
...and buy back her shoes!

Preschool conspiracy


I pick Honor up from school in the afternoons and often the kids will be having their snacks in the lunchroom. For awhile now, the kids have been conspiring to hide Honor when I come, and I play along. I might ask where she is? And the kids will tell me different places, and why (She went to America to see her grandma!). I sometimes pretend that I think another child is Honor and ask them to pack up their lunch box so we can go. Sometimes I get an invisible Honor and pretend to take an invisible girl home. Other times I will just who wants to go home with me since Honor isn't there. (I always get a couple of volunteers!) Eventually Honor will pop out and say "Here I am!" Thursday, I just happened to bring the camera and so when I came in and didn't see Honor at the table - "She's not here!", said the kids - I asked them, what will happen if I take a picture under the table? I clicked a photo without looking, showed the kids, and asked what they saw:

Most kids said, Honor's under the table! One kid said, Honor's in the camera! Honor popped out and said, "Can I see?" I won again!! ;-D

Friday, May 9, 2008

Day at school with Brian



Thursday was a day with Brian. His class has been studying about the local community and they have been doing some map exercises and walk-abouts around the school. I went in to chaperone another one of the neighborhood walks in the morning - I also went on one with them last week, and brought Brad along too, although he hadn't been planning on going. He had the day off though, and he enjoyed participating too. It's a good exercise that has the kids following a simple street map, and filling in symbols of what they see on the route: Villas, apartments, shops, mosques, etc. They are also tasked to notice things dealing with economy, ecology, language, culture, change, etc. My group was to focus on man-made changes, natural changes, and signs of rules in the community. I enjoyed walking around with Brian and his classmates again. Second grade is an interesting age - the kids are still 'little', but they are working towards being 'big kids'.
I went home for about 30 minutes after that walk, and had lunch. Then went back to the school to Brian's class to help with the second event for the day. They were supposed to be going to the nearby school for orphans to make beaded necklaces for their end of year fund raiser, but exams caused the trip to be canceled. Instead, we stayed at the school and made the necklaces in the classrooms. I enjoyed spending all this time with Brian.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pizza! (aka, clean out the fridge dinner)



Honor came home from school asking for pizza yesterday, but I told her no because we planned on going to the club for swimming and dinner tonight. We won't buy dinner two nights in a row. But I did agree that we could make pizza. While she napped, I made up some pizza dough. A double batch for 2 types of pizza... and because we like enough pizza for leftovers. I dug into the veggie crisper to see what needed to be used up. LOTS of tomatoes. Into the blender with you! Tomatoes, a little onion, oregano, and garlic. Looked like pizza sauce to me after a moment or two on 'puree'.

Honor woke up about the time I was pre-baking the crusts so they wouldn't be soggy. Brian wasn't interested in helping. He was tired. After he finished his homework, he plopped into a comfy chair with his Webkinz pal for awhile. Eventually he got up a bit of energy, but made it only a few feet and collapsed on the couch with a book. So, it was just Honor and me to fix the pizzas.

One pizza started with leftover BBQ ribs and sauce. Not much meat, but the sauce was nice, with yellow peppers, onion, and mushroom. Honor added some bits of pineapple, leftover chicken, and olives as well. The other pizza had the tomato sauce, the chicken, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, pineapple. Oh, and lots of cheese on both. We baked it, and pulled it out of the oven just as Brad came home from work. Tasty!