Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Contentment is a cat

who has his favorite little girl home from school...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blast from the past - meme

My sister-in-law at Smiles and Trials is sharing this meme, so, where were you? Consider yourself tagged, just for stopping by!

15 years ago - Sep 1993 - One year married to the best guy on earth. Newly moved to Virginia - altho hubby was in England at the time... gotta love dual military life...this was but one of many separations during the first part of our marriage, but we knew we would face that and took it in stride. I was driving an ugly old land barge and discovered it was the perfect vehicle for DC. Never parked in. Didn't even have to look when merging, etc. Hmm? I don't have many photos back from then - wedding photos aren't digitized, no September photo - but here's one from the Halloween the year before. :-)

10 years ago - Sep 1998 - A few months before we left the military for good. Big life change for both of us, but it was time. Mom had heart surgery during which she suffered a massive stroke that left her in a near vegetative state. We moved to SC, with our two cats, to help Dad care for her. Over the next year, with tons of therapy, mom regained her ability to eat, speak, walk, etc. Her short-term memory was gone, and she still had difficulties with her health, but she was not confined to a home, and managed to outlive my father, her husband of 37 years, and continued to live comfortably for the next 10 years. No good digital photo from this time, so I'll dig into the past even further:

5 years ago - Sep 2003 - Mom to two wonderful little kids, we lived in the DC area again in a family-friendly neighborhood, near a nice lake. My father was to make his last visit to our home in order to see his new grand-daughter, little did we know, he would contract a fast moving lung-cancer and leave us before another year passed. I miss you Dad - hope you're keeping up with my blog!

3 years ago - Sep 2005 - Now in Cairo, almost one year, and gone native. Well, not really. But we had already decided that we really like it here. My babies aren't babies anymore.

1 year ago - Sep 2007 - The kids were one month into their first school year at the new school. They really loved it, and still do. It will be so hard to move away from this school. I quit work in the middle of this year to be a stay-at-home mom... huge challenge for me, but I can tell it was the right thing to do.

Today - Sep 29, 2008 - Kids are in school right now, and I am having a second cup of coffee. I'm tired from dealing with nightmares last night, and am thinking about how to stretch leftovers into dinner tonight. The family was hungry yesterday and my dinner plans for today were eaten.

Tomorrow - Sep 30, 2008 - Will be the start of the week-long 'Eid break from school. It was supposed to be one more day, but as this is based on the sighting of the moon, the schedule has changed. The month of Ramadan is drawing to a close, and Egyptians are preparing for the 'Eid. Brad has some days off, but will also be working some. We plan on hanging around the house and being lazy. I think we'll be getting together with neighbors tomorrow evening to make some Halloween crafts for a party.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


The sound a kid makes on the floor in the hallway when goofing off goes wrong.

How many times should I have to tell otherwise very bright little kids NOT to grab legs out from under people?? I dunno. Doesn't it make sense?

It was Honor who splatted - she smacked hard, but was not hurt. Scared both kids (GOOD!). She might have a bruise on her knee.

Lately, both have been very irresponsible about bedtime rituals. We've had a lot of picking and pushing and playing and wrestling.. which is, I admit, typical, good natured kid stuff. They really do love each other and play well, but two problems with this. One is, it is bed time. Teeth and hair must be brushed. PJ's on. Beds made ready. etc. Especially if they want time for a book. The second problem is that tired kids rough-housing in a confined area, like the hall and the bathroom which are NOT soft locations, is never a good idea. But tired little kids do not always listen to logic.

They both also know about grabbing feet or legs. Yet, this very afternoon, Honor nearly tripped me by grabbing my ankle as I walked by her door. Then, for some reason, after dinner, she and Brian got after each other and Brian grabbed her foot and she went down hard. I was on the other end of the apartment washing dishes and heard her hit the floor. Brian ran to the freezer and got the ice pack, but as I got to Honor, she was laying there screaming and I saw a white bit on the floor - I knew it had to be a bit of candy she'd been chewing on... but you know that I had to check all of her teeth. Her teeth were fine. It was candy. Took a while for my heart to chill out though.

I took the opportunity - all three of us sitting on the floor in the hall by the bathroom - to talk. I had them smack their hand on the floor, I asked them to then smack the marble entry to the bathroom, and I pointed to the edges of the doorjamb, sink edge, and doorway to the shower and asked them to think about how hard those objects were. I felt bad scaring them like that... but I really do not like the thought of teeth busted out, or the thought of having to run out to the hospital for stitches at bed time. Honor had a bit of pain to make her think. I could tell Brian was scared about his little sister. I think they actually listened this time ... we'll see...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Porcupine balls

Porcupine Meatballs that is.

I had some tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. And zucchini. No idea what to do with either. So I thought of rice. No inspiration. So, I wandered off thinking of meatballs. Yes, this is how my brain works.. random thoughts flying around until they land, flutter a bit, and settle in to preen, nest, and lay eggs. Eventually I thought of combining the rice, meatball, and eggs into that old home economics classic: porcupine meatballs. But, most recipes call for frying or other stove top method. meh... I've fried recently and don't enjoy the process.

I decided to bake, oven preheated to 350F. mix the following:
1 lb ground beef
1 cup rice
3 eggs
diced onion
mystery leafy things obtained from the Veg Box (pretty sure it was celery sprouts), diced
Form into meatballs and place in baking dish.

Diced up 8-9 fresh tomatoes into a saucepan. I probably could have blanched and peeled them first, but am against going through all that effort to throw the skin away - don't they say that there are a lot of nutrients lost that way in many foods? I suppose it would make the sauce 'prettier', but it tastes fine with the skins.

I heated the tomatoes with a bit of sugar, few tablespoons of BBQ sauce, and a couple teaspoons of molasses. A bit of salt and pepper too as the tomatoes were a little bland this week. I added a couple cloves of diced garlic, and a red bell pepper - just because it was sitting in the crisper looking bored. Cooked the tomatoes until they were mush. Maybe 15 minutes. Add a few dried herbs - a bit of basil and oregano.

I poured the sauce over the raw meatballs, and baked for one hour. Don't you just love how you can cook just about anything in the oven at 350F for one hour and get good results? It's a magic combination.

So. Zucchini. This is a vegetable my kids do not like. I think I've tried it every way except bread and they refuse it eat it. They're good for trying veg too. I am that mom you heard in the grocery store saying "Don't eat the broccoli! It's NOT washed yet!" Seriously. They will even ask for asparagus. But zucchini - no. My husband and I like it though, so I keep trying. Feeling starchy, I chopped the zucchini into little bites, and mixed it up with a corn bread mix, a can of corn, a couple teaspoons of sourcream, and a couple handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese. By then, there was 40 minutes left for the meatballs. I added the zucchini casserole to the oven. 40 minutes at 350F works darn good for non-meat dishes... another magic combo.

Brad and I think both dishes turned out great. The kids were not as impressed. I think Brian was biased against the meatballs because the rice made them fairly solid, not hard, but they didn't crumble at a touch - and he has two verrrry loose teeth! He liked the zucchini ok though. Honor was thumbs down to both. Today, when offered leftovers, she begged for chicken soup... (there's a creamy chicken chowder with potatoes, chicken chunks, carrots, etc. in a can that she enjoys) ... ok, more of the good stuff for us!

Monday, September 22, 2008

International Day of Peace

September 21st is the International Day of Peace. Did you celebrate? It's ok if you forgot... it can (and should) be made up every day :-)

The kids at the school, elementary through high school, have been working on, and discussing, peace projects and topics for a while now. The school held an assembly with a moment of silence and statements about what the children thought of peace. The school also sang their peace song - it was very beautiful. Unfortunately, my battery didn't make it that far into the assembly, but the school website has photos and a recording of children singing the "CAC Peace Song".

Here are some photos I managed to catch:

Beautiful art by the students...
Honor and her class lining up for assembly
Brian and his class arrive
The whole school gathered together

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's the date for harvest, and the harvest is dates

We live in a city, in a hot climate, in a desert. We do not see much change in temperature - it is 88F at 9:30 am right now - and we do not see the leaves change color, or birds fly south. Oh, there is a bird migration, but we don't really notice it here. And there might be some trees that go dormant - there are TONS of trees! But Spring turns to Summer turns to Autumn, and it's hard to tell. A friend mentioned the coming of Mabon and I was surprised to have the season sneak up like that. I guess I have noticed that the availability of certain fresh fruits and vegetables has been changing, but wow.. here we are nearly at the end of September already!

Last week, in the spirit of the season of harvest... although the spirit was celebrated 'coincidentally'... I was able to go on an Egyptian culture field trip with my daughter's class to visit local farm land. The teacher had been telling them of planting, irrigation, harvesting, etc. This field trip was to allow to experience these ideas in real life. The children were also encouraged to watch from the bus as we drove out of the city and through the villages in order to catch a glimpse of the rural Egyptian life they've also been learning about. I believe the bus ride was more interesting than the farm visit - although that was very nice too.

Here is a (rather long) collection of photos from our outing. Amazingly, many of these were taken through the window from the back of a BOUNCING bus, on a humid hazy day, and they turned out pretty darn good considering(!). Hope you enjoy:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kitty crack.. I mean, kibble

Well, no wonder I couldn't remember the name of that new food the cats like so much. It's "Purina One Special Care Advanced Nutrition Hairball Formula for Cats, chicken flavored, formulated with yogurt". So much easier to say "the hairball stuff in the blue bag". Well, they love it, and it seems to be much better on their sensitive tummies, so I think that I will love it too (although it smells icky... but I am not a cat). They BEG for it... the great thing about the video I posted previously is we have had Ramses over 11 years now, and have never seen him PUSH Misty out of the way for cat cereal! He'll assert himself for can food, people food, treats, and attention, but not cereal. Not until we finally found the good stuff.

Party time

Honor was invited to a classmate's birthday party and she had a lovely time out. One great thing about living in Cairo, is the availability of awesome entertainment! Honor's friend had a beautiful and very special party... the entertainers made sure that all of the kids had a great time, but they never lost track of the birthday girl. It was definitely HER day. It was a great party theme for this age group too. Old enough to enjoy the stories and goofing around with the mime (not scared of strange people in costumes and make-up, etc.), but still young enough to believe in the magic of having a 'real Princess' come to the party. The kids had to have face paint, of course...
And Honor met a mischievous mime!
He teased the kids and chased them around.
Fortunately, a gladiator showed up to take control.
and then the Princess came, and she told the mime that he had to behave.
There was plenty of dancing, of course...
and the Princess told the children a beautiful fairy tale.
After the story, and more dancing, there was a heroic puppet show.
Followed by dress-up, goodies, and cake. In between everything, kids ran around and played and had a lot of fun together. I enjoyed talking with other parents as well.
I have to recommend the company that performed, they did a great job from what I could tell (I wasn't the one who hired them, so I do not have any details at all - just what I saw). Honor had a wonderful time, as a guest, I am sure the birthday girl was even more thrilled by the experience. The company gave us a flyer describing 4 party themes, "Mermaid Princess", "Warrior Prince", "Royal Princess Party" and "Fairy Princess Party", their number is: Theatre Fun, 25 16 4782 (Maadi), or 012-218-4793.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How good?

So how good is this new cat food? Is it finger-lickin' good, just like the Colonel's secret recipe? That might be good for cats, right?

No, it's better than that! It's "shove your beloved brother's face out of the bowl so you can get more" good:

... and no, I can't think of the brand name right now. We threw the bag away! We bought it for the smaller sized kibble as our cats are elderly and Ramses hasn't many teeth left. I am sure we'll be able to find it when shopping tomorrow. I think it is Iams adult formula, but I could be totally wrong. Whatever it is, it's absolutely addictive to our felines!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Antisocial rice

If you are on a low-carb diet, you need to go away now. That's right. Just back up, turn around, and keep going. I'll wait. See you tomorrow, ok? No hard feelings, just trying to take care of you.

For those who have stuck around, signed their health waivers, etc. I'll continue.

In Egypt, the local, baladi, bread is also called 'Ayesh, which means 'life'. Which, I can agree with. Bread is a staple of life. I love bread. However, this isn't about bread. I think the ancient Egyptians only gave bread the alias of 'life' because it must have been invented before koshari. Koshari is an amazing one-dish meal. It is solid. Hearty. It can hop off your plate, go plow the fields, wash the clothes, repair your car, and raise your kids for you. It definitely would have earned the nickname 'life' if that name hadn't already been used. When it was first described to me, I was blown away. It sounded... BIG, FULL, unreal. And it is. But it is also incredibly basic and simple. And addictive.

I do not eat high-starch meals. I love breads and pastas, but to me, a meal is "Meat, veg, starch". I go for 'balanced'. I'm not a believer in all-protein or other extreme diets either. If it works for others, then good. But I can't imagine living that way. I only have koshari rarely, but I really like it when I do. It had been awhile since my last meal of it, so, I decided to try and make some last night.

It started with eggplant. I know. There is no eggplant in koshari, but I had one, and decided to make babghanoush. A baked eggplant, mooshed up with a yogurt or tehina sauce, as a bread dip. Yummy, but not a meal. I also had a cauliflower. Kids didn't like it plain, so I thought I might fry this one in a very light batter. I hardly EVER fry foods - not healthy, very messy, I hate the process - but every so often I'll try something like this. Still not koshari though.

I also decided we needed meat. Figured I didn't want to cook that too, so I went on line and OTLOB'ed a small mixed grill selection.

Ok, the koshari. Basically. Koshari is lentils, rice, pasta - mix it together, scoop tomato sauce on top, add fried onions on top of that, serve. Yep. That's it. A pile of starch on starch. With beans. Tomato sauce. And oil. And onions. Mmmm!

I had some sort of mystery local brown, dry beans. No lentils. I cooked them (one cup) forever, and they turned out nice. A little harder than my kids liked, but I thought they were good. Very rich and nutty in flavor. The recipe I had seen for this type of bean did not suggest soaking. I think I will try soaking next time. Or maybe use actual lentils. I also cooked a cup of very small macaroni pasta, and one cup of white rice. All separately.

In a big pot, I sliced up two onions, several cloves of garlic, and then fried them to a nice golden-brown in a couple tablespoons of oil. I removed the onions and garlic to a paper towel, and kept the flavored oil. I dumped the rice, pasta and drained beans into the oil, stirred, and cooked it all for a few moments more. I used a plain, local tomato sauce with a little salt and pepper. The whole concoction is served with tomato sauce on top, onions/garlic over that, if you like. Some people add chili sauce as well. I'm the only one who'd like it in my house, so I left out the chili. Chickpeas also make a nice topper to the dish.

The kids weren't completely happy with the beans, but loved the rest. Ok, I know how to work with that. What I didn't like was the consistency of the rice. It was, how do I say this?? Too sticky. That seems like such a bad thing to say. To me, rice should be sticky. It is supposed to be a social animal, piling into happy little hugging piles of friendly rice buddies - snuggling up to your veggies, cuddling the meat, etc. Not flopped over, lifeless and inert, individual, antisocial, paralyzed little rice bodies that tumble freely over one another without a single attempt at grasping hands or holding on to anything. That's just so sad... and terribly wrong...

But, apparently, to make fluffy koshari, I need less sticky rice. I need the rice, pasta and beans to mingle, not gather in tight-knit communities. So, how do you make non-sticky white rice?? My mom used to make non-sticky rice... but she used (shudder) boil-in-bag instant rice. It had no flavor and I hated it. I make white rice by boiling 2 parts water, add one part rice, a bit of olive oil or butter, cover (no peeking at all!), and simmer for 20 minutes. Simple, perfect, sticky rice. Every time. I cook a lot. I experiment with nearly everything. BUT, I've never thought to alter this basic recipe. Why mess with a good thing?

Any ideas? Less water? More peeking? Stir? It's not like I plan to make koshari a lot. It's good, but HEAVY. But I'd like to make it with the proper consistency next time.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Made it...

Well, I got through yesterday. Was it only yesterday?? Wow. Headaches make for a long day. I'm doing better today. I think it is sinus related. I don't feel ill, but my nose isn't behaving. The air was nasty and hot this weekend and I'm sure that's what happened to my head. That, and we're all still recovering from a head cold that was going around, arm-in-arm with a mild fever, the week before. Yesterday gave me one of those lovely 'compressed brain' sinus aches. At least it eased up for the most of the afternoon and evening.

Quieter day today. I had to get Honor to the clinic for a her last two immunizations for school. She was so brave, she sat still, and held her arm relaxed. I always tell the kids to pretend their arm is asleep - they do, and having the muscles 'sleep' really makes the needle hurt less. She only cried a little, in her words, 'only two tears'. She got the typhoid shot though, and that is not a nice one...it makes your whole arm hurt, and she has such a skinny little arm! Poor baby. At dinner she had to ask me to move her drink to the other side of her plate because she didn't want to move.

After dinner, I attended a meeting of moms. We have so many new kids in our building - what a change! It looks like we are going to have one heck of a Halloween party. Probably potlucks, birthday parties and other events too. My kids are thrilled to have others their age to play with - I'm thrilled to have other parents who are interested in making our building into a 'community'.

I'm hoping tomorrow is even quieter than today was. I also hope bookcases I requested are delivered when they say they will be (ha!). I plan on spending part of the morning helping the kindergartners with picture day, so the delivery guys can't catch me early. Then, I have to be out in the afternoon to get Honor from school. I have a short window in the afternoon, guys... better make it work! ... I need the shelves. I collapsed an old and crappy bookcase (too many moves vs. cheapo wood and construction) and we now have 6 shelves of books in boxes. Some in the way in the kitchen because I am working on tearing up the office and kids' computer desk.

I decided I wanted to use some of the geek-fest of parts we have saved to cobble together another frankenstein-ish desktop system for the kids to use. This involved swapping desks, shelves, power strips, somehow the treadmill got involved... I dunno... it's chaos right now, but I'm starting to see things come together... bookcases would help. A lot. I might try to show some before and after pics, eventually...or maybe, 'middle and after shots' because I don't have 'before' pics. And sorry, I was too ticked off to get a shot of the collapsed bookcase.. which is too bad, I may not be able to laugh about it (yet) but it might have made someone else feel better about their day! Not tonight. I think tonight is done. I think I need sudafed, a soft pillow, and sleep.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

... and it's only 9am

So, after a night with several 3am-ish mommy-calls from Honor, I wake up wanting to chuck the alarm out the window because my head hurts so bad I think my eyes should explode. Not 'might' explode, but 'should', because that might make them feel better. I remove the cat staple, struggle out of bed, and plod to the shower. At least the water is hot.

The kids are little logs, but they get moving alright... with extra tickles. Squealing doesn't exactly help my headache, but that's ok. Got them aimed towards clothes, shoes, teeth, hair, etc. Go out to check cats.

One cat has been having litter box issues, so we've been confining them to the area where their box is for awhile now, especially at night. Last night, after weeks of being good, we'd let them have free roam. Well, not only did I have three spots of kitty barf greet me this morning, but a pile of poo, 4 feet away from the litter box. Grrr! Back to jail. (and clean-up time for me)

Ok, breakfeast was served, kids ate... had to re-aim them at getting their stuff together multiple times. I tell Brian to get his Taekwondo outfit and he gets his notebook and forgets his glasses, etc. We are all having one of those days. They start a "Am not! Am too! Did not! Did too!" exchange at the table, but fortunately got past it quickly, and were even being very sweet to each other when divvying up who got to open the door and do the elevator buttons.

Out the door, around masses of boxes and movers in the elevators, we get to the car - fortunately the exit gate had NOT been blocked by the mover's truck (this time) - and we made it, mostly on time, to school. Brad and Brian hopped out and ran in while I parked - somewhere way off down the road from the school, with Honor. She has a little extra time to get in.

As Honor and I walked in, Brad walked out saying Brian needed his hair up for Taekwondo. He said his byes, and hiked off to neverland to try and find the truck and get to work. Fortunately, I found an elastic in my purse for Brian, but sweet little Honor said that he could have one of hers (she had a braid with two elastics) if I didn't have one (I'll have to tell him that). I had one, and we ran over (and up the stairs) to Brian's class - made Honor's day, she loves seeing Brian's class. As I tied his ponytail, I remembered that he has class pictures today. And remembered that we forgot the envelope and money!

O my.. well, I got Honor to the playground with her class, grabbed a photo envelope from the school office, and.... found I didn't have the proper change! Neither did anyone else (and I asked about 10 other moms). Fortunately there's a bagel stand on (the other end of) campus, so a friend and I got bagels, I got change, and I delivered the envelope. I rode home with my friend - today was not a good day for walking.

I'm having my bagel and TWO cups of coffee - and tylenol - for breakfast. Hopefully things will become more sane as the day goes along...

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I am not sure what link I linked on, off of what article, (I was looking at fonts! Gotta love the internet!), but next thing you know, I am at this Baby Names website... no, no more for us. Thanks anyway! But I couldn't resist looking up the names we've already used, and offer the LINK here, for my pregnant friends .. and/or for others who just like to look stuff up randomly.

The girl's name Honor \ho-nor\ is pronounced AHN-er. It is of Latin origin, and its meaning is "woman of honor".
Honor has 10 variant forms: Honora, Honorah, Honorata, Honoria, Honorine, Honour, Nora, Norah, Norine and Norry.
For more information, see also the related name Annora.
A baby name that sounds like Honor is Henrie.
Honor is a very rare female first name and a popular surname (source: 1990 U.S. Census).

(I'd heard the name Honora before, pronounced Annora, and I always thought that was pretty too.)

The boy's name Brian \b-rian\ is pronounced BRY-en. It is of Celtic, Irish and Gaelic origin, and its meaning is "high, noble". Could also mean "strength". Historical: Brian Boru (10th century) was a warrior who became high king of Ireland and one of its greatest national heroes. He liberated the country from the Danes in 1014. Actor Brian Dennehy; film director Brian De Palma.
Brian has 14 variant forms: Brain, Bri, Briano, Briant, Brien, Brion, Bryan, Bryant, Bryent, Brye, Bryen, Bryent, Bryon and O'Brien.
Baby names that sound like Brian are Bran, Brann, Bren, Brenn, Bron, Brown, Bruin, Bryn and Byran.
Brian is a very popular male first name and a very popular surname (source: 1990 U.S. Census).
(I didn't think there were that many variants of Brian! I guess it's been around long enough to pick up aliases though.)

This story also reminds me of another blogger's mention that Jessica Alba's new baby is named Honor. I was very tickled to see that. We have never met any Honor except our Honor, but now we know there's another pretty little girl out there that shares this (ahem!) honor. I think virtue names are coming back in the US. We didn't actually mean to start anything in our family - that I have one, as does our daughter, was not actually planned! But we have been noticing more girls with names such as Prudence, Justice, Grace, etc. in Honor's age group. Is it a new trend? Or maybe we are just noticing it because of our daughter??

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Now you see him...

.. and now he sees you more clearly!!

Brian was excited to get new glasses. He didn't need them last year, but this is about the age that the need for them kicks in. No trouble at school, just a screening that showed that he ought to have a check-up. He got excited about as soon as the technician put a lens in front of his eye and his vision sharpened! He picked out his first pair, and he wore them to school for the first time yesterday. Honor was jealous!

I think he picked out a great frame. The shape is perfect, and while I wasn't sure about blue, they look nice, and they have a bit of red-bronze color on the tips and middle that match his hair color. He looks good in them!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Swim lessons

A few photos from swim class - these kids love the water!

Don't ask...

... because sometimes the answer will leave you twice as confused. Just enjoy the moment.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nesting Habits of the Domestic Kitty Cat

Ramses would have you believe that he is a sweet, innocent, little baby of a Siamese cat. Even though he is 11+ years old, even though he can be very pushy, when he wants to, against his big 'brother' Misty (big, as in, Misty outweighs him by about 10 pounds), and other evidence to the contrary. Truthfully, Ramses really is a sweet, innocent, little baby. He loves to be loved. He is big into eye-gazing, and rapt and total adoration. But, he is a lot more clever then he would like to let on. I'll share.

I kept finding a kitchen cabinet door ajar. I do not leave it that way, but in a house with kids, it happens. But what about when it's closed at night, and open before the kids get up? Hmm? Eventually, I caught Ramses sneaking out of his fort one morning. I felt bad about it, but I had to evict him. I usually wash anything before use from that cabinet (little used items that get dusty), but I also keep my potatoes and onions down there. I do not need a cat sleeping on our food! I blocked the door. We usually have a step-stool in the kitchen anyway, for my little helpers, so I used it as a barricade. Poor kitty.

Well, next morning, I found my rag drawer open. Yes, I keep a whole drawer full of rags - sorted by type and usefulness. I'm picky about what I like to clean with, depending on the job, and I am quick to throw one in the wash and grab another, mid-job if need be, when they get too dirty. I prefer to use bleach and hot water to re-use rags, than throw away tons of paper towels, wet wipes, and all those other throw-away clothes. But what was this??? Somebody had mussed my rags? And is that a dirty paw print?? Oooh!!

Well, I neatened things up, and thought that maybe it was a one-off thing. These drawers are obnoxious sometimes. If you do not close them 100%, all the way, just so, they'll slide open again. Maybe that had happened? And maybe the little smartie-(no)pants had just gone around trying doors and drawers until he found another good place to nest? Take a look at this next photo, and tell me, what do you think?!

(yea... I think he's laughing too...)

Why the mess?

The kitchen filled with laundry room stuff....

The laundry room filled with chaos and a huge gaping hole...

(No Misty, I know you didn't do it...)

Why is this a good sign? The gaping hole is where one of the evil AC units used to live. It is gone now. Dead. Hopefully it has been tossed in the Nile, or buried with warning markers out in the desert somewhere. A new one has been installed - as the old one should have been - OUTSIDE the building, hanging off the wall, where it can breathe, have air circulating, and perhaps survive.

I am not sure who had the bright idea to install these units in tiny, barely vented cubbies. (You can't see it here, but there was a false wall over the gaping hole - the AC was confined in a space barely bigger than the machine - the grill covering the opening is actually a replacement and more open than the original. It got HOT!) One unt was inside our laundry room - like that is ever cool?? - and the other vented into an enclosed entry hallway (between apartments), where 4 other AC units were also venting, right outside our poorly insulated front door, so all the hot air poured back in the house... creating something of a vicious, and usually very dirty, cycle. That particular installation plan probably came from someone more concerned with the building's appearance, not any real functionality. Obviously someone who didn't have to LIVE in this building. These units have been a PAIN for all involved. Us and facilities. Finally, the technicians were able to hang them (and everyone else's) AC units OUTSIDE the building - like everybody else in Cairo does - and guess what? They work.

It will probably last until the next upgrade and then somebody else will probably think ... gee.. I bet the building would look nice if we could get rid of all this unsightly functionality. Sigh...

Friday, September 5, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things

Thought I'd start giving a few reviews of on-line resources that other expats, either here in Cairo, or elsewhere, might find handy. Long-distance 'trial and error' with on-line shopping is a true pain, especially when your local 'post office' can be an hour away, not open on weekends, and repacking materials can be difficult to locate. I appreciate tips from experienced friends, and think that I should share the goods now that I have become a more experienced expat myself.

I wasn't sure where to start, as I have several stores that vie for the 'most favorite' spot in my heart. I will start collecting a list of websites for quick reference (I'll probably use it more than anyone - I like link pages with all my favorite stuff in one spot) I guess I will just go with the one who got my recent shopping to me first. Fair?

J&R Electronics. I do not have a little icon for them (I've asked though - they have an official affiliate program and I'm not really interested in the paperwork - it's hard to manage with a foreign IP address sometimes), but I'll add a link to the site. Why electronics? How important is that? Not something people in the land of Target, Office Max, Sears, Radio Shack, etc. think about. If their DVD breaks down, they can hop in the car, go to one of many stores (electronics, department store, mall, whatever) and choose from 100's of new players - all at reasonable prices. Oh, and at the end of all their searching and comparison shopping, they can go to the register and actually BUY their new toy.

Shopping for a new bit of electronics overseas can be harsh. Not only can the prices be incredibly high compared to what we are used to back home, the selection may not compare, and the only thing available may not be multi-system.. ie. it may not be usable when we move back home. I don't believe in 'throw away when you move away' goods.

Shopping for electronics on-line can add the bonus fun of being treated like an international criminal of some sort. Oh, most on-line stores will let you shop.. let me tell you, there's nothing like spending hours shopping (and yes, with our crappy internet, shopping can take HOURS of page loading, lock-ups, and restarts) only to arrive at your 'shopping cart' for checkout... content that you found the product of your dreams, at a good price, with all the accessories you need, and be told "Sorry, we do not ship this product to APO/FPO addresses". What?! Grrrr!

For those who are not familiar with the terms, APO or FPO are the 'city' codes for various military and diplomatic mail boxes. They are VALID U.S. addresses! Postage for mailing a 1st class letter is the same as anywhere in the U.S. The post offices take U.S. currency, checks made out to 'Postmaster' - same as anywhere. Now, the only time restrictions makes sense to me, is if the product is large or heavy. Some APO/FPO addresses have size restrictions. Understandable. But what if the product is a DVD? Or a DVD player that comes in a box smaller than a telephone book? An added aggravation is knowing that the store WILL ship some items to APO/FPO addresses, but not other items, and the only way to find out what will be allowed, is to get to the check out and try to buy it. (I don't go back to on-line stores that waste my time like that.)

Enter J&R Electronics. Not only do they have an amazing selection of anything that plugs in, has batteries, or is associated with such items, they offer these products at a great price... AND they ship to APO/FPO! Fast. With reasonable S&H - meaning, I've seen 'cheaper' rates, but as everything we've ever ordered has shown up fast and in perfect condition, I know that there is truth behind 'you get what you pay for'. As the prices are so good, slightly higher shipping hardly matters. (If you're in the 48 contiguous states, you can often get free ground shipping - meaning, if UPS can get to you, you might get it free). Questions are answered quickly by friendly customer service, and with a recent response, I was invited to call them if I'd seen a better deal on the product and we could work out a deal. (Like I could find a lower price?!)

I cannot tell you how they handle returns, because we haven't had to return anything. I find that I am not concerned. I have confidence in their business. They are now a Upromise store as well too... so great prices, good stuff, and money back for your kids' college. What else do you want?

We have purchased iPods and accessories, DVD players, DVDs, specialized batteries, home health products, and the most awesome blender in the world. I'm probably overlooking some things, but this is what comes to mind. We usually look around and do our comparison shopping at several on-line locations, but we invariably purchase from J&R. I believe that they will continue to get a lot of our business, even when we return from overseas.

BTW - Update to Smarter than your average smartphone - I decided to go with the Treo 650. It offered more frills than a basic PDA, but seemed not as over-whelming as the Nokia 810 might prove. I think that once I figure out what I use the thing for, I might have fun upgrading to a customizable internet tablet, but not yet. Besides, J&R offered a refurbished 650, with a 60-day warranty, at an awesome price.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


A friend shared this and I like it so much, I'll pass it along here:

Elder's Meditation of the Day - September 3

"Once you have achieved this oneness, when you talk, God talks; when you act, God acts."

(apparently this whole quote is to be credited to)--Chuck Ross, LAKOTA

In my innermost self, I know this to be true. I know of this oneness. The more I am free of doubt, jealousy, judgment, selfishness, anger, the closer I am to this oneness. When I am right with the Creator, nothing can touch me. When I am right with the Creator I always say the right things. When I am right with the Creator, my thoughts are always good. When I am right with the Creator, my actions are always good.

Great Spirit, remove from me those things that block me from You. Allow me this day to experience the oneness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Smarter than your average smartphone (I hope)

I am in need of a portable brain. Never had the need or want of one before though, so I'm going in blind and I am overwhelmed with the variety of PDAs, handhelds, and smartphones available. I am also torn over what I truly want.

One side says go for just a good, basic, PDA. The Palm Z22 seems to fit that description perfectly. I have a local phone here as well as a US phone. Do I really need or want another?

The other side of me says, for a bit more cash, I can get all the bells and whistles. I may not need them at first, but I may regret not getting them as I get used to using the device. If I do go for the phone and all, I will need an unlocked quad-band for international roaming. Skype access or similar would also be good.

I've been doing some looking around, and these are my two favorites so far:

The Palm Treo 650 It's not the newest version, but I really do not want the super sports car model - If we consider the V22 to be a VW bug, you might say that I am looking at this Treo and the Nokia below, as something more like a modern hybrid SUV or equivalent. More features and practical goodies, but not useless luxuries that I'll never need.

I also like the Nokia N810. It looks great, and I think the customizable aspect would be very handy (fun), but how well does this pencil-case-looking thingy work as a cellphone?

Anyone have any experience with these? Any other favorites?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Little incentives

Honor came home from school today with a ink stamp on her hand. "See what I got in Egyptian Culture because I was quiet and listened!" Why is a little smear of ink such a great incentive to little kids?? I dunno, but why question what works? I remember that the kids' day care and Montessori school in the US had done the same. They had a pack of washable markers with tips shaped into various stamp/shapes. For winter there would be a snowflake, snowman, etc. For Halloween, a pumpkin, leaf, ghost, etc. The markers were simple Crayola brand markers you could buy most anywhere with a good bit of art supplies. Stamps were earned for good behavior. NOT getting a stamp made for a sad day indeed. We implemented the same reward system at home. Eventually, the supply of stamp markers we brought with us from the US dried up and we found other incentives, but it was fun seeing Honor's excitement about earning her stamp today.