Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas day

So… I’m a little late, but I’ve been busy goofing off and being lazy, hanging out and doing family stuff, etc. … basically… not blogging. Sorry. :)

Honor got up early on Christmas morning and tried to get everyone else up too – but even Brian told her to go away… it was 6:30am! Eventually we got up, we had some coffee and rolls, and we made our way to the front room. Prezzies everywhere! To be honest, most of the packages held much needed winter clothes, shoes, and books, and we had a bunch of family gifts, like dvds and games… but it was fun to have a huge pile of packages to open, even just to get socks, long sleeved tees, or jeans!


Brad and I pulled up a couple of chairs to watch the action.


Kids finally got the one Jordan souvenir they’ve been begging for since we landed – mountain goats! (not sure why they wanted them so persistently, but I admit, they are cute!)


Kids got some traditional-type toys this Christmas too – it’s amazing how many games you can invent and play with hula hoops, bouncy multi-sided dice, and silly putty!

DSC05740 Honor got her very own sewing kit. I was a bit worried that 6yo might be a bit young, but she has been very responsible with my things so I thought I’d give it a try. 


Brian has been burning through the books that we brought with us, so he got some more. He likes facts and trivia so he got a book about dragons, about the US states, and about presidents. (I think the dragon book will be read first… )


This is me trying to figure out how to put together Honor’s new baby stroller. Her old one broke and she has been asking for a new one since early this year. By the way… I had mentioned previously that we traditionally wore a Santa hat when handing out presents, but we weren’t going to have our hat this year since our household goods haven’t arrived yet. Thanks to both grandma, and our good friend Lydia, we weren’t ‘out of uniform’ this year! Thank you for the hats, and the lovely and thoughtful presents too!! Grandma even sent packages of good yeast – some of which I used in our Christmas dinner rolls.


This stroller is slightly defective though – no seatbelts to keep the ‘babies’ from leaping out at random.


Aunt Nancy and Uncle Jim sent cool presents in the mail. Brian loves the dragon!


Honor loves wolves and this one is beautiful!


Pumpkin was very sad and disappointed that there was no turkey in any of the boxes… he checked!


And score one for Uncle Jim with his ‘read me’ note! Honor says “I’m not a chicken! You are! Bawk! bawk! bawk!”


Love to you all!! Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and are continuing to enjoy the holiday season (we are!)

For those who live in actual cold places

How about a warm, fuzzy post? Not a ‘feel good moment’ type of warm fuzzies, but honest to goodness warmth and fuzzies? Like this:
Don’t you wish you were little enough to snuggle a stuffed toy like this?
How about sharing a couch with your sibling while watching tv?
Let’s see… what else can I do? How about some freshly baked cookies?
Thank you to Expat Mom – who posted some adorable photos of her boys making these cookies - for sharing the recipe (which is located on her cooking blog). These are very tasty and we had a great time decorating too!
I am not a very experienced cookie maker. I am only barely teaching myself how to bake desserts. (although I am trying! btw, I finally posted a photo on my Ishta Cashew cookie recipe if you are curious what the fruit looks like cut up.)  I did pretty good with these sugar cookies, but as anyone who knows me could tell you… I can’t follow a recipe to save my life, and I altered this one too, unintentionally (mostly). When I mixed all the ingredients, the mix was too crumbly, and dry, and did not look like it would roll out properly. I added a bit of milk. Then, worrying that it might be too liquid-y, I added the egg yolks that I had separated from the whites that I needed for the frosting. I also added a bit of vanilla to the frosting – I wanted lemon or orange, but didn’t have juice or flavoring, so vanilla it was, with no effect on color or consistency. My dough was a bit sticky, and I had to roll it out on wax paper. I didn’t have cookie cutters available either, and rather than tracing cardboard cut-outs as was suggested (great idea!), I just free-handed with a knife to make diamonds and triangles, and used a measuring cup to make circles.I didn't do the piping for the frosting as shown (in detail!) with the recipe - I was running out of time - but we did just fine with spoons, fingers, and toothpicks.
Anyway, picture yourself with a cup of cocoa, a couple of these delicious cookies, and a cuddly kitten. Warming up yet?
No? Hmm… how about warm hats and scarves? Brian asked for a red scarf – home-made – for Christmas. I thought that was a great idea, and expanded on it:
I got yarn to make a set for me too – I just did not have enough time before Christmas to get it done!  I started with this pattern for the hats, but I wasn’t happy with the results, so I altered as I went. I also made the ribbing at the bottom a bit different by alternating hdc and fpdc around. Sorry, no notes. I think I’d have liked the pattern as is if my yarn were thicker - this pattern was a great foundation for me to work off and easily alter... but like any 'recipe', I can't leave well enough alone!
The scarves are pretty basic crochet – Honor's and Brad’s are 25dc across, each row, until I thought it looked long enough, and Brian’s scarf, because it was a solid color and I wanted it to have a bit of a pattern, was: *3 rows dc (25 stitches per row), 1 row hdc, 1 row sc, 1 row hdc* – repeated until it looked long enough. Both ends of each scarf had a couple rows of sc as a good foundation for the fringe.
By now, I hope you are feeling cozy and comfy… and in case you need a little bit extra, I’ll sign off with a little bit more of this - Snuggle Ninja!
(btw – kitten photos are by Honor)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The benefits of kittens.

The Christmas tree becomes much more interactive:

String takes on a whole new level of importance!

Ball games are always multi-player with randomly changing teammates.

and you always have help, no matter what you do. 

 and best of all there are always extra cuddles to be had.


 (Hmm? Seems all of the still photos here are of Pumpkin! I guess it's because he is easier to catch on camera than his sisters are, except when they are sleeping!)

Ishta Cashew Cookies

As promised, here’s the recipe for the Ishta Cashew Cookies I made the other day. I based it on a persimmon cookie recipe from Brad’s grandmother and it translated very nicely!
Ishta Cashew Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup Ishta fruit, squished (approx. 1 fruit)
2 cups flour
1 egg beaten
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cashews (chopped)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Cream together shortening and sugar
Sift and measure flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda
Add beaten egg and vanilla to ishta fruit
Combine dry ingredients and sugar mixture, then mix in pulp and egg.
Add nuts
Mix well, then drop by the tablespoon on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375F for 8-12 minutes.

Frying by the seat of my pants – part 4: Sweet potato decadence

I didn’t want plain sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, although I do like it – I simply didn’t have a casserole dish here (yet) and wasn’t sure I’d manage a baked marshmallow topping without one. So, I looked for an alternative. I found a recipe that had a crust with pecans (which I happened to find at the coop) and flour. I didn’t look closely, but it looked like it would fit what I had to cook with (a couple of small disposable aluminum pie pans). I didn’t realize that I was actually cooking a dessert! I guess that the word ‘casserole’ in the name of the recipe had me fooled! Oh my… but it was heavenly!!

Finally – in time for Christmas dinner prep, here’s the recipe:

Sweet Potato Casserole Decadence


3 cups sweet potato (I used a large can)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup evaporated milk

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla


1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup pecans

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all pie ingredients and spread in the pan. Mix the topping ingredients and spread on top. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

Very easy! And oh so yummy!

Talking to Angels

As much as we love our new babies, we still miss our old kitties terribly. Misty and Ramses were very special cats and we were blessed to have them as a part of our lives for so long. As a memorial, this summer we looked for, and finally found, a couple of little cat statues at our favorite pagan store in the US. These little guys even had wings!

DSC05719  We have these statues sitting on the mantlepiece in our main sitting room, and one morning, I found a note from Honor:


“Good morning Ramses and Misty. Come on Saturday. I want to see your pretty wings and your pretty house. I miss you. I love you. Come at 8:50”

A few days later, this note appeared:


“Hello, I can’t come. From Misty and Ramses”


The floor looks cool

Marble is pretty, and shiny, smooth and nice on bare feet… and so, so, cool. When you’re running a 102+ fever, that coolness is very inviting! I only resisted temptation with the thought that it would be pure hell to get back up off of the floor when I started freezing again, and that having the family wake to find me laying there might truly freak them out.

What am I blathering about? Oh, you know, the flu. Finally had my turn. What horrible timing too as it struck when Brad was still in the hospital.

Sunday, I was a happily busy girl… shopping, cleaning, running around… you name it. Got the kids home from school, fed, homework done. They were off playing, and I was excited to be making plans for the next day, which held a strong probability of Brad being discharged. Then, I got cold, which isn’t too strange.. that happens, especially as I open windows for fresh air (radiators really dry out the house) and if the wind turns it can get chilly fast. So, I checked windows. I checked radiators. I danced around, jogged in place, leaned on the radiator, even washed dishes in hot water… and my hands still shook and my fingernails stayed purple. Kids didn’t seem cold – but they were running and playing. I even joked with Brad about my being cold when we called at the kids’ bedtime. It wasn’t until a couple hours later that I thought to check the house temperature – 79F! The house was NOT chilly. So I finally checked me, 101F and climbing. Oops. It was late and I didn’t want to wake Brad, so I texted to let him know that I was ill and that it might complicate his getting out. I took a motrin, and not feeling bad otherwise, went to bed.

I soon, within an hour or so, felt very “bad otherwise”. My skin hurt, my bones hurt, my insides boiled and my stomach was trying to climb out through my kidneys and strangle me with my own entrails. I took Motrin and aspirin, rotating, every three hours… the fever didn’t go over 102F, but it didn’t drop below 101F either… for almost 48hrs. I had two nights where the fever and chills would get so bad that I’d alternate wanting to hug the marble floor (I satisfied myself by opening a window and enjoying a cold night breeze) and then, a few hours later, bundling under the covers freezing.

I got the kids out to school the next day – barely – and dragged myself inside again. A few hours later, poor Brad came home from the hospital by himself. He got a ride. I managed to unlock the door for him and that’s about it. He probably has some teasing points earned because of my abandoning him at the hospital in his time of need – say, enough to pick on me for the next 20 years or so – but I guess I looked bad enough that he hasn’t said a single thing (yet). He even limped out to meet the kids at the bus that afternoon because I couldn’t. We had 2, or was it 3?, nights of pizza because neither of us could stand in the kitchen to cook. No laundry was done, no cleaning,etc., fortunately the kids were in school this week and are pretty independent!

On Wednesday, the high fever turned off as suddenly as it turned on. Still some low temps and general un-wellness followed, but I was recovered enough to drive him to his appointments and stay conscious for extended periods of time.

I was awake ALL day today. Went shopping, got some laundry done, cooked… normal stuff! I still have no appetite,  as my system is still fried and out of whack, but I think I am back. Brad is feeling good too. He limps, but there are no winces of pain from where the clot hurt so bad before. We’ve got to go out to a blood test this weekend, but otherwise, business as usual. Speaking of which, he’s feeling good enough to go to work this coming week too! Although we are hoping to enjoy some nice long weekends with the holidays coming up.

I sure hope everyone else stays healthy! We’re done with this nonsense. The kids have had more than their fair share too… and if you’re reading now, I mean this for you too – stay healthy so you can enjoy the holiday season!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oh! Christmas Tree

These photos are pre-hospital, but I have been a little bit distracted and am posting late. Our household goods are still not here, and when I mentioned to the kids that it might be a few more weeks, they were very concerned about our Christmas tree! We have a lovely artificial tree in our shipment, but it will not make it on time. Fortunately, Jordan is quite a cosmopolitan city and has a good selection of holiday decor. We easily found a tree and lights! It is probably good to have a ‘stunt-double’ tree this year anyway… three rowdy kittens enjoying their first ever Christmas tree promises to be a mess. Better they abuse this one, and the new, ‘not favorite’ decorations than our good stuff!

We have the perfect spot for a tree this year! Didn’t have to move furniture or remove leaves from the table or anything!


Brian helped dad put the middle section of the tree together.


Honor helped with the (lighter but harder to reach) top section.


We worked together to fluff up the branches



Under the tree is a good place to nap.


Or contemplate your next climb. (fortunately, only Pumpkin seems interested in climbing the tree, and he’s not very good at it!)


Time to decorate!


And un-decorate.


Thanks for the new toys!


Honor’s turn to add the topper.




Nice Visit


Having dad out of ICU meant we could visit. We packed up some homemade cookies and went in to spend some time with him. Brian brought his writing homework to review and edit with dad, and Honor brought in a book to read to him. They also went over the cards they made for him (that I had brought in the day before) to see if he could do the word search puzzles. We can’t wait to get him home again, but they are taking very good care of him and he’s best where he’s at right now.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Very Merry Day!

Brad is doing better today and back in a regular hospital room! He’s still going to be in hospital for a couple days or so, but the doctors are happy with his progress.

Brad had got us tickets to go the “Breakfast with Santa” event at the Embassy and fortunately, I managed to remember it and locate the tickets! Brad, of course, missed out, but I made sure to bring the camera. I also ended up bringing our new neighbor in, and invited her to use Brad’s ticket so she could join us. I guess it would have best if I’d have thought of inviting her, say, in advance, instead of just meeting up randomly and sort of hijacking her along, but I am not at all organized or firing on all cylinders these days. It worked out fine, and that’s all that mattered. We got to know each other a bit, exchanged phone numbers, and got off to a good start.

Before breakfast, we got to meet Santa! Thanks Santa for taking the time out of your busy schedule to spend some time with us. The kids loved talking with you!

Honor was a bit shy, and couldn’t quite meet eyes with Santa, but she asked for a wolf when he asked what she wanted for Christmas.



As for Brian, he had to first convince Santa that he is only 8 years old (our boy has gotten tall!),then Brian told him that he’d really like a dragon for Christmas, and I didn’t hear the details, and maybe I am wrong?! But I believe I might have heard Santa and Brian discuss how handy it might be to have a dragon around for dealing with naughty people! (I am glad Santa has a good sense of humor!)



A wolf and a dragon… hmm? Won’t the kitties be surprised!

Next we had a very nice breakfast. Everything was quite tasty, but they won me over with the cheesecake bites. I haven’t had cheesecake in a long time!


I dropped the kids off after we left, to play with some friends, and went to the hospital. Brad was happy to be able to see the photos, even if he didn’t get to participate. I arrived just in time to help him get moved out of the Cardio Care Unit, to a regular care room. He was not wearing the oxygen tube this morning either. Good to see him looking so well!! The doctors continue to be positive about his progress too.

By the time we got home, I was too wiped out to cook, so I ordered some Shish Taouk chicken and mixed grill meats from Faroujna (which means “Our Chicken” in Arabic). They have a nice selection of grilled meats, french fries, and local style mezze, with hummus, fatoush salad, etc. The kids LOVE the bread. This is the 2nd time we’ve ordered from them and 2nd time we’ve been very please with the food, fast delivery, price, and generous portions. We had Chinese from a restaurant called Wox last night and we pleased with that too – fast delivery, good food etc. but we’ve only ordered from them once. I should do a better review of both some other time.

We talked to Brad for a time at the kids’ bedtime so they could tell dad about their day and wish him a good night. :)

I got my 2nd wind after the kids went to bed, and made a couple of Ishta fruits (or are they berries?)into Ishta Cashew Cookies… after I invented Ishta Cashew Cookies that is… and I think they are pretty darn tasty. We’ll take some to Brad tomorrow. I’ll have to post the recipe later. My 2nd wind did not last long and it is bedtime.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One thing we could do without…

So, we were on the way to the hospital, oh yea…  and Brad jokes that at least this time, it wasn’t one of the kids, and it was a decent hour of the day, rather than an obscene hour of the night(!), but I wish we didn’t have emergencies. Can’t we just… not?

Brad stayed home on Tuesday because he wasn’t feeling all that good, and his leg hurt. Felt somewhat like a charlie horse, or mild cramp, in the back of the calf and it was swollen and hard. We were thinking he’d managed to injure it, or not drinking enough water with too much salt (but we knew that wasn’t the case!), or perhaps it was blood pressure, or ?? who knows?? So he took aspirin, propped up his leg, and took it easy. Didn’t work. Yesterday morning, the swelling was gone, but the pain had moved up behind his knee. He was also pale and wiped out. uh-oh…

We called the clinic and asked if he could go straight to a specialist. The sent us to a wonderful internist at a local hospital, who, after a quick exam, had him in a wheelchair heading for an ultrasound. It was a blood clot, specifically, deep vein thrombosis (DVT)! I am so grateful that we took this ‘sore leg’ seriously! I think now that we could have gotten him in sooner, if we had understood it better (so don’t forget to go back up to the link up there and study!). He had only a couple of symptoms that, to us, tied it the possibility of a clot. It wasn’t until we decided to go to the hospital that we recalled a chest pain he’d had early in the week. It had felt like a pinched nerve or rib out of place. No coughing, no breathing trouble, etc., it just felt like he’d slept wrong (and who knows, maybe it was, maybe not?). He did not have any redness, or hot spots or any other warning signs (not warning enough to us!) but what made us worry was that it was only one leg sore and swollen, not the other, and he didn’t recall twisting or bumping it, or otherwise causing an injury! It didn’t make sense!!

To make a long story a little shorter, because I am tired, he is being taken care of very well and they are running extensive tests on him. He’s in intensive care and being supervised closely. He’s tired and bored and wants to come home, but we both know he is good right where he is for as long as it takes to get him healthy! They ran a CT scan yesterday and also found clots in his lung, but not so bad as to freak out the doctors. They are just keeping a closer watch on him as the medicines do their work.

The kids are coping well. They talk to dad every day by phone. Wish I could make the cats understand as they know something is up and are very clingy. Cannot explain to them! I’m taking the kids to breakfast with Santa tomorrow, then they’ll go stay with friends while I spend some more time with Brad… sigh…

It is a VERY GOOD idea for expats (or anyone moving to a new town) to know exactly where the nearest/best hospital is. Not just where it is, but exactly how to get there, and how to GET IN to the emergency room, etc. (yes, you’d think that should be obvious… but it’s not always!)  It’s even better, for comfort and ease of mind, when you know that it is a very nice hospital with wonderful doctors. I sure wish we’d find a better way to investigate local medical facilities than with emergencies! Next place we go, I’m scheduling a tour as soon as we land…

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ishta – aka – sugar apples

(Also called Achta in the Middle East)

It is fun to learn about different foods and fruits, and this is a new one for me.


Image borrowed from the Wiki page that has a lot of good information on this fruit:

I found a lovely fruit stand, with very friendly staff, on the side of a main road here, very convenient, and the fruit and veg were very nice! I bought the usual stuff – potatoes, onions, broccoli, zucchini and carrots, but I also picked up some pears (obviously not enough pears because they did not last long), bananas, pomegranate, tangerines, grapes and cherries. As I was checking out, the grocer pointed to a very strange looking fruit to ask if I wanted one. Well, I had no idea! My vocab for asking for a description was a bit poor, but I understood it was sweet and I was to peel it ‘like a mango’. He picked out a dark green, medium soft fruit (perhaps like a just right avocado) and I brought it home.  When I opened it, I was surprised by the creamy white meat of it, very soft in consistency – like ice cream grown on a tree – and it was sweet like vanilla/banana ice cream as well.  This Wiki page says the taste is similar to a pina colada! There were large shiny black seeds throughout the fruit. I liked it very much. Everyone tried it. Brian doesn’t like fruit, but he said it was ok. Honor and Brad seemed to think it was a bit sweet. I’ll have get another and try again – I bet the pulp would make an awesome addition to cookies!

This tree this fruit is from is apparently a cousin to the lovely Magnolias of the South. The fruits/seeds do look similar, but apparently, only a handful of berries from this family are edible. It is also related to the pawpaw, cherimoya, sweetsop, ylang-ylang and soursop. Apparently they are high in protein, calcium, lysine, iron, and calories(!), and have been used in traditional medicines.

This photo shows a fruit very much like the one I brought home:


The fruit I had seemed to have more white, creamy meat than seeds, but it probably varies fruit to fruit, season to season. I found the image above, here:

This page has a lot of interesting reading about the food use, toxicity (the seeds are used as pesticide among other things!), and medicinal uses.

I recommend trying this fruit if you can, and if my endorsement is not enough, how about this? A closely related cousin to this sugar apple, the cherimoya, (the inside of which looks exactly like the sugar apple, the skin is smoother) was described by Mark Twain as "Deliciousness itself"… how’s that for an endorsement?


Napping (or otherwise trying to sleep) in a house with kittens is an adventure at times – usually a cute adventure though.

“Yay!” “Mom is on the couch!” “Dibs on her head!” See, we can start off comfy and snuggly…


But behavior quickly degrades… Pumpkin was messing with my ear, Ninja was cleaning my eyebrows (good to keep mom properly groomed), and yes, that is Pixie’s little butt in the air as she dove under my head.


Fortunately, kittens tire quickly and the napping can truly begin.


And what do you mean “No sleeping on the table? It’s not like you let us eat up here!”