Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas 2013

I hope that everyone had a lovely and very Merry Christmas! Here are some photos from our morning!

These guys managed to resist the urge to open prezzies before morning…


Ready to dash into the living room!


New gaming console to share Smile 


Honor gives the kitties some treats.


Brian gets a book that he’s been wanting and Honor and Pixie demonstrate toe washing techniques.


Honor is happy to get a big box for Christmas… silly me, thinking it was just something good to hold the used wrapping paper. Ninja was a bit jealous.


Fortunately, the box is big enough for both of them.


And then, grandma and grandpa sent MORE boxes for the cats… boxes that just happened to have a lot of nice stuff inside for us too!


Brad loves his new sweater and shirt, and you know that I’ll put my pretty new yarn to good use!


Brian LOVES his new slippers and the number keypad too!


Honor loved her new toys too. The soft plush kitties that look like our former kitties Misty and Ramses (she’s named them Mischief and Rambow) and she was very happy  to get presents to give to the cats too!

The cats LOVED their new toys too!


Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Free Cat Carrier–and Talabat for delivery

We ordered Lebanese food from Mais Al-Ghanim last night and it was so tasty! It’s a restaurant that’s been in business for a long time and their foods are simply very good and the quality is always amazing! From their website:

“The history of Mais Alghanim Restaurant dates back to the previous century when our founding father Edmond Barakat (Abu Emile), opened a canteen for the employees of Yusuf Ahmed Alghanim & Sons Co., called “Mess Alghanim”.

Over time, strong ties and personal relations grew between Abu Emile, Kuwaiti, and Expatriate Families extending over three phases and three generations. The first phase commenced in 1953 during which complete meals and take-away services were offered transforming the canteen into a restaurant for one and all.”

We ordered a mix of good grilled meats – lamb, kebab, and chicken – as well as a variety of salads and sides, like hummus, baba ghanouj (an egg plant dish), muhammara (a walnut and chili dip), fattoush (mint and cucumber and tomato salad), falafel and spinach fetayer. It was all amazing (just like it always is! It’s one of our favorites.)

Also – we placed our order through which is a great online service for food delivery, from their website:

“ is the largest online food delivery portal in the State of Kuwait, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sultanate of Oman and State of Qatar. Order your favorite food online from hundreds of our restaurants with a simple click of a mouse.”

Our dinner came delivered in handy boxes too. And we know what boxes are good for… cat containment! Pumpkin demonstrates how well the box fits. Pixie said that she will only perform if I give her treats…


Unless I don’t want her to perform…. balancing on the washer when I’m trying to load laundry isn’t helpful. (But it’s cute to have all of the help…)


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Trimming the Tree - 2013

Our tree has been up for over a week, but with homework and school and cooties and working late, we simply have not had the chance to put any decorations on it yet… until today! We were supposed to go out and join the embassy Christmas party, but Brian decided that it was his turn to get sick and so we stayed in, had cocoa (with peppermint candy canes to stir), and trimmed our pretty tree. The cats were even helpful and stayed out of the way, mostly… there were a few moments of grabby-ness and a number of wild leaps into boxes. There may have even been a few instances of bad kitty language when a sibling interfered with another’s nefarious plot, but we made it!

It was Honor’s turn to put the topper on the tree. She can’t quite reach, but she can climb – and with dad’s help – place it from the couch!


The topper is a little angel that Brad and I picked up in a street market in Germany about 20 years ago… amazing that it has survived so long!

A couple of pictures of the kids and their dad


Honor was feeling silly… Brian was just feeling hot, like 102F fever, but he was smiling anyway. Must have been those yummy spice cookies I made for them that helped.


Photos of me and the kids too.



Saturday, December 7, 2013


This is a great, very simple, recipe that I found on the side of a bag of chappati flour. I’m copying it so I won’t lose it!

Chapattis are a classic unleavened flat bread used in Pakistani and Indian dishes.

3 cups chapatti flour (finely stoneground wholewheat flour)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoon oil
1 1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup chapatti flour (approx. – for dusting)

Combine first four ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough. Separate into walnut sized balls. Cover. Allow to rest for one hour.

Dust rolling surface with flour. Roll each ball into a flat disc. Dust with flour, fold in half, then to quarter. Roll into a disc again.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add the chapatti. Try to rotate constantly by hand to distribute heat until it is a uniform light brown color. Turn to other side and cook until light golden. Serve hot.

I made these today, and while the dough was resting, I threw together a ground beef sauce. Onions, garlic, red and yellow bell pepper. 2-3 tomatoes. Biryani spices and a small box of tomato paste. That simmered as I cooked the breads.

Apparently I should have doubled the meat topping as my family DEVOURED this meal. The chapatti recipe made about 20 chapattis or more.

I guess I need to find more toppings recipes. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pixie Perched on Popcorn

But at least she got off of the counter…


And here is our cowboy. Not just any cowboy mind you, but a Scottish cowboy. One of the things about raising American kids outside of America is that they really do not get all the cultural influences they might if we lived in the US. We aren’t ‘western’ and don’t wear western gear, so they have a good excuse to not be familiar with it, but we do our best to educate them anyway. Well, his school had a western day for spirit week. He had the hat – which is more Indiana Jones than Cowboy, but it works – but he wasn’t sure about a shirt. I pulled this grey plaid shirt out of his closet and he was incredulous… “Mom! Cowboys don’t wear plaid! Scotsmen wear plaid!” I had to go get my tablet and google western wear. He was also unsure about the button down shirt and didn’t want to look like an accountant. It was easier to convince him about the style than the pattern though. He eventually agreed to be a Scottish cowboy, because our country was settled by many Scots, although he was probably only fully convinced when he saw other kids wearing plaid… there was some comment about there being a lot of ‘Scottish cowboys’…

Anyway, I thought he looked quite handsome, no matter what sort of western wear wearing accountant Scots-cowboy he thought he was:

(I even brought him a buffalo… but he said that he didn’t need any props!)

Let’s see…

Pumpkin’s favorite time of day is around noon when Brad comes home for lunch. Pumpkin reeeeeeeallllly missed Brad during the day! I know when to expect Brad walking in because Pumpkin will hear him coming up the walk and will run to the door! He’ll holler for attention and lead him into the kitchen. 


He needs a ton of love before Brad is allowed to have lunch!


And here are a few bit of random wood carvings that my dad made as I told my friend Kim that I’d share with her when I found some. I’m not sure where my carved owl is, and most of the stuff that my dad gave us is put in storage, but I am happy that I have some of the pieces my father made with us. He was always crafting something in his woodshop!


He did some plaques, and also a number of 3D sculptures. This parrot is part of a set and it goes nicely with one of our papyrus pieces and our carved bench (from Egypt):


I also have this flower and horse carving:


One of these days we’ll get back together with our storage stuff again!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Modding Minecraft 1.6.4

For Honor and Carmen and anyone else who likes mods!

This is for modding Minecraft 1.6.4, but can also work for earlier versions of Minecraft 1.6 and may still work well for the newer 1.7 versions. However, a lot was changed with 1.7, and other large changes are in the works, so many modders are not updating their code yet.

1. Read this all the way through before starting any steps. I might jump around. Also, I am not a programmer/coder/expert, so please comment and ask questions or offer suggestions.

2. Create a folder to store stuff. For the sake of keeping my desktop clean, I have created a “Minecraft stuff” folder. I use it for downloads and copying my ‘saves’ folder (good to do before you start modding).

3. Make a copy of your saved games folder (saves)  now. If you have favorite worlds that you want to keep, otherwise don’t bother. Modding may not affect them, but it’s always better to be safe and take the time to do this. 

4. (ooh ..let’s back up…) How do you FIND your Minecraft files? You can search for .minecraft, but it’s handy to know how to get there manually too. Here’s how mine works, yours will likely be very similar:

WIN7 -  (OS)C: Users\Connie\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft
WinXP – (OS)C: Document and Settings\Connie\Application Data\.minecraft

5. FORGE – this is a tool that allows mods to work with the Minecraft game, so your first step will be installing this tool. Satscape, author of Sim-U-Kraft, has made a very clear and detailed video tutorial on this at: He also goes on to explain how to add his mod too, and talks about config files as well. Definitely a good one to watch. However, I prefer to add another step, that allows me to maintain different sets of mods in different profiles, before adding any mods.

Watch his video, and/or follow these steps to install Forge. It is an easy process!
  • Download the latest version of Forge (or the version that matches the version of Minecraft and mods that you wish to use). Look for the recommended latest version. You will note that there are several download links. Choose “Installer”. It will bring you to an page (this is how these coders get a little pay for the work they do). Don’t click on anything on the page… just wait five seconds, you’ll see it count down in the top right, and then you get a ‘Skip Ad’ yellow button. Click on that and a download should start.
  • Go to your Downloads folder and find the Forge file. At this point, I make a copy of it to my “Minecraft Stuff” folder on my desktop. Right click on the file and “Open With” the “Java (TM) Platform SE Binary” option. This will bring up a Mod System Installer.
  • Click OK. There isn’t much need to adjust anything else. After a few seconds, you should get another pop-up informing you of a successful install.
  • Open Minecraft with the launcher. You should have a new profile named “Forge”. You may have to select it with the pull-down menu
  • Hit the PLAY button to launch the game. You will notice that you now have a new button labeled “mods” and that there will be information in the lower left hand corner that will tell you how many mods are loaded. (I believe Forge shows as 3 mods).
That’s it. Forge is loaded. Now quit the game and we will get some mods!

5.5  What version of Minecraft do I need? You might notice that when you launch the game, the Launcher will often tell you what the updated version of Minecraft is. Currently we are at 1.7.4. Obviously, this changes. Which one do you want? For playing the 'vanilla' (no mods) game. Go ahead and update to the latest. Why not? But if you want to play mods, then you will need to match the version of Minecraft with the version of the mods that you want to add. For this, you can make a separate profile to run an older version of the base game, and this is what I'll show you now.

6. Making separate sets of mods – Mods really add a lot of fun to the basic Minecraft game, but there’s a problem. Not everyone will have the same mods installed, and not all mods function well with other mods. Sometimes they have to be separated so there will be no conflicts! A very easy way to manage this is to create separate profile folders for each set of mods that you want to use. For example, you may wish to have a basic profile, no mods, with the latest version of Minecraft. You might want to have a set of mods to match that of one of your friends’ sets of mods, say, only 5 mods, and ones that use Minecraft 1.6.2. And then, you also have your favorite mods that use Minecraft 1.6.4. How do you keep all that straight? Without having to move files in and out of the “mods” folder in your .minecraft file every time you want to play?

I’ll show you! Say that you want to load the three mods: Sim-U-Kraft, Mo’Creatures, and Treecapitator with Minecraft version 1.6.4  (technically, Mo’ Creatures is only updated to version 1.6.2, but luckily, it works!) We will make a new profile and do just that!
  • Go to your .minecraft folder, right click, and add a new folder. Let’s name it “mods164”.
  • Open your Minecraft launcher. With “Forge” profile selected, click (lower left) “New Profile”. A pop-up menu will appear.
  • It should give “Copy of Forge” as the name. Rename it. It doesn’t have to match the folder you just created, but you should be able to connect them easily. So, name it “mods164” or “Mods 164 with SUK” or “164 plus three mods”, etc.
  • Next, we’ll change the game directory to point at the new folder that we just created. As default, it should look like this: “C:\Users\Connie\AppData\Roaming\.minecraft  but we want to do our own thing, so change the “.minecraft” to “mods164”.
  • In the Version Selection, you should see “release 1.6.4-Forge” (or whatever version number is the most recent). If not, scroll down and select the proper one.
  • Save the new profile.
  • Open the launcher, ensure that you select your new profile, and hit Play. Start a new game, and it should launch with the ‘mods’ button and the information about your loaded mods showing. At this point, the only mod that you have loaded is Forge.
  • Close the game. We are now ready to load the three mods!
If you go to your .minecraft folder now and look inside the “mods164” folder, you’ll find that it is now loaded with it’s own sub-folders, “config” “saves” “mods” etc.

You can create many profile ‘copies’ like this, although you’ll probably only need a handful. You’ll just have to remember that, when installing your mods, rather than loading the mods into the “mods” folder under .minecraft\mods, you have to go one layer deeper and load them in .minecraft\mods164\mods.

7. Now for the fun stuff! Mods! It has become quite easy to add most mods. Some require that you unzip files. Some require other mods (dependencies) to help them function. For example, Treecapitator requires bspkrsCore. When you go to a modder’s website, you need to carefully read the site and find out about these requirements. Often they explain them well and give you a link to go get the latest version.

It also, while slow, makes good sense to add new mods one at a time. Opening the game and playing a little bit each time, to make sure each new addition works properly before adding the next.

I will walk you through three of our favorite mods in this post. I will try to add a list of other favorites later, as well as a tutorial on what to do if you ever get BlockID conflicts. (which is a common error to receive when combining multiple mods).

SIM-U-KRAFT – This is a mod that adds people to your game. From Satscape’s website:
“It extends and changes the Single player game-play by adding aspects of ‘Sim city’ and ‘The Sims’ to the game. As the player, you’ll employ “Sim-U-Folks” (NPCs) to do the following: Builder, Lumberjack, Miner, Wheat, Pumpkin, Melon, Potato, Carrot, Sugar cane, and Cactus Farmers, Baker, Soldier, Shepherd, Grocer, Courier, Builder’s merchant, Butcher, Pig farmer, Cattle farmer, Chicken farmer, Terraformer, Glass maker, Dairy farmer, Cheesemaker…more added with each update!”
I will direct you again to Satscape’s video tutorial for this! It is very helpful, but here are the basics:
  • Go to the mod website: Read on down the page to learn more about the game. Near the center of the page, you will see the requirement to load Forge. We’ve already done that!
  • Next we will see “Recommended Version”. Click on the latest version to start the download. Satscape is currently using Mediafire to host his files. Click on the green download button. When the download is complete, copy it to your “Minecraft Stuff” folder.
  • Double-click the folder to unzip it. Inside the unzipped folder, you will find a folder (Simukraft), a .zip file (should be the same name and version as the zipped file, but without UNZIP in front of it) and a Readme folder.
  • Drag and drop (or copy and paste) the .zip file and the Simukraft folder into your “\mods164\mods” folder in .minecraft.
That’s all! Go play and try it out. When you start a new world, or open an existing world, it will ask you if you wish to run Sim-U-Kraft.

TREECAPITATOR – This is a small mod, but one of my favorites because it is convenient and adds more ‘realism’ to the game. In vanilla minecraft, you have to climb up a tree to chop it down block by block… what’s up with gravity?? With Treecapitator, you just have to chop the bottom tree block (more times than a single block.. a lot if it is a large tree) but the entire tree with come down in an exciting rain of logs, apples, and saplings!
  • Go to the mod website - This author has a number of mods. Again, it pays to read the page.
  • This mod requires an additional tool to run. Under “Downloads”, it the first thing you will come to “bspkrsCore”. As with most mods, it’s best to look for the “Latest version” or “recommended” links.

    It directs you to: “Drop the downloaded .zip file into the mods folder under .minecraft.” but we are using our \mods164\mods folder under .minecraft. It works the same.
  • Next, go down to the Treecapitator section, read that, and download the Latest Release. NOTE: There are two latest releases, and you will see this with some mods. We do not use ModLoader. Always grab the Forge version.
  • Drop this file into the \mods164\mods folder too.
Yep. You are done! Start your game and test it out. You should now have Forge,  Sim-U-Kraft and Treecapitator.

Mo’ CREATURES -  This is the one likely to cause trouble as it is a big mod and it, technically, is not the proper version. If you are running Minecraft 1.6.4, all of your mods, and their required (dependencies) mods, should also be 1.6.4. However, there is nothing wrong with trying older mods out to see if they might work anyway. If there has not been a huge change (1.6.2. to 1.6.4 is not major) then you might get lucky and it will work!

Mo’ Creatures is a mod that will add a lot of very cool animals to your game! Everything from insects to werewolves… most are harmless, but some will add a lot of danger to your survival skills too. Polar bears are NOT your friends!
You can go find more mods and add them in much the same way as I explained above. Make sure they are FORGE games, not ModLoader. If you have another mod that asks for the CustomMobSpawner, there is no need to add it again, as you’ve already got it for Mo’ Creatures. Same with bspkrsCore.

There is a very good list of mods with links, organized by Minecraft version, here:

Have fun, and don’t forget to comment with suggestions and questions!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Meanwhile, in the desert…

Traffic was crazy enough today, with some major roads closed because of a large conference in town, and then it rained…


Brian had gone home on the bus a bit earlier, but the storm hit while I was out picking up Honor at after-school band practice. There was thunder, lightning, and the skies just opened up. It poured hard for about an hour.

While waiting with a friend of Honor’s, for her mom to make it through the traffic and pick her up, we watched massive amounts of debris float merrily … and FAST… down the streets… including two tires! I wish I’d had my other phone or camera with me so I could have caught a video!

Like us… this guy (in the photo above and below) decided to grab a few photos! He’s actually standing up on a medium, the water was much deeper in the road. Like us too he was probably already soaked. As we left the school and headed to the car, I had to take off my loafers or risk having them float off of my feet. There were a bunch of people with pants rolled up to their knees (mine were already sopping wet, so why bother?) and also carrying shoes.

I think the driver of this GMC was having fun… unlike a lot of other drivers who were stalled in the deeper water. We could feel the water hitting the floor of our truck as we drove through it.

There was a LOT of this!

We saw some deeper areas, but my phone was out of space and I had to drive. Fortunately, we don’t have to go back out into it tonight. My dentist called and said they couldn’t get into the office this evening and we’ll re-schedule. Fine with me! No school tomorrow, so hopefully things will have a chance to dry out.


Here are a few links to other sites with more photos -

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween 2013

Hope everyone had a very fun Halloween. Here are a few photos from our celebrations.

Brian’s Middle School had 3 days of dress up. One day was Wacky Day – he wore a nice serving spoon on a lanyard. Why go all out when you can go with one really great accessory? For 80’s day, I managed to convince that he could really rock the rock look, and he did too.


On Halloween, both kids got to dress up. Brian went as a knight and Honor went as a zombie pirate.



The embassy hosted a big party for the kids after Halloween and both kids were very helpful with set up and running carnival games. Honor and a friend helped with a bean bag and ring toss game. Brian helped with a fishing game, and I helped run a ‘Monster Hunter’ game, where we had a good spirited volunteer dress up, act ‘monsterous’, and allowed little kids assault him with wet sponges. Good man!

Here is the bean bag target that we made for the carnival. Honor helped me paint it… and I painted Honor. That’ll teach her to dare me…

Ninja helps to model it.


Rather than plain ol’ square bean bags, we made fancy ones…

Minecraft bags – Zombie, Ghast and Creeper


And we also had a bat bag, witchy bag and mummy bag


Before heading for the games, I painted my death monk hubby.



And Honor and I decided to be pirates together. We had thought about being zombie pirates, but decided to be ‘regular’ pirates instead.


Honor got to be the Captain…