Friday, December 31, 2010

Picture for Today: Dec 27 - 31

We did it!!
My hubby and I took over 4,500 pictures this year and managed to capture at least one moment of our lives each day. It wasn't always an exciting moment, in fact most of the pictures capture our everyday moments {and we managed to capture a few great moments, big milestones, and beautiful places we were able to visit.} I am so glad we did this project! It taught me so much about photography and how to capture life...mundane or milestone. It will be a treasure for our family to see what our 'everydays' brought us in 2010.

Yup, I have a new picture adventure I am working on.
Yup, I'll share.
Until then...HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Discovering our Differences

My kids received a charming book for Christmas this year: The Sandwich Swap. It's a story about a kid who discovered she was different than her friend...and that was okay. Well, the cute little gal in the story eventually became the Queen of Jordan.

Reading the story made me think about my first memories of discovering the differences around me. One defining moment happened when I was in the 2nd grade.

Actually, it was a mortifying moment.

My class was going to perform a square dance during an all-school assembly. It all sounded fine and good to me until (horror of horrors), my dance partner was assigned to me.

Let me back up a bit.

There was this kid in my class. No one liked him. No one ever really played with him. And I always saw people teasing him. That really bothered my 2nd grade mind. I couldn't figure out what was so different about him.

One random day during class we were supposed to find a partner to work on our assignment. Of course, this kid was off by himself. No one obviously running over to be HIS partner. So, I went. How bad/weird/strange could he really be, I thought? I wanted to figure this whole situation out. I don't have a ton of memories of that assignment, or if I found out why everyone thought he was bad/weird/strange. Where my memories pick up is that the teacher noticed that I didn't seem to mind this bad/weird/strange kid, so she moved our desks together AND assigned me as his square dance partner. Who would have guessed that one gesture of kindness would lead to so much horror?

The days leading up to our performance were agonizing. Each day I had to walk into the gym for practice and HOLD HANDS with the bad/weird/strange kid. I could only imagine what would happen during the performance. I imagined the gasps and whispers as EVERY ONE in the school saw me HOLD HANDS with this bad/weird/strange kid. It really was more than a 2nd grader could handle.

I'm on the right. I was always jealous of my sisters dress. It looked more like Mary's.

Performance day. My mom dressed me in my cutest 1980's dress that mimicked Laura in Little House on the Prairie. My hair was braided. I was all clean and smelling good. My partner was not. But, the show went on. I marched out as proudly as I could. Did my dance. And sat down crossed legged on the gym floor. Do you know what happened after that?


No one looked at me funny.

No one whispered when I walked by.

It was just so strange.

And you know what else happened?

I didn't mind being that kids friend. He wasn't too bad/weird/strange. He was different than me. But that made my 2nd grade year interesting.

I confess. I have tried to Google this kid to see what he is up to today. I have done Facebook searches. But alas, he evades my online stalking. I imagine he is a brilliant, wealthy scientist or investment banker or doctor who is looking for me {his true friend in the 2nd grade} because he wants to give me some of his wealth.

I'll let you know how much he gives me when he finds me.

So, 2nd Grade Lesson Learned: Being different is not so weird. It is just different. And it adds a little spice to life. And a little fear. And that is good.

{And it may make you rich later if you are nice to the right people.}

Or you may become the Queen of a neat-o country. Just maybe. Or not.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas...not from the Middle East!

Our Christmas Surprise...
It started with a thick cloud cover...

and a snowy runway...

and low lying fog over the river...
and putting on our wellies...

and riding double decker buses...

and 'minding the gap' when getting off the tube...

Merry Christmas from the Apricot Lady...IN LONDON!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Christmas Surprise

I can't tell you what it is {because then it would not be a surprise, duh} but I can tell you that our family has cooked up a big Christmas surprise this year. We can't wait!
My two favorite Christmas gifts every year (the kids, not the chocolate Santa!)

All will be revealed on December 23rd.

Any guesses?

CLUE: If your guess is 'Santa visiting on a camel', that is not the surprise. That already happened. Ha! Ha!


Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Christmas Gift to You (Free Download!)

Today is the last Sunday in Advent. Over the years I have looked and looked for a perfect advent 'recipe' to use for our family and I think I finally settled on one. The kids have really enjoyed each week. The conversation can go deep and wide or short and sweet {like the night that my girl tossed her cookies right during dinner. Yum. Advent celebrations were cut a bit short that particular evening.} Different words can be talked about and discussed. All the scripture or just part of one can be read. It really seems to be the perfect fit for us and I think it can grow with us over the coming years.

I printed ours off on card stock and cut it into four squares. You could also print it and put it in a holiday frame. So many fun possibilities.

I started this blog to 'not forget' the funny adventures and stories and moments that my family has. I had no idea that so many people would become our beloved, faithful readers. I'm actually really glad that I am not just laughing by myself. That would make me feel crazy. {Which would be scary because I already know I am crazy.} So, THANKS!

Merry Christmas from my blog to you!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Picture for Today: Dec 9 - 14

The Christmas Story: In Real Life

I will be the first to admit. I don't like the holidays overseas! I know, it is a negative thing to say on my otherwise positive blog, but it is true. I'd much rather be home with family, friends and all things familiar.

But, we live overseas. SO! I tried to reflect on what actually makes Christmas living overseas good. I couldn't come up with a lot until I was reading my kids one of their favorite holiday books. It is actually an advent book where you open a door each day to reveal a little more of the Christmas story with wonderful artwork. I was reading along admiring all those beautiful pictures and my little girl pipes up and says "I think it is cool that all these places this book is talking about...we've been to them and have seen them with our own eyes!"
She was right!
I only had beautiful pictures to admire and give me a picture of the sights and scenery of the Christmas story when I was a kid. But, my kids have BEEN THERE. That is so cool! And this otherwise would not be true had we not embarked on this big overseas living adventure.

So, a little gift from my family to yours.
These are the sights of the Christmas real life.

{The narration is taken from the book mentioned above.}

God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary in the village of Nazareth. The angel said, "Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you. You will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be called the Son of the Most High and will reign forever; his kingdom will never end. The holy one to be born to you will be God's Son. Even your cousin Elizabeth is going to have a child in her old age. Nothing is  impossible with God."
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May everything you have said come true." Then the angel left her.

Mary's house in Nazareth which is now the altar in the largest Christian church in the Middle East.
Mary was engaged to a man names Joseph. But before they were married, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel told him that Mary was to have a baby from God. Joseph was to name the baby Jesus because he would save his people from their sins. He would also be called Immanuel, which means "God with us."

Joseph working in his carpentry shop in the re-enactment at Nazareth Village.
At that time, a decree said everyone had to go to his family's town to register. Joseph was from the family of David, so he and Mary went to Bethlehem, which was David's home.

About a 100 mile trip with hills, mountains, and rough terrain.

While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The place of Jesus' birth, under the altar in the Church of the Nativity.
Shepherds living out in the fields nearby were keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

Sheep with their shepherd in Shepherd's Field just outside Bethlehem.
Sometime later Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Camels traveling across the eastern desert.
Soon after his birth, Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, in keeping with the law.

The temple mount in Jerusalem, about 20 miles from Bethlehem.

That day a godly man named Simeon was in the temple. The Holy Spirit had told him he would see the Messiah before he died. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God for keeping his promise. Simeon said, "I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will show God to the nations. And he will be the glory of your people."

Painting in chapel on Shepherd's Field in Bethlehem.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Potty Mouth

I try to keep my blog clean.
I have only sworn once. Forgive me.
Confession: I have a few posts in drafts that have a few more swear words. Yikes! Should I post them?
We'll see!

But today {again, forgive me} I must discuss a dirty topic.

Potties {as any mommy would say}

Around here, we enjoy a variety of potty options.

You got your squatty potty - basically a hole in the bathroom floor where you, well, squat.

You got your body potty - otherwise knows as a bidet. We {really, my kids} call it a body potty because when we first moved here, they had never seen anything like it in their short little lives. And like most curious kids, they learned what is was by touching it. Which means, your body gets wet from head to toe when you turn on the faucet and a geyser shoots up to the ceiling. Those things have force! Therefore...a body potty. I guess my girl is still trying to figure out exactly what those things do when she recently asked if I ever gave her a bath in one of those when she was a baby.

You got your wadi potty - wadi {Arabic for valley} is the 'driving down the road and someone has to go' option.

You got your underwater potty - yes, that is my hubby and yes, that is a toilet on the ocean floor. Don't ask.

You have your wash machine potty. Unique, I know. Most houses here are designed to have the wash machine in the kitchen. That did not work for me. Especially since I require a dish washer in my kitchen. So, we removed the 'body potty' from the kids bathroom and used the drain and water to install the wash machine. Brilliant, I know. Now, we don't have a wash machine in the kitchen, we have it in the bathroom. Still strange, I know.

And you got your boring ole regular potty - I am thankful we have these in our house as opposed to the other options available, actually! My only issue is that in all the houses we have lived in here, we have had a rainbow of colors. Pink, green, turquoise, white with gold trim...should I go on? I have already discussed how my decor tastes are a little different from the culture around me.

And one last potty issue to discuss. 
The grocery stores here don't always know how to classify American products. I usually find strange things in strange places. But, this one tops the list...

Clorox Wipes in the baby wipes section. Ouch!
Time to go clean the babies...I mean bathrooms!

Picture for Today: Dec 3 - 8

Picture for Today: Nov 27 - Dec 2

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Shopping Our Way

Now that I shared all our tricks for celebrating is time I shared with you how we go Christmas shopping:

I love a good bargain. In the States, I was the queen of eBay and Craigslist. I loved a good garage sale and LOVED my local Goodwill.  I can't remember the last time I paid full price for something. Moving overseas kind of cut that addiction out of my life. No eBay, Craigslist or garage sales here.

But, about a year ago, I found someone who can give me a good fix every once in a while when it comes to kids' toys! The shop owner is actually a very sweet man. In fact, he is on my top 5 list of most favorite shop owners in the country {this list is NOT easy to get on, it requires not EVER making me feel a creepy vibe or feel that I am being ripped off}. He is also a sheikh, actually THE sheikh for the mosque downtown. That means he has to close down the store five times a day to run and do the call to prayer. I don't mean just go and pray. I mean he is the little man whose voice rings out from the minaret. {Recently he locked my husband and I in his shop so we could continue shopping while he did the prayer...I told you, he is just a nice guy!} He also has an African Grey parrot that lives outside his shop that says: Marhaba (hello), Salam wa alaykom (peace on you), and will cat call at anyone walking by. The bird also does the perfect imitation of a cat meowing. Poor thing. You know who he gets to hang out with all day in that alley. He was actually a bit camera shy when I shot this video. He would NOT talk for the camera. Silly parrot.

Anyway. Abu Sheikh {as I like to call him 'father of sheikhs'} also has an amazing memory. He remembers all the toys that our family has ever purchased {not to mention the fact that he has the entire Koran memorized}. If he sees me coming he starts pulling out his new wares customized for us...kind of like how has {probably very complicated programming} suggestions of items you may want to buy based on your buying history.

From what I can figure {and all the bizarre questions I've asked him}, he gets big containers full of items that have been returned at places like Target, Toys R Us and Walmart. He gets overstocks from Goodwill and Salvation Army. And one time he got a load of left over garage sale items. I really have no idea how he gets this stuff. But I love him for it. He has three locations: His store. The storage room next to his store. And his storage garage behind his mosque {I call this place his Holy of Holies}. You would NOT believe the stuff he has in there. Recently he got about 40 huge burlap bags full of overstocked Old Navy and Gap clothes. {yippie!!!!}

WARNING: This will just make you jealous if you are a fellow bargain shopper...proceed with caution!

Here is what I have found over the last years and the prices Abu Sheikh sells them for:
American Girl Josefina Doll: Retail $95 - Abu Sheikh price $7
Playmobil Large Pirate Ship: Retail $110 - Abu Sheikh price $17
Playmobil Fairy Palace: Retail $60 - Abu Sheikh price $14
Lego Star Wars Various sets: Retail $20 - $60 - Abu Sheikh price $10
Lego City Airport: Retail $99 - Abu Sheikh price $15
Mexican Train Dominoes: Retail $20 - Abu Sheikh price $3
Tony Hawk Wii Skateboard and Game: Retail $50 - Abu Sheikh price $12
5 Wii Games: Retail $30 - $60 each - Abu Sheikh price $7 each
Pink ihome alarm clock: Retail $50 - Abu Sheikh price $10
Hannah Montana Monopoly: Retail $20 - Abu Sheikh price $4
Eye Clops Bionic Eye  Microscope for TV: Retail $70 - Abu Sheikh price $8
Huge set of Lincoln Logs: Retail $40 - Abu Sheikh price $2
My Little Ponies: Retail $6 - Abu Sheikh price 75 cents each

Back in college, my boyfriend {who later became my husband!} did a summer internship in a small Guatemalan village outside of Antigua that was famous for their unique, colorful handwoven crafts, with patterns only made in that area! Look what we found at Abu Sheikh's a few weeks ago:

From Guatemala in some tourist's bag... to Abu Sheikh's in Podunk, Middle East. If that thing could talk... We found it just hilarious that it was lying next to a Bible cover {not too much of a market for those around here}.

Well, before you get too jealous of my great fortune. I will leave you with this picture. This is his store on an organized day:

Abu Sheikh on the hunt for the perfect toy.
See anything you want?
Happy Christmas Shopping!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hope You Have Good Directions

We have some great friends in town who are also Americans. We met them years ago when we were all at the same school to learn Arabic. They are funny people. In fact, they are the same people I wrote about regarding the Mango Tree. They recently took their family on a road trip and were inspired to write a post for Apricots without further adieu, I present to you my funny friend from the East Coast:

So the season of Parliament campaigns - the fireworks, vinyl banners, tribal clashes, and massive images of candidates - is over. Still, the aftermath can be seen. For some reason, every few years when the elections take place, over zealous tribes in the south of the county (in a sincere effort to promote a family member toward victory and power) plaster street signs with face shot stickers of the candidates. Now one might think, a sticker here or there, no big deal. I myself, having grown up in the amazing state of New Jersey developed an early appreciation of graffiti and bill posts as I walked the streets of Manhattan and Queens. In those formative years, apparently I began believing a lie: What was once thought in my mind to be an innate understanding that the acceptable protocol for the posting of bills was on the sides of, on the backs of, or in close proximity too signs or walls carrying vital information to the average citizen was obvious...has been dis-proven. It is not innate - in any sense.

On a recent family outing to the tourist haven known as Wadi Rum - this was again an issue. A veteran of the road to Rum, I was not phased - but with great compassion I felt the pain of the average tourist in their rental car attempting to navigate to their destination. Sign after sign was covered with the faces of the area’s parliament candidates. Signs like: Wadi Rum This Way, Dangerous Curve Ahead, Speed Bump in 100m, Railroad Tracks Ahead, and of course - STOP. They were all covered up by such propaganda. 

On a happier note - the Southern Port City that I continue to somehow manage to declare as my home - known for its gruff, tough residents with their deep thick Arabic and stone faces proudly had a solid dozen candidates post self images in many forms throughout our city for the election. Two men were eventually elected - and with great surprise - the two victors had one thing in common - they were the only two wearing smiles in their glamor shots.

Good times.

What does that teach us?
Even if you don't know where your going.
You may get a lot of people to follow you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Little Bit of West in the East

As you know, we live in the Middle EAST.
As you know, Thanksgiving was last week.
As you know, that is a 100% WESTERN holiday.
As you know, we couldn't let a holiday pass like that being un-celebrated.
So, this is how you pull off a WESTERN holiday in the Middle EAST.
{WARNING: it is not easy}

Step 1: You get very nervous that no turkeys are showing up in the local grocery stores leading up to Thanksgiving. You block out a day near Thanksgiving to drive 4 hours up and 4 hours back to the capital to buy a turkey OR you put a friend in the capital on stand-by to buy a cooler, buy a turkey, and send it on the bus down to you. But, you rejoice when you get text messages from every foreigner you know in town the day turkeys arrive to the local grocery store. You run to the store and pay $65 for an 18 lb BUTTERBALL turkey. Then you come home and try to figure out how to squeeze a frozen 18 lb turkey into your tiny freezer.

Step 2: You google a lot of really strange things.
Google Search: can I freeze celery {because celery only shows up every once in a great while at the veggie man and if you don't grab it when he has it, your celery recipes will, well, lack celery}
Google Search: what is cream corn {because your Aunt Dena's cream corn recipe needs cream corn, so if you have to 'fabricate' it you wonder if you just dump regular corn in the blender to make cream corn}
Google Search: how do you cook a pumpkin {because, gasp, there are no cans of Libby's Pumpkin Pie mix to be found this year, so, gasp, you have to get pumpkin from A PUMPKIN to home make all the pumpkin recipes}

Step 3: You have to field funny questions from your neighbors. {In our last apartment, we received a knock on the door as the turkey was cooking. The smell was apparently wafting through the entire building. The knocker was designated by the other neighbors to come and ask if we were cooking pork. No, we said. It was our Thanksgiving turkey. He explained he had never smelled either. Then asked if his family could join us for Thanksgiving. The more the merrier!}
Step 4: You have to look for hidden treasures in the ingredients. {It seems that all the flour here is laced with bugs. Yum. So, not only do you have to MAKE the cornbread {no Jiffy Mix} for the corn casserole, MAKE the spice cake for the pumpkin pie cake {no Betty Crocker}, and MAKE dinner rolls {no Great Harvest Bread Co}, you have to SIFT ALL THE DRY INGREDIENTS in case there are hidden treasures. I only found a few this time around.}

Step 5: You invite people over that have become your family away from family. You eat till you can't eat no more. You all crash in the living room in a food coma. Then you play reruns of Charlie Brown and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That's what we did. {And since it was 90 degrees out the 'kid table' got to be outside.}

Step 6: You eat tons of leftovers for days and days with no microwave to heat them up in because it was an knock-off Chinese thing that caught on fire a while back and you never bothered to replace it for fear of a second more disastrous fire.

And that, my dear blogging friends is how you bring a Western holiday to the East. 


Now I'm off to figure out Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Barfing in Ramallah

Last week we took a whirl wind tour of the Holy Land. We visited Masada, Old City of Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Ramallah, Nazareth, Cana, Tiberius, Sea of Galilee, Capurnum, Garden Tomb, Tower of David Museum, Hezekiah's Tunnels, City of David, Bethlehem, Shepherds Field, Church of the Last Supper, Davids Tomb, Qumran (where Dead Sea scrolls were found), and a hike up to a waterfall in Ein Gedi. It was Amazing!

I have debated as to how to 'cover' our trip.
Serious. Funny. Photo Journey. Just the facts. I could take it from so many angles.
Alas, because of the theme of this blog, I must go funny. {Because any trip with our family seems to have its 'moments'.} So, without further ramblings...

Our Top 10 {mis} Adventures in the Holy Land

10. This is a scientific break-down of how we spent our time:
          20% sleeping/listening to the neighbors dog barking
          20% getting lost
          10% at border crossings/checkpoints
          5% arguing about directions while getting lost
          25% at amazing sites of Christendom
          5% eating
          5% in our tiny apartment we rented (we pretended we were living in a box car)
          10% driving around while getting lost
{*none of these calculations are scientific. i just made them up. do they even add up to 100%?}

9. The Temple Mount - a holy site for three religions. Closed again. The last time we visited, tourists were not allowed up on the Temple Mount because there were riots/rock throwing over some excavating being done by one group that the other group was not happy with. This time, closed again because of the eid holiday. Bummer. We'll just have to plan another trip!

8. Apparently there is a brand new, beautiful, fast North/South highway running through the West side of the country. Apparently the Lonely Planet guide we were using was published before that brand new, beautiful, fast highway went through. We saw a lot of back roads. The countryside really was beautiful!

7. If we had not been standing directly on one of the Christian worlds most revered places, I would have had serious words with the rude Spaniard tourist that pushed my dear daughter out of the way at the manger scene. My girl just wanted to see where baby Jesus was born. Mean lady.

6. Because of #8 above, we saw the sunset in Galilee. We didn't get to see the Church of the Loaves and Fishes or the Mountain of the Beatitudes or the Church of St. Peter. Nope. They were closed. But, we saw the sunset. That was nice. Another reason to go back.

5. While approaching the Garden Tomb, my daughter told me she was really glad that Jesus rose again...otherwise we would have to see his bones in the tomb. I agreed with her.

4. We took our own car across the border and covered about 1,000 miles. We love our Hybrid...42 mpg! The border guards however, were not so keen on the hybrid. They kept asking why the only sound our car made was clicking noises. Our battery did its little hum/recharge thing while one of the guards was scanning under our car for bombs. It made for some exciting moments. They repeatedly asked us to start our car...when it was already running. Having out of country plates was also a plus so many times when we were lost and people flagged us down to help us. They all would start the conversation by telling us what relative of theirs lived where we're from and how they just felt compelled to help us. Hospitality is amazing in the Middle East!

3. Signs in English in foreign countries just make me laugh. Here are some of my favs from this trip.

I like people that don't take themselves TOO seriously.

Run out of money? Come get some free change.

What a creative name. What a creative logo. I've never seen anything like it before!

2. The culture-lover in me enjoyed our time in the Old City because you get to watch the three people groups/religions all co-exist together in that small area. Fascinating. Here is my hubby buying falafel sandwiches from an Arab guy whose family had lived in the old city for centuries. Behind them are two Orthodox Jews deep in conversation. Muslim. Christian. Jew. This does not happen many other places in the world.

1. Since we were so close, we wanted to drive through Ramallah just to get a feel for what a West Bank town that is always in the news is like. We enjoyed our little spin around town. When we started seeing soldiers posted on the road every 150 yards, we decided our spin should be over. We wound our way back to the check point at which time I realized I had not given my car sick prone child her daily Dramamine dose. Sure enough, just as we made our way to the soldiers, she barfed. In Ramallah. It was a good way to get the soldiers to hurry us through the check point!

West Bank wall artwork is fascinating!