Sunday, January 30, 2011

Please Don't Judge Me!

I turned 35 today.


I have the same hairstyle as I did when I graduated from high school.

Before you judge me.
{I know you are!}
Let me explain why this has happened.
There are two simple reasons:

1. I live 200 miles away from the only man in this country that I trust with my hair. So, by default, I had to grow my hair out so I don't have to go as often.
2. While we were in London and I was bored sitting on the subway, I people watched. I noticed that all the cute, classy London ladies had bangs. So, what did I do? I woke up one morning and cut my own bangs. My husband was standing by the whole time watching, saying "You're going to regret this. You're going to regret this."

I never regreted it.
Until today.
When I turned 35.
If I went to my high school reunion, I would win the "Hasn't changed a bit" award.
And I don't think that is really a compliment.

Savory Sunday: Wacky Cake

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Middle East Guide to Aircraft Overhead

I woke up the other morning and sent a text message to a bunch of friends that read:
Good morning great friends! Are we the only ones that heard explosions this morning at 6 am?
I find it kind of disturbing that I send text messages like that.
No one else heard the explosions...
It happened again the next morning, but I was too lazy to send a message out again.
I blamed it on the road construction going on behind our neighborhood.

A local friend recently stated when we worried out loud about our safety:
Oh, your city is so safe... you only get bombs or rockets 4-5 times a year, it's not like you live in Baghdad!
{as if terrorist threats are like thunderstorms}

Needless to say, we see a lot of aircraft flying overhead in our little city. My dear hubby created a viewing guide for reference when I hear the chug-chug-chug or whiiiishhhhh and look out the window...then I will know exactly what to do.

I wondered if this may help someone else out there. So, I decided to be nice and share.

A Middle East Guide to Aircraft Overhead

F-16's flying in formation
GOOD: graduation or event nearby

F-16's flying in two-plane attack formation close to the speed of sound
GOOD/BAD: military trying to scare the hummus out of some stupid terrorists


Desert Camo Huey's in formation
GOOD: someone important is being flown into town

Desert Camo Huey
GOOD: daily coast border patrol

Desert Camo Huey flying 1m from water
GOOD & BAD- Suspicious my husband SCUBA'd in from a neighboring country... one day the border patrol decided to inspect/scare him by flying so close to the water that when my husband surfaced he could tell the pilots rank and eye color {this really happened}


Osprey VTOL crazy space age flying things
GOOD - troops doing joint exercises with friends

Small Regional Jet
GOOD - local scheduled airline flight

Boeing 727
GOOD - local airline flight, when regular plane (see above) is broken

Boeing 727

Old Russian-looking propeller plane
GOOD {Scary}: Charter flights from strange locations that haven't yet seemed to catch on to the whole 'jet propulsion' phenomenon.

Old propeller aircraft
Drone, slow flying almost model airplane looking thing
GOOD {and, um, not so good) - Either our neighbors are spying on us, or someone is doing joint training with friends again and watching our son and his classmates at school while they draw pictures of the circling sci-fi looking drone surveillance aircraft {yes, this really happened}.

Black, small fast helicopter flying just above satellite dish altitude
BAD- Looking for/trying to scare/intimidate suspicious things/person/people who keep launching rockets our way... or it's the traffic-copter... who knows.

Small sport/stunt propeller planes on weekend mornings
GOOD - practicing or performing for the crowds
AWESOME - smoke tails

Stunt Planes

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Culture Through the Eyes of A Child

My 4 year old niece visited {she brought her family along with her as well} last spring. I recently found a scratch piece of paper in which I had recorded some very funny things that she said during their visit. She was experiencing a different culture and it just delighted my heart to hear her process it all out loud.

My little twin.
While we were walking around downtown, she noticed the different clothes and said:
"Dad, I just love those curtain hats those boys wear."

We left our restaurant one night and it had gotten dark. All the city buildings were lit up, including the mosque close to the restaurant. With such delight, she looked up at the mosque minaret and declared:
"Auntie, we just ate right next to Cinderella's Castle!"

I guess the image in her mind of the desert was pretty close to the real thing. As we were driving down the main highway through the country, she yelled out:
"Wow, this looks just like the desert!"

And her common answer when any new food item was placed before her:
"Is it tortellini?"
I think that was the most exotic food item name she could come up with.

Each time she sampled a new food item, she always had something positive to say. Pretty remarkable for a little girl! My favorite:
"Everything is so delicious. Especially when they put honey all over everything!"

A lesson we all can learn from a little girl:

Different things, different people, different food can be delicious!

The next time you see a covered lady at the grocery store or a man with a curtain hat on television, think of the 'honey' that differences bring to our world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Middle East Conflict...and Burritos

So we were eating burritos the other night. My 9 year old boy left the dinner table to go to the bathroom. When he came back, he asked:
Mom, I really don't understand why there are so many problems in the Middle East. Can you explain it to me one more time?
So, I did what any normal mother would do.
I dumped out the crumbs in the bottom of the corn chips bag.
I made a map of the Middle East out of chip bits.
And I started explaining.
These people think this is their land.
These people think this is their land.
These people don't have a land.
This major religious thing happened here for this religion.
This major religious thing happened here for this religion.
And this major religious thing happened here for this religion.
So, these people want this land.
And, these people want this land.
And, these people want this land.
And it's all the same land.
Then the boy said:
Oh, I think I get in now.
Then he ate Gaza and the West Bank.
I ate Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
And the sister ate Israel.
With some salsa on top.

The Middle East Peace process just got even more complicated!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lovely London

We had a great time in London over Christmas. What a fun city! We saw all the great sites and museums and spent time with family...we couldn't have asked for more.

Of course, because I love traveling and life and culture and humor, I have to share some highlights...

1. I don't understand British humor {or humour, I should say}. Nevertheless, I laughed at all the commercials on TV and Mr. Bean, but didn't always understand why.

See what I mean? Is this a joke or are they serious? I guess I will never know because I didn't want to try and see what would have happened if I, err, "urinated in this area".
2. The weather forecast is done by the color of the clouds: white, gray, black. I guess if it is cloudy everyday, you have to make it exciting some how. But, that didn't really help me make any decisions about what to wear. So we just wore the same thing everyday. See?

This is the Tower Bridge on a gray day.

Here is Big Ben on a white day.

Look! Kensington Palace on a gray day.

And with black clouds. Just kidding...this is the sky line at midnight on 1-1-11!! Happy New Year!

3. The London Underground is AMAZING. When it works. For example: when the London Underground workers go on strike, NO ONE goes anywhere in London. Another example: when the line that goes out to the airport is closed on the day you need it, you spend $100 getting to the airport in a taxi instead of $10 on the Underground. It really is great... When it works.

Mind the Gap!
4. I don't think I have ever had to do a public apology on my blog. But, the time has come. I found that I have been influenced by the East more than I realized.
  • I apologize to any person that I stood too close to while engaged in a conversation. I'm just used to a different definition of personal space.
  • I apologize to ALL the people that I stepped in front of in line. I'm just not used to those.
  • I apologize for staring at everyone who stepped on escalators coming out of the subway and automatically stepped to the right so people in a hurry could pass on the left. It was just all so organized. I'm just not used to that. (On this note... why do they drive on the left, but go 'American' on the escalators and stay right?)
  • I'm sorry to all the great restaurants that I passed on by looking for a good falafel stand. I just get these cravings.
  • I apologize to that taxi man who was so bothered we were crossing the road one meter away from the actual painted crosswalk that he rolled his window down and pointed to the crosswalk for us, yelling. We are just not used to paying attention to such sophisticated infrastructure.
  • And specifically, I am sorry to this nice lady in the red coat who got really angry when I took a picture in St. Paul's Cathedral. I just forget to follow rules sometimes.

Pretty church though, eh?

5. My daughter can produce the perfect British accent. It made me laugh the entire trip. The Brits have such great English. Americans sound so boring compared to them. I was shopping for Wellingtons {those cute rubber boots} for my son and asked the clerk if there were more sizes available. He kindly said:
"I'm quite sorry, there has been a rush on Wellies according to the inclimate weather."
I found myself stepping in front of the elevator doors just so I could hear the voice on the elevator say:
"Please refrain from obstructing the doors."
And of course, no trip to London is complete without repeating at any chance possible:
"Mind the gap between the train and the platform."
But my favorite came on a cold night when my dear hubby and I were out on a date. He went to order me a hot drink to warm me up. So sweet. It was a special Christmas-y drink that was on the menu. My hubby came back with his head down and no drink. Apparently when he ordered the drink, the man told him they no longer have that drink because:
He was German...  not really British-speak, but funny.

6. The biggest highlight for me was this. Family. A picture says 1,000 words.

Aww, cousins.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quick Tip for the Day: Riots

I've been a little slim on posting this week as I've enjoyed the last week of winter break with my kids. We made a quick trip up to the capital. While we were there a notice came out from the embassy to 'avoid public places' on Friday as there would likely be riots across the country because of recent hikes in food staple prices.
We were planning on driving home on Friday - a 3 1/2 hour drive right down the center of the country. Kind of hard to 'avoid public places' when we're doing that.
We had to make a plan.

There was one town we were most concerned about. It is about two hours south of the city. This town is notorious for its raucous riots. Some friends of ours drove by the same town last week and the highway was barricaded with burning tires. They had to take a creative off-road adventure through the desert for a bit to get home. I didn't know if our Prius was up for that!
So, this was our plan...
We left at 10am. By noon, we were passing through the riotous city right during the call the prayer. The streets were empty and the highway was clear. I'll read tomorrow in the paper what went on after that.

So, here is the quick tip of the day: If you have to plan your trips according to when all the naughty boys are busy to avoid being caught in a may need to re-define 'normal' when you describe your life as such.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Savory Sunday: Snickerdoodle Cookies

We really enjoyed our picture of the day project last year!
My photo journey for 2011 will be to create a family cookbook of all our family classics and favorites. {Don't worry, I'll still take pictures of my kids too!} Each Sunday I will post the recipe of the week. Some come from my side of the family (traditional Midwest farm cooking) or from my husbands family (tasty classics modified for healthy eating) or from me (international dishes from the Middle East and beyond). Should be yummy!
Why Sunday? Because one of my most vivid memories from childhood is coming home from church on Sunday afternoon, walking into our house and having a wall of delicious smells hit me from my moms savory Sunday creation that cooked in the oven all morning.

If Apricots Today is to encourage us to enjoy our present moments...what better way to do it than with food?

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Think I Have Nine Lives...Now I'm on my Third

On January 3rd, 2011, I lost another life {on account of being scared to death, of course}.

I won't bore you with too many details: the story unfolded like this while we were at Heathrow waiting to board our return flight from our fabulous London vacation.
  • We were sitting right next to the gate door where you walk down that accordion hallway thingy {I'm sure there is a technical name for that thingy} to get to the plane.
  • There happened to be windows in the gate door where you could see the crew and all passing along the accordion hallway thingy.
  • My husband glanced up at the windows and said, "Wow, did you just see that?"
  • I glanced up at the windows and saw five large men in security vests ushering one man in handcuffs down the accordion hallway thingy toward our plane. 
  • When they were out of sight the handcuffed man started yelling at the top of his lungs the phrase that most suicide bombers yell right before they pull the trigger. "God is Great! Mohammad is his prophet!" AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS.
That was my exact moment of death. I knew I was a goner along with the other 300 or so passangers in the gate area with me. 


Nothing happened.

  • We heard the man continuing to yell as he was put on the airplane.
  • Some pilot-ish/official looking guys arrived and looked around at the still passengers {who should have all been boarded on the plane by then}. They rapped on the gate door.
  • My husband leaned toward them and quietly explained what had been going on. He suggested that if the screaming man stayed on the plane, they were going to have a lot of anxious passengers to deal with...including us.
  • The pilot-ish guys were let in. About five minutes later, the five men with the handcuffed, screaming man {who was still screaming} {AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS} was lead off the plane.
  •  The gate attendant showed up all smiles and started boarding the plane.

    That was an uneventful way to end life #2.

    By the 9th, I am predicting I'm going to look like this:

    What I find the most amusing is that although I live in the very volatile Middle East, both my near death experiences in the last 8 years have happened in Europe.