Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What To Do When You're Waiting for Paperwork in Calexico


Salvation Mountain; Crazy place in Niland, CA where this guy built up a mountain of hay, coated it in something, then used thousands of gallons of paint to cover it in scriptures and decorations.


Mountains and desert on one side and the accidentally created Salton Sea with its pelicans on the other. The kids had fun finding pelican feathers.

The International Banana Museum in Mecca, CA had almost everything banana you could think of. 

Wisteria Candy Cottage 
Unfortunately, this famous chocolate shop was closed on the day we visited... So we went to the:

Desert view tower
The views at the top of this tower/shop/information center were spectacular but the wind was super strong! On the same property were some kid-friendly caves and rock formations.

Coming next: what to do when you unexpectedly hear your work visas will take an extra week and a half and you're in southern California...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tucson, Arizona to Calexico, California; Texas to Cabo Trip 2015 part 3

This morning we left Tucson, Arizona for California. Our first stop was in Dateland, Arizona where Ben tried a date shake. There were also these date treats: date butter, pecan pumpkin pie spiced date rolls, balsamic date vinegar and regular date vinegar.
There were mountains (and tons of RV parks) after Dateland:

Then we went to Yuma for some family history:
Where we walked around in 115 degree heat looking for the plank road until...
We found it!

This was our first time in California.
And it was interesting to see signs like this periodically:

We ended our day in Calexico where there are several places for the kids to play, a consulate and a border crossing and the people have all been very nice!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Van Horn, Texas to Tucson, Arizona; Texas to Cabo Trip 2015 Part 3

One of the different things about this part of Texas is that we haven't seen a grocery store in several hundred miles, (before entering Van Horn, TX and as we travel into Mountain Time Zone the last hour of driving through west Texas.)

This is mostly what there was to see:

We were reminded that we were still in Texas this morning at breakfast:
We went through El Paso and crossed into New Mexico, a state neither of us had visited before.
In Las Cruces, NM the kids had a blast at a train museum!

And the rock museum in Deming, NM where we got a lesson in which minerals make which colors in rocks, and about different agates.
After which we crossed into Arizona:

Where they boasted all kinds of different jerky:
The kids had a hard time with this stretch of the road getting to Tucson. It was hot, but we made it!

Friday, August 14, 2015

North East Texas to Van Horn, TX: Cabo Trip 2015 Part 2

This morning we loaded the rest of the essentials we had been using into the van. (And then unloaded some and put more in storage and reloaded and saw if the kids would fit and the doors would shut...) We did it. There's always a feeling of finality as you pull out of the driveway: all of your decisions, good or bad, are finished for the most part and you'll have to live with your choices when you get to the new place. (Barring spending money on more things, to which I'm always opposed.)

We drove a good two hours before everyone had to take a potty break. (Can you tell I'm a mom of small children by my language?) For an approximate 45 hour trip, hopefully we will get a better average of stops to progress over the whole trip.) However, there was a nice grassy place the kids could run in, so we raced. Talia won most races.

We saw refreshing rain for the first time in a couple months just west of Fort Worth.
Another highlight was finding an interesting truck stop with interesting canned goods like jalapeño or chipotle ketchup and sweet potato butter... And a fried pie shop! Ben and Talia split a vanilla pie and Elias and I shared an apricot.

When we spotted Odessa, Texas' version of Stonehenge we decided it was a good place to let the kids expel some excess energy.

Then we drove the last 160 or so miles for the day and got a hotel in Van Horn, Texas. 

9 hours, over 600 miles. Done. Zzzzzzz...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Packing: Texas to San José del Cabo 1

When I was young my dad built himself a little shop to work in and to hold his tools. As we grew up he graduated to a bigger one and gave his little portable shop to me. When we began our international travels it became a great storage place. We began international teaching in 2009 in Guatemala when Talia was only 18 months old, and in between times we haven't had enough time to unpack and reorganize everything; until now, so you can imagine the variety of things that have collected just in different gender and sizes and seasons of children's clothes!

The last few weeks we've been busy seeing family for the last time and sorting storage into: take, give away, store and trash. Since we are driving and moving to a house, we can take things that weren't feasible in Abu Dhabi. Like a mixer! However, everything we bring must fit into the minivan we've purchased with no racks or trailers to attract the attention of the possibly search-happy Mexican cops. This is the challenge... And it has been one to make us question the line between having faith that what we need will be provided and being a good steward with what we have and not just getting rid of everything. 

(Pictured above) A neighbors' house burning down cemented the thoughts we already had during this packing process: we will make the best decisions we can, but in the end it's just stuff and if something happens to it there are more important things in life than stuff. We were thankful to hear that our neighbors' family was ok!

Now, I need to go make sure we can close the van doors...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Homemade Fig Newtons

The squirrels and wasps and other creatures were really enjoying the figs from our tree, but there were enough untouched ones to make something with, so we decided to try to make one of my dad's favorites: fig newtons.

We looked at two recipes; one from food.com and one Healthy Green Kitchen and combined the ideas.
They came out delicious! However we decided it only needed a half cup of sugar in the crust and a half cup in the filling instead of the full cup it called for in both to not be too sweet. It's worth trying again!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trying New Food in the States

One thing about getting to visit many different family members while we are in the States is getting to learn new recipes. 

I had never tried "Dutch hats" before. It was basically a pancake batter with more eggs, poured in a cast iron skillet and baked where it puffs up. We then slathered on Greek yogurt, strawberries, blueberries and a little Maple syrup... Yum!
Another thing I had never heard of was cornmeal pie. To me it tasted like a gooey yellow cake mix wit a hint of the gritty cornmeal texture.
I loved this recipe of quinoa salad! It had dried cherries, walnuts, green onions, celery, a pinch of cayenne, salt, pepper, coconut oil, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice.
Have you tried any new recipes this summer?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Blending and Harvests

I love harvest time! Our neighbors are getting older and don't like to mess with putting away fruit from their trees anymore so sometimes we get to pick their fig and peach trees. Here we got two five gallon buckets full of peaches that were falling off of the tree. Now they need to be processed/set out to finish ripening.
With all of the fresh produce in this season I was excited when my aunt gave me a beautiful hot pink blender to make smoothies with some of it.

 I knew the first recipe I wanted to try was the raw chocolate pudding: this recipe called for a banana, avocado, cinnamon, raw cacao powder, and (almond) milk blended then chilled. It was yummy!
We are looking forward to the rest of this season!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Why My 1-Year-Old Barks Like a Dog

In the Middle East dogs are haram/unclean to the locals and potential supper to the myriad of laborers from many different countries. Because of this dogs are very rare. I think I saw two the whole time we were there. One was a very furry dog walking on a leash with his owner along the corniche and looking very hot. The other one our friends saw running alongside the road and  stopped to pick it up. If they ever tried to walk it in public they often got comments such as "haram!" Or "in my country we would eat him." 

Coming back to the States, Ezra has loved all of the dogs everywhere! He will stand at the window or fence and bark with his whole body trying to communicate with the dog. Now, he says "dog" very well, but to anything with fur: stuffed animals, cats, squirrels. The other day he was patting his younger cousin on the head and saying "dog!" so we may have some work to do...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Toddlers on Tile Floors

In Abu Dhabi all of the floors I ever saw were made of tile, perhaps to withstand inevitable sand and to be cooler. I appreciated them until Elias and then Ezra had to try to learn to walk on them- then the frequent falls in the beginning of their endeavors had me worried about their skulls and such! Since the floors were so cool and easily slick, putting sock on made it slicker and shoes made a baby learning to walk not have the grip of his toes for stability. Then, I met a friend with a solution: Coega sun wear pool shoes. http://www.coegawear.com/products.php?section=5/

They have a thin rubber-like grip bottom and a stretchy fabric top with elastic around the opening. They stay on, keep the feet warm and give traction with a bare-foot feel for a baby learning to walk on tile... And since they're technically pool shoes, even if the tile gets wet they are less likely to slip. Can you tell I was impressed? (This is not paid advertising.) Ezra is wearing them in the grass in the picture above. They do well on beach sand also.

Now the problem is that they only seem to be available in the Middle East.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Friday, June 5, 2015

Beautiful Things in Texas

This sunset was so beautiful in person. Pictures never do them justice.
The kids have been enjoying the animals on our friends' farms so much, but this week we also got the chance to go to the zoo. 

They really enjoyed seeing all of those animals! In the river land area this duck flapped his way up to the rail so Talia could pet him. He sat there a while and let her before hopping down.

It's so nice to be here again!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sickness in the States

I had hoped we would get sick less in the States. We came here getting over respiratory issues from the sandstorm that came through Abu Dhabi right before we left. Upon arrival we were greeted with the myriad of different types of pollen we weren't accustomed to in the desert. So our sinus and allergy symptoms were haywire the first few weeks!
Then Ezra got sick wheezing and coughing. When he woke up barely able to get a breath and coughing like a seal barks we took him to the emergency room. There, he was diagnosed with a bad case of croup and given a steroid to open his bronchial tubes. A humidifier helped, and I was thankful to have it when Elias came down with the same thing. 
Talia then came down with fever and cough and flu-like symptoms, that when recovered, Elias caught. 
In the middle of that I had a horrible stomach virus that kept me in bed and my dad, who wasn't feeling good either, saved me so much trouble by watching the kids so I could puke in peace.
Elias, who seems to copy everyone, had a night throwing up with a fever after me. 
Now, aside from a carsick episode, we seem to finally be getting better! 
Since people in the desert have seemed to be suffered the same issues as we are here, I'm thankful to at least be with family. It's easier to cope with sickness when there's people who can help, though I never would have wished it on them. Thanks so much to my parents for showing us love in action.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rainy Season in the States

I feel like the consistent rain every day is a welcome back to the States from the desert. I still love the sound of it! And how it is helping our plants thrive! And bringing some creatures out to be discovered! 
Like this snapping turtle Talia found in the front yard (that after taking this picture we got a shovel and gently helped over the fence):
Or this frog my fearless girl caught at her uncle's house:

Or this one she found outside of the garden at my parent's:

(Have I mentioned she loves animals? She was careful with them and put them back. And washed her hands.)

The rain has taken what I've planted from this:

To this in just a few weeks!

I love growing things and the rain that nurtures them. I know that soon this rainy season will end and the leaves will lose their spring green and transition to a hardier dark green for deep summer. It's nice to see the seasons up close again!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Clearing Out Winter Vegetables

It's SO GREEN in the States right now! We've been working in the garden a lot. Last month we worked on clearing out these winter vegetables to get the garden ready for summer vegetables.

 Talia and Elias helped pull up the huge cabbage, onions and turnips that were finished or had gone to seed.
They had a blast!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Animal Hugs

Talia loves animals. Besides the myriad of mostly wild cats, couple of parrots and lizards in Ruwais, there weren't many animals around for her to have a close experience with. Since we've been in the States she has used every opportunity possible to hug every animal she finds:
Like this duck...

Or this cat...

or this chicken.

Her dream right now is to grow up and be a doctor who lives on a farm with a lot of animals. We sure love this girl and her tender heart towards other creatures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ezra Turns 1

Ezra playing with a birthday gift.
I can't believe this little guy is now 1.  I remember when he was born in the desert and the mental agony of  not knowing how his birth was going to go in a foreign hospital and absolutely hating being forced to go to a hospital at all instead of being with my midwife since homebirth was illegal. So, naturally, I decorated this desert baby's nursery in penguins. (How much farther from the desert can you get than Patagonia?) 

This baby is such a sweet heart! Ezra loves to be in the middle of his siblings every moment. He likes to meet new people and always makes eye contact to figure them out. He's notorious for making eyes and smiles at older ladies and toddling up and hugging you on the leg and laying his head against you before toddling off to play again. He gets a lot of loving and gives a lot back in return.

So far he can wave and say hi or bye-bye, Pawpaw, bubba, Ta-ta (for Talia) and love you (luh-ooo).

Many of his family members hadn't met him before coming to his first birthday party, and it was really special to get to spend time with them.

This was my first time using fondant to attempt a (blue) penguin cake.
Happy first birthday, Ezra! We love you!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Kale Chips

This is my (wanna be) picky eater chomping on some kale chips:
One thing being back in the land of green things and an amazing variety of grocery options has provided is the chance to create some of the nice recipes we've been seeing but have been unable to reproduce. Like kale chips! With pink Himalayan sea salt! Whaaaaaaat???

You can tell how uncultured and unexposed to options I've been just by how excited I was to use pink Himalayan sea salt...
Anyway, my mom had kale growing in her handy greenhouse, and we had never tried it before, so we washed, dried and tossed it with olive oil and salt...
And baked it... It reminded me of the smell of broccoli while it was cooking and it definitely had that earthy flavor of greens, but it had CRUNCH, and who doesn't like broccoli-smelling-green-flavored CRUNCH? Actually, we didn't care for it, but the kids did! (Probably because they rarely get chips and these were crunchy and had "chips" in the name...) Yay for kids eating greens!