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!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Abu Dhabi to Qatar to Dallas: (Too Much Flying)

Our trip began by driving to Abu Dhabi to finish some paperwork before flying out. We picked nap time, apparently, because not long on the road, all three kids were like this:
On flying day we got up at 2 AM, well, Ben, Talia the baby and I got up, but poor Elias was in a daze. We had a one hour flight to Qatar and then a 16 hour flight to Dallas.

People ask how I can fly with two kids and a baby, and, let me tell you now, I'm no super mom. We took it one moment at a time. Talia was an amazing helper and the friendly airline staff were all incredible. Especially when tired Elias got scared of the escalator as I was going down with the baby and a bag and Talia with bags and he stood on the top and wailed. An airport guy picked him up and brought him down. I was thankful for so many blessings on flight day: The boys had gotten over the fevers that had popped up just two days before traveling, a friend had helped us figure out the luggage transportation issue (three kids, small car, 12 pieces of different kinds of luggage...), many of the people I wanted to say bye to were able to arrange a meeting, the flight went through Qatar (known for spacious and nice flying accommodations), everything was checked including the stroller smoothly and with not much of a wait, the kids behaved very well on the plane and even slept much of the time, we were surrounded with nice people who had children or didn't mind them... so many, many things went beautifully.

 Still, a 16 hour flight is no picnic. I always break it up mentally into 6 hour increments... I'm not sure that it helps, because it usually goes like this:

First 6 hours: WE DID IT! We got through 6 hours without kids melting down or the plane crashing, or a million other scenarios that lurk in the back of my mind when flying.... but then I realize that we have TEN MORE HOURS TO GO!

Second 6 hours: The baby slept for THREE CONSECUTIVE HOURS! On a normal flight that would be almost the whole flight, or at least half! I can't believe we have 4 more hours: My shoulders hurt from holding little people, my backside feels glued to the aircraft seat and my eyes hurt from the screens everywhere and crazy hours and, "did we really get up at 2AM? Why is it impossible to sleep?"

Third 6 hours: So, it's not really 6 hours, right, I just do that to make me feel better when I remember that it's less than the first. Unless you count the time in the airport and the hour driving home? "ARE WE EVER GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE... I'm starting to feel like I'm suffocating."

Regardless, we made it alive. We are now enjoying the (sneeze) flowers and green things everywhere. Everything is greeeeen! We played in the rain! We harvested things from a garden! We went to an easily accessible church! We have family close! And, maybe best of all...

THAT PLANE RIDE IS FINISHED!!!!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Desert Storms

We had the two days of sprinkles and rain a week or so ago that are allotted as normal for a desert year... Which was wonderful and refreshing, but does mean that for two days we couldn't hang clothes outside. Elias likes to help put the clothes in our combined washer/dryer machine and, this time, put his dirty shoes in it as well. It made sense to him: they were dirty, they should be washed... Normally that wouldn't be an issue since we never use the dryer when it is not raining, but this day it was. We ended up with this:


Shoes with the decoration peeled off, shrunk to half their normal size and curled up. I was surprised (to find them in there, first) to see how different they were when they came out! 

Today there is a different kind of storm. We woke up to yellow light coming in the windows and when we went to see what it was, there was a hazy fog of sand sitting in the air everywhere. Ben couldn't drive to work it is so thick. We had to wipe sand off of the table before we could eat breakfast!


The kids and I are glad Ben is home, whatever the reason! They were playing "sandstorm travelers" and created this mask to "help them breathe in storms":


It's nice to have unexpected time together, even if it's sand storming.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

After Abu Dhabi: The Next Chapter

Our family is so excited about our next move!

Several of the goals we've had for where we live next have been reached in the new positions we have accepted:
-A place where our children could become bilingual in English/Spanish.
-A place where flights home weren't around $1,000 each like they are here.
-A place where the natural environment was more inviting than the desert so that we could all spend more time outside.
-A place that had some sort of balance between being super controlling and super dangerous.
-A place where if we both were to work, our children would be able to attend school in the same location.
-A church community.

We prayed about this transition, and then this position opened for us. There are so many ways that this is the perfect transition from Abu Dhabi: San Jose del Cabo in Baja California, Mexico. Let me just tell you some of the ways this place exceeds our expectations:

-We will be working in a bilingual private school where the subjects are taught in Spanish except science and English. Definitely a place for children to be bilingual!
-Flights home round trip are between $100-$300 and a one-way trip can be as low as $79. There is an airport nearby, too. (Also, a three hour flight sounds lovely right now as we are preparing for another 14 hour one.)
-This is a place known for its outdoor environment: beaches, horses, whale-watching and many other water sports.
-Since it isn't on the mainland of Mexico, but the peninsula, the drug traffic doesn't go through like many of the mainland and border Mexican towns. It has tourist police to protect the tourism industry and a special court for them as well. It has a good balance between control and danger. As far as natural disasters are concerned, there are occasional hurricanes.
-Ben and I will both be teaching (science and English, I love both!) and our children will all be attending school as well. There is a daycare, preschool and elementary up to 6th grade. It's perfect for the ages of our children and we love that the younger children will be learning Spanish.
-There are church options.

There are beautiful things beyond what we even wanted, like liking the subjects we will be teaching, and having respect for the people who run the school already because of the way they have gone out of their way to research what we would need and been available to help us with questions.

We feel blessed and thankful!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cat Shadows

Ruwais is a town with many feral cats. You hear them yowling all of the time, you see them tipping over trash cans and, I've suspected, one ripped a hole in our screen door. Don't get me wrong, I like cats better than dogs for the most part, but they're everywhere. 

Our villa came without the general maintenance usually done before a new family moves in. It's an old house, built sometime in the 80's, and has had many families before ours. Because of this we are used to issues with the water, paint peeling off of the walls and a very difficult to manage screen and door to the back patio.

When a gash appeared in the bottom corner of the screen we knew we'd have to be careful when it was in place or the cats would waltz right in the house in search of food. (Yes, they do.) Then, the difficult-to-manage door quit functioning: it would close almost all the way, but left a 3-4 inch gap. So we closed it and the screen as much as possible when getting the downstairs ready for the night.

This particular night, Ben went to bed early because he wasn't feeling well, and as soon as he and the kids were fast asleep I looked out the bedroom door and a shadow slinked from the stairs towards the rooms... A cat! I screamed at it and it zipped back downstairs and squeezed out the door before I could get down there. I put a cookie sheet between the screen and the door to block the hole, shut the downstairs doors and hoped that would block the crazy creatures.

Maintenance takes a while to get around to anything, so for now a baby gate between the screen and the door closes the hole and all the downstairs doors closed contains it.

In Guatemala the constant dogs and firecrackers were sleep hazards and here, it's the cats! Hopefully, now, they'll stay outside sleep hazards.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Seen in Abu Dhabi 33: Basboosa

When our Jordanian friends made us this dessert called "basboosa," it was the first time I had ever tried it and it puzzled me! It had a delicious flavor: slightly sweetened with a hint of citrus, but a texture I didn't recognize similar to grits. When I looked it up (http://www.food.com/recipe/basboosa-suji-cake-arabic-semolina-cake-309414) I found it is made with semolina, another thing I'm not familiar with. Regardless, it's delicious! I'm thankful for these generous people who like to introduce us to new things from their culture. I love trying new foods!

Friday, February 27, 2015

How do you get Water out of a 5 Gallon Jug?

When we moved to Abu Dhabi we knew we didn't want it to be a permanent position, so we didn't buy expensive things for the house as we knew we'd have to leave most of it behind. Sometimes this can backfire, but for us it has been a good strategy...

Except for this: water in Abu Dhabi is desalinated from the Gulf and stored in huge tanks at the apartments or water towers in Ruwais. Sometimes tests on these water sources come back contaminated so most people don't drink it but rather buy these 5 gallon or so jugs of water. (Because Benjamin and I first experienced these in Guatemala and because we don't know a handy word for them in English, we still call them "garrafones.")
Figuring out a proficient, reliable way to get the water out has been challenging! Because it needs to be something the children can get by themselves, lifting the whole thing and pouring it out, though fastest, wasn't feasible for everyday life. The inverted container mechanism given to us by the first water company (first picture on left) trickled out and took so long (20 minutes) to fill a gallon jug to put on the table for supper that we soon looked for a different option.

The second pump took two size D batteries... frequently! When it started costing more for batteries than for water we looked for something simpler.

The third pump was manual. You squeeze the blue part and it suctions the water out through a hose but it was difficult to control and flimsy and would only work for the top half of the jug and we'd end up pouring the rest out by hand again on the bottom portion.

The one we are using now is yet a different version: you pump the green button on top and it pulls the water out. Benefits to this one include an arm workout every time you use it and a clean table as it splatters every time. (It is a benefit! Really!)

You never know what seemingly insignificant part of life is just waiting to provide entertainment. I never would have expected it from the water pump. I'm thankful for accessible, clean water!