Monday, June 30, 2008

Would the Reader in Amman Please Stand Up?

I know you are out there.

I have a regular reader in Amman. And I need -- NEED -- to know who you are.

If you are a member of Hubby's family, that would be good to know. If you aren't a member of Hubby's family - well that would be good to know too. Really good.

I'm always wondering and just thought I'd give you a shout out and ask you to put me out of my constant state of anxiety.


Menu Plan Monday

I guess I must subconciously feel bad for feeding my family such simple meals last week, because this week I've decide to be a little more industrious in the kitchen. What can I say? I like to cook!

However, I'm planning in one night to eat out. Every girl needs a break, right? Plus we have found this great restaraunt where all four of us can eat, and eat heartily, for about $10 total! Gotta love that Arabic food!! Cheap and healthy!!

This week's recipe, for Cobb Salad, is a perfect summer meal - light and refreshing with a delicious citrusy dressing. Try it!

Sunday - Chicken and Onions with Creamy Wine Sauce, rice and salad

Monday - Lasagna, caesar salad and garlic breadsticks

Tuesday - Koosa Mahshi (Stuffed Zucchini), tabbouleh

Wednesday - Arabic Meatloaf and a chopped salad

Thursday - Cobb Salad (recipe below)

Friday - Barbeque (of course!)

Saturday - Eat out!!

Cobb Salad

Lemon Vinaigrette

Combine the following ingredients in a tightly lidded jar:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. dry mustard
  • 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/ t. pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced

Refrigerate while you prepare the salad.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 head of lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup diced chicken or turkey (I use thickly sliced deli turkey torn up - it's easy!)
  • 1 cup diced ham (again, I use it from the deli!)
  • 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 chopped medium tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 4 slices of crisply cooked bacon, crumbled (I use turkey bacon)

Arrange lettuce in a wide dish. Place meats, eggs, and tomatoes in attractive rows across the lettuce. Sprinkle with cheese and bacon and top with the vinaigrette. Serve!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Get Out Your Kleenex!

This is an amazing video, showing God's sufficiency for ALL situations. There are powerful testimonies presented here in a unique way. I was crying through much of the video, just awe-struck by God's grace to all of us.

(The sound is very low, so turn up your speakers.)
Thursday, June 26, 2008


Ok, I just came back from my weekly grocery shopping. One of the things on my list was beef bullion. I had brought some with me from the States that was sodium-free, but used up the last of it the other night.

I couldn't find any beef bullion anywhere in the store. However, I did find...

Mutton bullion!

What is wrong with this picture????

Thankful Thursday

God is so good, ladies. He has really taken us and settled us in a new place and made it into a home for us. It's been hard, but I really feel as if the last couple of weeks have been really good. Here are a few of the reasons why:

* We have joined a "recreation club" which is really a gym with a few extra benefits. But it's giving Hubby and I the opportunity to work out, the kids the opportunity to have fun splashing in the pools, and all of us a chance to relax. Very important when you are all under the stress of having moved across the world.

* Hubby agreed to the kids and I going for a State-side visit this fall. We'll get the chance to spend a week in Miami (Miami friends - block off some time for me the last week of October!!!) before continuing on to visit my family in Arizona. We are all very excited about this!!! I'm already making my list of what to buy that I can't get here!

* I got the chance to spend some one-on-one time with a new friend from church. It was nice to get to know her a little bit better and I really enjoyed something I thought I wouldn't.

* Emily has really stopped complaining about living here and asking why we can't move back to Miami. That in and of itself is a miracle!

* Speaking of Emily, she has made tremendous progress with her new piano teacher. Her lessons have always been spotty - teachers move, or the timing doesn't work or something. But the past few weeks she's learned so much. We have a Bulgarian woman (whom I have to go pick up and drop off) who plays professionally in the lobby of a hotel here. She comes twice a week for an hour each time and she's really helped Emily to make huge strides in her playing.

* We were invited to a July 4th barbecue at the home of some new friends!!

I guess I'm just thankful that God was faithful to His promise to go with us wherever we go!!

For more Thankful Thursday posts, visit Iris at Sting My Heart.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WFMW - A Tidy House in Minutes

For those of you whose homes are always neat and tidy, just keep on movin' along. You don't need this post.

For those of you whose homes always look like a tornado just finished passing by, here's some help.

I homeschool my children. That means that they are home with me all day.


So I get no break during which I can actually clean my house and it will, you know, stay clean. Because, sure enough, as soon as I finish one room and move on to another, someone will go into that freshly cleaned room and do...something. It started to feel like I was drowning.

Enter the kitchen timer.

Now what we do is we all work together and go from room to room, using our trusty kitchen timer, spending just five minutes per room. Five minutes is actually a long time and we usually finish up long before the timer dings. Once we are done in one room, we move immediately into another, continuing through all the common areas of the house. Once they are done, I send the kids off to work in their rooms, while I tidy up the kitchen.

I think this works because of a few things. First, the kids are with me so no one is getting into any other mess while I'm working. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, the kids are working, so they appreciate the cleanliness of the house and try to keep it neater. And finally, for younger children, it's like a game. My kids are a bit older now, 11 and 13, but the understand that the time goes very fast and don't even complain about it because they know it will be done very quickly.

Even if you don't have kids, I have found that having a timer motivates me to work quickly and allows me to get much more. I will still spend about 5 minutes per room and know that within half an hour, my home will be back in shape.

For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, be sure to visit Shannon!
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Doha Quirks, Part 2

It's that time again, kids!! Time for another round-up of strange things that go on here in Doha. Remember, now, that this is all said in good fun.

1) Movie Theaters - It is an interesting experience to go to the movies here. First off, you have assigned seating, so when you purchase your tickets you have to choose from a screen where you are going to sit. This puts you at quite a disadvantage since you can't tell if you are sitting near an old couple or near a group of rowdy teenage boys.

We recently went to see Prince Caspian and, while we enjoyed the movie, found the movie experience to be very distracting. The obligatory group of boys had no interest in watching the movie, it seemed, but just wanted to be in a dark setting so they could show off the glow of their cell phones and experiment with different seating positions in the oh-so-amazing movie theater seats that fold up and down. First they sat normally, then they all, one at a time, switched to sitting on their haunches like a pack of wild animals. One or more of them were going in and out at any given time.

Then there was the usher. With his huge flashlight he'd escort in any latecomers and sweep his hi-powered beam over anyone who happened to be near said latecomers assigned seats. Being blinded was only temporary, don't worry.

The theater was only 1/4 full, but people had to sit right near us and climb over us to get to their seats when two rows down was completely empty. I definitely am not groovin' on the whole assigned seat deal.

2) Candy for Change - Apparently there is a shortage of change here in Qatar. They just don't make enough of it to go around. I think in the three months we've been here that I have seen change less than 5 times. First of all, there's only one coin to start with - a 50 cent piece. Well, 50 dirhams, but that doesn't mean anything to you does it?

So this presents the stores with an interesting array of choices. If your bill totals up to 150.50 riyals (the currency here), and the customer doesn't have exact change - a strong likelihood - then what to do? Should they round up, incurring the anger of the customer? Should they round down and lose money themselves? Ha!

No, many stores go for Option 3 - handing you a pack of candy that you don't want and probably don't like and considering that your change. I wonder what would happen if I tried to pay my bill in rolls of mints next time...

3) Not getting that some things are seasonal - It's June. Late June. And yet my television schedule is filled with Christmas programming. "Christmas Do-Over." "A Carol Christmas." Other Lifetime for Women type holiday programming.

And in the stores? You can find not only Christmas candy and special promotions, but also Easter treats.

I mean, I know that they don't do Christmas and Easter here, but you would think that they would know when it is and when it's over and realize that these things will really be in demand at the appropriate time and not so much, say, six months later.

4) Fine instead of, well, everything - A-ha! You don't know what Fine is, do you? Fine is the ubiquitous box of Kleenex-type product that is everywhere here in the Middle East. Except it's about 20 times thinner than Kleenex.

First of all, there's a box in every car. Usually on the dash board. We have also seen it on restaurant tables to be used as napkins. Emily has seen it placed in a public restroom to be used as toilet paper. Can you say, "Ick!!!!!"

When we were still in the States, my mother in law would always place a box of Kleenex on the dining room table and I could never figure out why. I had a nice selection of both cloth and disposable napkins in my home. But she chose to use the Kleenex. Now I see that it's a regional thing.

Hubby insists I keep a box in my car. And Emily keeps putting it in my dashboard just to annoy me. And then I swat it down. It'll be a fight to the death before I have a box of it on my dash, I tell you.

Just a few more of the idiosyncrasies we are living with here in Doha.
Monday, June 23, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Most of this week's meals are pretty simple and inexpensive. We are busy trying to get ready for our upcoming trip to visit Hubby's family in Jordan. This involves getting gifts for everyone in the family, but even more importantly, finding a dress for me to wear to his brother's wedding. This is a big deal because Arab weddings go all out, let me tell you. So trying to find an appropriate dress is really a challenge. I'm not sure how fancy to be without being too fancy. You know?

So in all this busy-ness (trying to wrap up school, shopping, piano lessons, making plans for a visit back to the States, trying to keep up with my new workout schedule, etc.) I decided that we are going to be keeping it simple for the next couple of weeks. Here's what we are going to be having:

Sunday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, caesar salad, french bread

Monday - Chicken Dijon, parmesan noodles, steamed vegetables

Tuesday - Applebee's Blackened Chicken Salad

Wednesday - Tostadas

Thursday - Cottage Pie and a tossed salad

Friday - Sandwiches, cole slaw, and potato chips

Saturday - Lentils & Rice with a lemon dressed salad

Probably the most time-consuming meal above is the blackened chicken salad and that's well worth the time. It's only longer because you have to grill up the chicken, but other than that, it's a breeze too.

I hope that you had a great weekend and are looking forward to a week of summer fun with your family!!

For more great menu ideas, be sure to visit The Organizing Junkie!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sweet Relief!!

For the last 10 days or so, Doha has been engulfed in a major dust storm. Though we've had a few days when we have had duststorms since we've been here, it's usually only a day or two. This one is working on two weeks! It's been horrendous, at times bringing visibility down to about 1000 feet. Everything everywhere is covered in grime as it seeps through cracks in doors, vents and window frames.
Here's a photo of what the satellite imagery looks like.

Qatar is barely visible near the top, just to the right of the inset showing the area. But you can see that the entire region is blanketed in dust. Going out has been miserable as you feel like you come back all covered in a fine layer of sand, not to mention realizing that you've been breathing it in.

For those of you in Miami, let me give you a little visual. Imagine being out at Key Biscayne and coming back over the causeway. As you look off to your right, where before you saw the downtown Miami skyline, you now just see brown haze. If you strain, you can make out the edges of a few buildings. That's what it's been like here on our bayfront - the amazing buildings that are on the opposite side of the bay have been completely concealed by the thick layer of dust and sand.

But today? The sky is (sort of) blue, the sun is shining brightly and all seems right with the world.

Thank goodness, because I was getting really tired of dusting every day!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Christian in a Muslim Land

I bet you're imagining that this post is going to be all about how difficult it is to live as a Christian in a Muslim country. It's not. It's really about how living in a Muslim country has deepened my own faith and caused a growth in my walk with God.

Let me state clearly up front that I in no way am endorsing the Islamic faith. I believe it to be a false religion, offering no hope.

However, I have to tell you that most of us Christians could learn a thing or two from most Muslims.

Five times a day, you hear the call to prayer. All over the city, you hear it - sometimes it may be barely audible, sometimes it will feel like your ears are being assaulted, depending on where you are. The voice of the muezzin rings out in Arabic, not only telling people it's time to pray, but reciting the basics of the faith.

And I wonder, as a Christian, am I as faithful to prayer? Now, I'm not advocating that we be legalistic about it, or that we recite rote prayers from memory. But I'm just asking that we take a moment to consider if we are as committed to prayer as we should be. We have even more reason to desire a deeper prayer life than people of other faiths, because we have a God who actually communicates with us, who wants to have a relationship with us. And yet we often let prayer fall by the wayside until we need something.

I'm not even going to try to write as beautiful a post as Jess wrote on this similar subject. But read what she wrote and then take some time to reflect on what external reminders we use to help us to live a life of prayer.

Besides the ever present reminder to pray, another factor that I appreciate in Islamic culture is that (at least here in Doha) much of the city is shut down on their holy day. On Fridays, most businesses don't open up until 4 pm or thereabouts. It's kind of nice not having to make the choice whether or not to use that time to run errands.

In the States, many people use Sunday as just another day to get things done. I know, I've been guilty of it myself. Usually there was yardwork to be done (well, that's not really an issue here - LOL!!), groceries to buy, other errands to do. But here, life screeches to a stop.

But it's caused me to really think through what I want our day of rest (which is now Friday since it's Hubby's only day off) to look like. Thursday has now become my Preparation Day, an Hebrew tradition. Thursday is the day that I clean my house so that Hubby and I can both relax on Friday. Thursday is the day that I do my major grocery shopping, so that there is plenty of food and beverages in the house - no more "What should we have for lunch?" after-church-panic.

I'm much more intentional about our day of rest and I like that. We aren't perfect in this area by any means yet, but we are on our way. As I go throughout my Thursdays, I often feel like I am sharing a kinship with the ancient Hebrew women of Biblical times - preparing a home wherein God's call to a day of rest is honored. I truly believe that it is the woman of the home who determines whether or not that happens by her commitment to prepare for it.

So while, yes, there are some times when I wish that we didn't live in a Muslim country, right now I'm appreciating the opportunity to learn from a new culture and trying to use this time to see what God has for me to learn. I think that there is always something God is trying to teach us if we will just be still and listen for His voice.
Friday, June 20, 2008

The Heart of the Matter - Tried and True Recipes

Today's "Heart of the Matter" topic is Tried and True Recipes. Gosh, I feel like I've posted so many recipes here already that I don't know if I should just go back to one of those or if I should figure out something new to share.

Well, since I have church today (yep, church on Friday here in Qatar!) and I'm teaching and I have no curriculum so I have to go in early to prepare, I'm going to go back to some I've already shared. Perhaps it will be new to you.

Roast Sticky Chicken

4 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. white pepper, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 cup chopped onions

1 large roasting chicken

Rinse & dry chicken. Combine spices and mix well; rub onto chicken, both inside and out. Place chicken in a large, resealable bag and chill overnight. Place in shallow pan and roast uncovered at 250 degrees for 5 hours. After the first hour, baste every half hour with the pan juices.

(Notes: Though the results will be best if the chicken is allowed to rest overnight with the spices, you can get away with doing it just prior to cooking. Also, be forewarned, the spices will turn into a nice, dark crust on the chicken, prompting any guests to tell you you've burned your chicken, but they are in for a surprise - the skin is delicious and the meat is juicy and tender.)

I hope you enjoy it! Be sure to check out other tried and true recipes at The Heart of the Matter!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thankful Thursday

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

1 Chronicles 29:13


Think of what you have to be thankful for. Even if you are having a very difficult time in your life, you do have many things to be thankful for. As Paul said, "I have learned to be content in all circumstances." Furthermore, we are called to give thanks at all times. There are so many small things that we forget are blessings from God. Let's look at those for a moment.

* I thank you, God, for every breath that I take.

* I thank you, God, that you have saved me.

* I thank you, God, that I have the ability to pray to you, the creator of the universe.

* I thank you, God, that you have provided food and shelter for my family and I.

* I thank you, God, that you have given my family health.

* I thank you, God, for the beauty of your creation.

* I thank you, God, for friends and family.

* I thank you, God, for Your word which comforts, guides and heals.

* I thank you, God, for your everlasting love.

You see, even if you are feeling down, there is something which you can find to be thankful for. It's weird, I'm not feeling down at all, but I feel as though God is impressing on me to write this. Being thankful is not only about when things go right in your life.

It's an attitude that should permeate your very soul that God is in control and is working all things together for the good of those who love Him.

It's knowing that even when the world is crashing down around you, there is a Rock that you can cling to.

Whatever kind of day you are having, good or bad or maybe even terrible, know that you can trust in God. Know that He is there with you. And be thankful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Simplicity - What It Means to Me

Following up on my thoughts earlier this week, I've decided that I really need to stop and think about what having a "simple life at home" means to me.

  • It means freeing myself from the consumerism that surrounds us. Choosing to be happy with what I already have, rather than expecting more "things" to make me happy. Wanting what I have, rather than having what I want.
  • It means finding joy in the small things of life - a sunny day, the chirping of the birds outside my window, a child's laugh. Appreciating all the blessings which God showers on me.
  • It means making my home into a haven for myself and my family. Taking joy in the work which God has given to me - knowing that all of it glorifies God and brings blessings upon my family.
  • It means preparing simple, wholesome, healthy meals for my family - an effort which takes time and forethought.
  • It means lowering my expectations in some areas, and raising them in others.

Right now in the background, "Under the Tuscan Sun" is playing on my television. While I'd love to pick up and move to a villa in Tuscany, that's just not going to happen. But I can create the same effect. I can recreate my life, starting fresh with new priorities and new thought patterns.

It won't always be easy - changing a lifetime of self-indulgence will take time.

But at least now I have a place to start.

WFMW - Is That Movie Appropriate?

I don't know about you, but I find that the MPAA movie rating system just doesn't work for me. I mean, if I go to a movie that is rated lower than "R" I'm expecting it to be fairly clean. Unfortunately, that often isn't the case. Hubby and I have been shocked and disappointed pretty regularly by what passes as suitable for a 13 year old.

Hello, Hollywood? I have a 13 year old and I would be horrified to let her see some of the stuff that you think is ok for her.

Even Hubby and I, being ancient and all that, don't want to go to movies that are filled with bad language and inappropriate sexual scenes. But I have found a solution.

Now, before we go see any movie, I check it out in two different places.

Kids In Mind is a great site for getting every little, nitty-gritty detail of what's in a movie. I mean, if someone picks their nose, they will have it listed. A bare chested man working on building a barn will be listed. Some people might think that is overkill, but I think it's great since each family has different standards. If there is anything in a film that could possibly be offensive, you'll find out about it here. It's all stated in a very down to earth way without judgement - that's up to you.

After reading about the movie there, I head on over to Plugged In Online. This one is affiliated with Focus on the Family (James Dobson's organization). It offers a different perspective. While the first site will often have more things listed that might be offensive, this site will put things in light of Scripture. For instance, how does a director's worldview come through? Is the drinking and/or drugs shown in the film put in a positive or negative light? Plugged In gives a really good analysis of things you might want to talk with your kids about either before or after the movie.

Between these two websites, I always know just what we are getting into when we fork over that chunk of change at the ticket window. Because, let's face it, with movie tickets around $8, for a family of four, plus popcorn and drinks (if you indulge - we are too cheap usually!!) you are really making an investment of both your time and your money. Make sure it's a wise investment.

For more helpful ideas to make your life better, head on over to Shannon's Works For Me Wednesday blog-o-fabulosity!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

And the "World's Worst Mother Award" Goes To...


Last night Daniel and I were talking and he suddenly said to me, "Mom, where's my baby blanket?"


If you will recall, I went on a bit of a tossing spree once Hubby left Miami. I was trying to decide what really needed to go. Sometimes, I regretted some of my choices as I mentioned.

Now, I should mention here that my son is 11 years old. He really doesn't need a baby blanket. He is, however, very sentimental. VERY sentimental.

When I told him that I had gotten rid of it back in January (SIX MONTHS AGO!!!!), he lost it. No amount of explaining about how it was completely ratty and I had found it on the floor of the garage and it couldn't have been washed it was falling apart so badly and, oh yeah, it was on the floor of the garage for weeks!!!!, could calm him down.

No amount of pointing out that he hadn't noticed it's absence for six months made him feel better. His explanation was that he knew that it wasn't around, but assumed that I had carefully put it away in a safe spot. He suckered Hubby into getting out his box with all his baby mementos and reminiscing and scored an extra hour before I finally made him go to bed.

This morning, Daniel asked me to make him a double decker sandwich because he didn't feel well. What was wrong, I asked? He sighed and replied, "I'm depressed."

And the award for the "Boy Most Able to Milk All He Can Out of a Mother's Mistake" goes to...Daniel!!!

And he got the sandwich.
Monday, June 16, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Happy Monday to you!! I hope you all had a lovely weekend and got to enjoy some special time with the dads/grandads/husbands in your life. It sure was quiet around the blogosphere, so it seems like you did!

I was told this week by a friend that my meals were rather elaborate. *Ahem! Olivia!!* I don't know about that, but I think that I will be continuing to tweak my 8 week menu plan. Some of the meals just aren't working out over here in Qatar, mostly due to some ingredients being either difficult to find or just plain different. I may be cutting it down to either a 4 or 6 week rotation. Here's what we'll be having this week around here:

Sunday - Baja Beef & Beans, Tex-Mex Rice, 3 Cheese Biscuits, and Strawberry Shortcake (menu at Hubby's request in honor of Father's Day!)

Monday - Marybeths' Chicken Tacos with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo

Tuesday - Steak & Spinach Pinwheels, caesar salad and roasted green beans

Wednesday - Tamy's Chicken and Onions in White Wine Cream Sauce, mashed potatoes, corn

Thursday - Arabic Meatloaf (Kofta bi Sanieh), chopped salad and homemade french fries

Friday - Potato Lover's Salad

Saturday - Mezze (assortment of cheeses, tabbouleh, hummous, pickles, olives, pita bread, etc.)


I can't wait to try Tamy's chicken dish - it sounds yummy!
Sunday, June 15, 2008

A New Look

I'm trying out a new look for the blog here. The orange was kind of wearing on me.

I hope no one comes and gets the idea that I'm a bedouin. That would be pretty funny. So if you are reading the blog for the first time right now and wondering - I live in an actual house with walls and a roof, I don't own a camel, I drive an SUV, and I don't wear anything on top of my head. Except sunglasses.

We'll see how long this look lasts!

Struggling for the Simple Life

I seem to have gotten away from one of the purposes of this blog - to chronicle my attempts to live more simply.

What with homeschooling and moving across the world and, well, just plain normal life, trying to live a simple life has slipped by the wayside.

And truthfully, it's gotten harder for me now. When I was still in the States, I pretty much had everything I could want. I had been settled in the same house and/or neighborhood for over 14 years. I had amassed a huge amount of stuff. But in the process of the move, I streamlined big-time. We didn't know where we would be living or how big or small the house would be or what would be available when we got here.

Now I miss all my stuff. I miss my living room furniture that I sold. I miss the chairs that I gave to my friend's adult children. I miss the plastic plates. I miss the lamps I didn't bring.

And it's so tempting to just go out, whip out the credit card and replace it all.

But we are trying to get out of debt and trying to eliminate credit card usage so that's not an option.

So I sit, wishfully thinking of all that I "need." Perhaps this is God's way of helping me learn to be content. After all, I have much more than many in the world have. Much, much more.

I want to learn to be happy with or without all the trappings of the world. I want to teach my children that happiness isn't found in a credit card.

While I'm working on it, I found a great website that I'm going to be using. Christian Simple Living is full of great ideas. I think I'll be spending a lot of time there in the next few days/weeks/months.
Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Head, It Does A-Spin

Choices, choices. Your head can spin with them here in Doha.

Seeing as over 70% of the country comes from some place other than Qatar, you will find a variety of products from all over the world to meet the needs of the expatriate community. Here's just a few of the more, uh, interesting things we've seen.

Ketchup - Garlic ketchup, chili ketchup, sweet ketchup

Mayonnaise - Tomato mayo, garlic mayo, chili mayo, herb mayo

Potato Chips - Curry potato chips, ketchup potato chips, grape vine leaves potato chips (yuck!), rice flavored potato chips

Toothpaste - Vanilla flavored, cola flavored (ick!!)

Walking down the aisles of the local grocery stores is certainly an entertaining trip. You just never know what you might find!
Friday, June 13, 2008

A Couple of Prayer Requests

I hope you don't mind if I impose upon you to pray for a couple of things. I try not to do this often, but there are a couple of things on my heart that I think could use some extra prayers.

My mother's cousin, Tom, is currently in ICU on a ventilator. He had a tooth pulled the other day and it released an infection into his blood stream. He has been put into a medically-induced coma. They will be performing a CAT scan and doing surgery today to put in drainage tubes to try to drain more of the infection. His daughter is, naturally, terribly worried and scared. Please pray for a complete recovery and peace for the family during this ordeal. Tom's a great guy and his daughter, April, is just a dear and I hate to think how scary this is for her.

Secondly, I'd like to ask for prayer for our church here in Doha. We meet in a (large) house that is rented to the church. Apparently it was rented through an agent and the owner has now decided (or never knew in the first place - I'm not sure) that he does not want a Christian church meeting on his property. The owner is trying to void the lease. A hearing is set for June 23 to make a final determination. The leadership committee has wisely secured a back-up meeting location for the weeks immediately following the hearing, but as it's a school, it wouldn't be available once school begins in August. We could definitely use your prayers, both that the landlord's heart might be softened and that the judge would do the right thing and uphold the legal contract that we have.

I've got a post rolling around in my mind about what it's like to be a Christian in an Islamic country, but it needs a little bit more thought. However, instances like this, when your church is under attack simply for existing - well, it brings it home.

Thanks for your prayers. You are dear friends.

Heart of the Matter - What Makes Him a Good Husband and Dad?

Today's Heart of the Matter topic is what makes Hubby a good husband and father. Easy!!

First, let me introduce you. Since I am forbidden from posting a picture of him online (let's just say he has privacy issues), I am posting a picture of someone else whom Hubby has described as not as good looking as himself.

Yes, ladies, that's right. The year Hubby turned 40, George Clooney also turned 40. Hubby came home after making a grocery run for me one night (during which he caught sight of this magazine cover) and said to me, "Do I look as bad as George Clooney?"

(Insert pause here for time for me to think.) "No, honey. You are MUCH better looking than George Clooney."

So, you ladies will just have to use your imagination and know that my husband is oh-so-much better looking than George Clooney.

But besides his devastatingly handsome face, he has qualities which are much, much more important. Let me tell you about him.

Hubby is such a hard worker. He works hard day in and day out to provide for us. And, as is true with many homeschooling families, that's even harder when you've made the choice for one parent to stay home in order to homeschool. Let's face it - this is not a one-income world anymore. While we were still in the States, he often didn't return home until 8 pm. Now that we've moved to Qatar, he's home earlier, but only because he's at his desk hard at work at 6:30 a.m.

Even when he's home, he is working hard. This is a man who barely knows the meaning of the word rest. He often steps in and helps out with the dishes or the mopping when he sees that I'm behind.

He chooses family above all else. There are men out there who opt to spend their free time on the golf course or hanging out with friends. Hubby always chooses to be home with the kids and I. Now, I'm not saying that he shouldn't have time to enjoy himself - actually, I wish he would take a little time off now and then. But his primary desire is to be with us. That feels really nice.

He leads our family spiritually. By reading the Bible to us and discussing it with us, by encouraging us to always choose what would please God, by leading us in prayer. I know that he is constantly thinking of how to make our family more like Christ.

He is loyal. I know that I can trust that he will never say anything about me, nor do anything to me, that would intentionally hurt me. I never have to worry about what he's saying about me behind my back, even as a joke.

He wants the best for us. This sums it all up. He takes care of us and wants us to be our best.

Thank you, Hubby! You are the best and we love you. Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

We are the IRS's Worst Nightmare

Ok. Probably not their WORST nightmare.

I mean, there was Al Capone. And Richard Hatch. And Wesley Snipes. And Leona Helmsly.

But we are probably up there.

We pay our taxes, don't get me wrong. But there's always something that goes wrong with our tax return.

Three years ago, I wrote down one of the kids' social security numbers wrong. This happened to be the year we were getting back rebate checks that were based on how many kids you have. Of course, having the wrong number just made Emily effectively disappear in the eyes of the IRS.

Two years ago, I wrote down the bank account number wrong. This meant that we didn't get our refund until August, instead of May like we would have if I had proofed my numbers.

Last year, I forgot to include Hubby's W-2. Somehow though, the IRS overlooked this mistake, seeing as it came attached to a big, fat check.

This year, I swore I was going to get it all right.

Now, for most of you in the States, you are wondering why I'm writing about taxes in June. Luckily for me, there is an automatic two month extension for those of us who live outside the country on April 15. Good thing, too since I had no idea where all of our important papers were come that time.

But that deadline loomed close for me and this last weekend I finally got it all finalized. I checked and double-checked everything. I went through it with Hubby right at my side.

I was ready. This would be MY year - the year I didn't have to sheepishly tell Hubby I made another mistake. We printed it out, double-checked the address for foreign citizens to send their returns to and sent it off DHL the day before yesterday.

Last night, Hubby informs me that he forgot to sign the return before he sent it off.

Now, one would think that given my track record, I would be very forgiving and patient.

That would be a very foolish thought.

You see, this year, instead of owing tens of thousands of dollars, we were actually getting a refund. And not our normal refund. Normally we only get a few hundred back. We try to keep our witholdings pretty close to what we will really owe. Why let Uncle Sam borrow our money interest-free, right?

Last year was an anomaly, because we had sold some houses in the "still hot" real estate market. This year, because of that same market, we didn't do so well and were actually due back quite a nice refund.

Which now, maybe we'll get by Christmas.

Thankful Thursday

Time seems to just fly by the older I get. Why is that?!

Regardless, it's another Thankful Thursday. A time for us to stop and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. Here's my list:

* I'm thankful that technology has allowed us to stay in close contact with friends and family

* I'm thankful that my husband's new job allows us much more time together as a family.

* I'm thankful that my kids didn't get into school. Shhhh - my husband won't like me saying that - but it's true. I'm thankful for the opportunity to continue homeschooling for at least one more year.

* I'm thankful that this year we will be getting money back from the IRS instead of owing a huge sum as we did last year.

* I'm thankful that my children and I are starting to feel at home here in Doha.

* I'm thankful for this blog, a place where I can vent, think through things, and meet new friends.

For more Thankful Thursday posts, be sure to visit Iris.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

All Blogged Out

I'm hoping it's not a permanent condition, but my mind is just blank the last couple of days. I can't think of a blessed thing to say that might be of interest to anyone, save, oh, the dog. And even she would think I might possibly be talking of giving her a treat since, you know, she doesn't speak English.

I think it's just a by-product of stress and busy-ness. I've gotten myself (and my kids) into the unenviable position of having to cram 12 weeks worth of school into 5 weeks. We will be leaving to visit Hubby's family in Jordan in mid-July and I'd like to have it all done by the time we leave.

We started falling behind after we spent most of December with my family in Arizona. Then we spent the majority of January getting ready for the movers to come and pack up all our worldly belongings. February was pretty quiet and we actually got back into a normal groove. Then March - well, it was a lost cause with time ticking down to the big day.

Normally I'm a very relaxed homeschooler. We don't really follow a schedule, just a plan that we work through our work at our own pace and when it's done ,it's done. I would much rather my kids and I spend more time on things that interest us than we finish up quickly and end on time.

However, Hubby and I have made a decision. (Well, it's really my decision, with Hubby's backing - he doesn't get much involved in the homeschooling stuff since I'm the one that actually does it.) Since the children did not get into private school this year - no places in their grade levels - I've decided to enroll them in an online school for the 2008-2009 year. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I think they need to learn more accountability than I have taught them. There've been many time when I've given an assignment and then forgotten about it. Or I let them slide on neatness or quality. I think it will be good for them to have an outside critique so they can learn that it's not just that mommy is being too picky, but that quality is expected of them.

Second, I think that they have gotten bored with my preferred curriculum. It's very reading-heavy and even I have trouble keeping up with the pace and with some of the book choices we are given. Even I find myself wondering why we are reading certain books.

Third, it will give them more independence and responsibility. They have to get their work done in the alotted time and I plan on encouraging them to learn to budget their time and use it wisely. I think this is something that will benefit them throughout their lives.

So for the next little while I may be unusually quiet. Or it may be just for this week as the reality of our situation settles in. Basically we need to do two days' worth of work every day. Ugh!
Monday, June 9, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I just have to say that if you haven't ever tried the Pineapple Glazed Meatloaf we had last week, you are missing out!!! Oh. My. Goodness.

To die for.

And Hubby doesn't even like meatloaf. I haven't made meatloaf in probably 10 years. I was taking a real chance making it for him, but he loved it and even went back for seconds. Yummy!!

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Sunday - Mixed fondue (shrimp, chicken, beef and vegetables) in broth

Monday - Uncle David's spaghetti and meatballs (recipe below), Caesar salad and garlic bread sticks

Tuesday - Roasted chicken, rosemary roasted potatoes and a tossed salad

Wednesday - Crockpot shredded beef sandwiches and potato salad

Thursday -Beef shish kebabs with rice, pita bread and a chopped salad

Friday - Country Corn Chowder with cheese biscuits

Saturday -Baked fish, steamed vegetables and rice

* * * * *

Uncle David's Spaghetti and Meatballs

(Makes a LOT!! I usually halve the recipe. And this cooks all day, so start early. It's worth the wait!)


2 46 oz. cans of tomato juice, 24 oz. of tomato paste, 1 1/2 cup red wine, 1 1/2 T. chopped garlic, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 T. parsley, 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 1 large peeled onion


5 lbs. lean ground beef, 4 eggs, 1 T. parsley, 2 t. chopped garlic, 8 oz. Parmesan cheese, 1 cup half and half, 1 t. salt, 1 t. pepper, 3 cups unseasoned bread crumbs

Mix all meatball ingredients except for ground beef, bread crumbs and cheese. Add the meat and cheese and mix well. Then add the bread crumbs, bit by bit, until the meat is of a good consistency. Make small meatballs (no more than 1" diameter). Set aside.

Combine all the sauce ingredients, leaving onion whole, into a very large and heavy pot. Cook over low heat. Keep sauce on verge of a boil, but do not boil.

Add meatballs to sauce and cook all day.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How Does One Keep the Sabbath?

This is a question that's been rolling around in my head for years.

I'm not one of those Puritanical people who think that there should be no enjoyment on the Sabbath. Nor is this a discussion of the proper day for the Sabbath - actually right now our Sabbath is on Fridays, given that we are living in a Muslim country.

The point of my wondering is how does one really go about using that day to honor God?

We worship on that day, of course. Even though getting to church can sometimes feel like more work than should be done of a Sabbath day!

But isn't there more to the Sabbath (whichever day you honor it) than going to church? Is it enough to go to church and then carry on your merry way, using the day to run errands or do yard work or whatever else needs done?

I'm finding it especially challenging since we've moved to Doha because Friday is Hubby's one and only day off during the week. Yep - it's a one-day weekend for us.

This is forcing me to become more organized and more disciplined. I've set it up so that Thursday is my big cleaning day so that the house is neat and tidy. Hubby finds it difficult to unwind in a messy house and will proceed to do housework if it needs done. Great that he's willing to help out, but I would prefer for him to rest on that day.

I've also started preparing our church clothes on the night before, so there is no rush that morning. We decide what to wear and iron what needs ironed. This has helped tremendously with that morning rush.

I also try to do my grocery shopping on Thursday, so that there is no need to run to the store on Friday. No more running out of milk or bread. I also try to plan ahead so that there is something to eat when we get home from church that just needs heated up. The evening meal is usually something light and easy to prepare - salad or soup, maybe. I'm trying to get to the point where I think ahead enough to prepare the meal the night before, but haven't gotten there yet.

What activities should one pursue on your Sabbath? If I understand Jesus' statement that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath, then I think that anything which is restful and glorifying to God is ok. I don't necessarily think everything we do that day needs to be "religious," as one book I read suggested. God created that day for us to rest from our work. That was the original purpose.

Keeping it holy means to set it apart for a sacred purpose. It also means to treat it with respect and reverence. It's too easy to make Sunday just another day, once we've completed the obligatory stop at church. We then feel like we've met the requirements of the day.

But the true requirement of the day is to spend a day in rest and honoring God. Remember that God gave us the Sabbath to rest from our work. Our bodies were not created to live at light speed. We will be much happier and healthier if we follow God's plan.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I am by no means an expert and I am still trying to figure it all out. What do you do differently on the Sabbath? How do you honor God that day?
Friday, June 6, 2008

Heart of the Matter - How Do You Schedule?

Ah, scheduling.

The bane of the homeschool mother's existence.

I have heard from so many women how difficult it is to get a workable schedule. There are just so many things to do - both academically, extra-curricularly (is that a word?), and in just living life.

The schedule I'm describing below is the one that we roughly followed while living in the States. I'm still working on figuring out a schedule here.

First off, we homeschool through the summer. I know for some of you that seems like I'm torturing my kids, but remember that we lived in Miami - hot city. So we would take our long vacation from Thanksgiving to New Year's. We found that there is so much fun stuff to do during that time that we wanted to be able to really enjoy the season. Plus it was too hot to do much in the summer, so that time was well-used to continue our schoolwork. Lesson: Don't be tied to the traditional school schedule. You have the freedom to arrange things how it works for you.

Secondly, we only did school four days a week. This allowed us one extra day a week to do errands, attend a homeschool support group, and get what needed done done. We still finished our weekly assignments, we just did a little more every day to get that extra day off. Lesson: Having that extra school-free day scheduled in gave us freedom to not worry that everything else was intruding on our school life. You know that stuff comes up. Just plan for it.

Thirdly, we don't use clocks and set class times for our schooling. Most families I know don't, but some people come into homeschooling thinking this is the way to go. We work on something until it's done and then move on. History might take 10 minutes, math an hour. We just go through our assignments for the day and when it's done, it's done. Lesson: Don't try to fill your lessons with unnecessary fluff, just to make it an hour for each course. It's a waste of your time and your child's interest.

We use a curriculum (Sonlight) which provides weekly lesson plans, but if yours doesn't provide this, you can simply sit down at the beginning of the week and plan out what needs to be done for the week. I've tried all different variations of this theme - doing all math one day and all science another, letting my kids work through the assignment list at their own pace, etc..

So here's a small peak at what our day looks like:

We begin school around 9 am. This follows breakfast and chores. We start off reading the Bible and praying together, then I do the readings for history. Then we will do a quiz on the previous day's history. Then they do their math. They are responsible for checking their own work and correcting it (through the help of their curriculum Teaching Textbooks). Then they alternate between their reading assignment and science, each taking a turn with the reading book. Usually one will finish before the other, so while they are waiting their turn for the next project they work on either grammar or vocabulary. Then we will have a time when I read aloud an assigned novel which goes with what we are studying in history. Right now they are working on research projects, so I give them time for that. Occasionally we will go through a few lessons of Rosetta Stone for our foreign language.

We usually finish up around 12:30, they have lunch. After lunch they go to their rooms and spend an hour alone. I think we all need this break from each other since we are together 24/7. Then they have the afternoon free to enjoy. They may read, do games, draw, play video games, go online, etc.

Next year, it looks like I'll be enrolling them in an online school. Hubby and I both feel that they need more structure and, while they won't be attending private school this year (hooray!!) they may next year. Putting them in a setting where they have more accountability and structure will be a good way to prepare them for a more traditional school setting, I think.

So that's a pretty basic outline of our schedule - from the big picture to the daily nitty-gritty. Be sure to visit The Heart of the Matter to get a look at how other people are doing it. There's millions of ways, trust me!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thankful Thursday

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

Colossians 2:6-7

I have to admit I've had a hard go of it this past month. Moving to a new country (heck, a new continent) and leaving behind everything I knew has been difficult to say the least.

But God, in His grace, has given me some insight and, hopefully, a little wisdom. I understand now part of His reasoning for bringing me here to Doha. Or at least, a way that He is using it for my good, as He promises in Romans 8.

I've entered a season of pruning. While this is painful, it's often necessary for believers to have unnecessary growth cut away. And in our fast-paced American society, there is plenty of unnecessary growth to go around.

The Gospels are replete with instances of Jesus using parables and analogies that use gardening to teach. One real-life example for me is the grapevine my father-in-law planted at our first home.

It started off as just a stick. It looked dead to me. He had brought it from his home in Jordan (shh - don't tell customs!). When he told me he was going to plant this dead stick in my yard, I politely smiled and inwardly rolled my eyes.

But wouldn't you know it, that stick soon sprouted leaves and tendrils and, in time, grew into a beautiful vine. Much in the same way that we, who are dead in our transgressions, are miraculously transformed into living spiritual beings, alive in Christ. Over time, we grow and spread and provide shade and respite to those around us.

But what we didn't know was that to get fruit, the vine must be pruned. All those beautiful vine and branches, while looking really, really good, can actually hinder the production of fruit. We never did get any grapes from the vine, just a lot of prettiness.

I've come to believe that that is the place I was in. Lots of stuff that looked good on paper - Bible study leader, homeschool group leadership committee, children's ministry worker, youth worker, church bookstore manager, women's ministry committee, VBS leader. All of it really good and worthy.

And none of it really having an impact on my heart. None of it really producing much fruit.

So God, in His wisdom, took all that out of my life. He has stripped me to the bare bones of just being a wife and mother.

So today I'm grateful that God is the true vinedresser. That He knows which branches to trim and which to leave. (I'm happy to report that the children did NOT get into the private school, so we will continue to homeschool them.) I'm grateful that He loves me enough to take me out of my comfort zone and force me to grow and bear fruit, even when I was quite happy to stay at the shallow, superficial level I was at.

I'm grateful that I know enough to trust Him. I'm grateful that He hasn't brought me to the point of utter despair. I'm grateful that He has given me joy in this process and I don't even mind it now that I understand it.

I'm grateful that God is good.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2

Please be sure to visit Iris at Sting My Heart to see more Thankful Thursday posts. It's so encouraging to read story after story of what God is doing in people's lives.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

WFMW - 50 Ideas for Family Fun!

Note: This is a partial reprint of a post I did last summer, but when I saw that today's WFMW theme was keeping kids entertained, I knew it was time to bring it back. Here's 50 ideas for having fun at home with your kids.

Watch a sunset together
Go for a family walk
Go to a local park or school grounds and play basketball or HORSE
Turn on the sprinklers and run through them together
Put up a tent and have a backyard camp out, complete with roasting marshmallows
Have a water balloon or water gun fight
Hold a karaoke contest
Have a board game tournament over the course of several days
Teach your kids to play a card game other than Go Fish
Play dominoes together
Make popcorn balls or some other special treat together
Plan a "trip" to another country - find music and maybe a video at the library, and cook up a meal with that country's cuisine. Maybe you could even decorate and dress up!
Spread a blanket in the yard and cloud watch...
Or read a book to your children...
Or have a picnic
Have them create a bird feeder and enjoy seeing your new visitors
Plant a vegetable garden and make it a family project
Teach your kids to cook
Learn how to use a compass then go and use your skills
Play Frisbee at night
Try to break a world record
Act out a play with costumes and make up
Ask a grandparent about their wedding day or some of their most favorite fun moments
Ask each other what your goal in life is
Attack a household chore as a team then and celebrate as a team
Build a fort with pillows from the couch
Buy a telescope and stargaze together
Go for a walk together
Go to the playground
Have a lemonade sale
Make up a funky dance with your children
Make up some instruments and start a band
Play Twister
Research your family tree
Try to get as many family members together in one place
Have a paper airplane distance contest
Make a house out of cardboard boxes
Next time you see a rainbow, stop and really admire it
Play jacks or pickup sticks
Positive daydreaming
Sing even if you can't
The next time it's really windy, find a safe place to lean into the wind
Watch the moonrise
Build a tree house or fort
Get all the children to perform a skit
Have a back yard talent show
Host a yard sale as a family - use the proceeds to do something as a family
Make a slip and slide in your back yard
Make an entertaining phone answering-machine message
Put a pond in your yard - with fish
Wash the Dog

These are just some ideas I had - I'm sure there are tons more out there. Please share if you have a great idea!

The idea is to make your home a haven for your family. You want home to be the center of the family's life - but it's only going to happen if it's a place the family enjoys. Home needs to be more than just a place to eat, sleep and change clothes. It needs to be the place we can go to to escape the pressures of daily life and to renew and recharge.

And added bonus? If you have the "coolest" home on the block, the kids will want to hang out there. You'll get to know your children's friends and be able to have a godly influence on them as well. They'll enjoy being in your company because they will know that, in your home, they are valued and allowed to have good, clean fun!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I Wonder How You Say, "My House Is Burning Down" in Arabic?

You never know how that might come in handy.

Here's what happened the first time we used it.

Apparently, Hubby plugged both the dishwasher and the microwave into the plug seen above through an extension cord. Which would seem to be a no-no over here.

We could smell something burning, but couldn't identify the source. We stupidly left the house, just assuming that it was fumes that burn off the first time you use an appliance. That was my thought anyway.

The next day, I ran it again and it smelled even stronger. So I decided to unplug it from the wall until I could figure it out.

It had melted into the outlet. I couldn't unplug it no matter how hard I tried.

Forgetting all that my mother had taught me as a child, I grabbed a butter knife and proceeded to try to wedge it between the plug and the wall to separate the two. Then, sanity returned and I switched off the power to the plug before I, you know, DIED.

Fortunately, it was just the extension cord and one plug that was damaged, the dishwasher was fine. Can I get a hallelujah, sisters?

Just thought I'd share another fun day in the desert.
Monday, June 2, 2008

Qatar - Things You May Not Know

Here's a lovely photo of the Corniche along Doha's bay. Now, mind you, I've never seen it like this really. Well, maybe on a Friday morning on the way to church. Maybe. Generally it's much, much more congested. The skyline is also different. This photo is from 2006 and I can see a tremendous amount of change just since that time.

That's Qatar though. Hurtling headlong into the future, but still trying to hold on to its traditions and heritage. Here are some interesting things about Qatar you may not know:

1) The Sheikh and Sheikha - They seem to be really wonderful people who are concerned with helping others and improving the lives of not on Qatari citizens, but others. For instance, did you know that they made a $100 million donation to New Orleans after Katrina? CNN recently did a great piece on the Emir's visit to New Orleans to see how his money was spent. The Sheikha is truly a revolutionary woman here in the Middle East - promoting women's rights and education in a way that's never been seen before.

Since taking power from his father in 1995, the Sheikh has moved Qatar forward in tremendous ways, most notably giving women the right to vote and hold office as well as establishing the first free press in the Arab world in the form of Al-Jazeera.

2) Doha 2016 - Doha is one of seven cities competing for the 2016 Summer Olympics. In this completely sports mad city, there are stadiums everywhere. Many of the facilities that would be needed for the Olympics are already in place as a result of Doha hosting the Asian Games in 2006.

3) Diplomacy - Qatar walks a very fine line, maintaining good relations with the West and also with other Middle Eastern nations that the West considers hostile. But recently it was in the news for the talks held here in Doha which lead to a compromise in Lebanon's months-long standoff which took that country to the brink of civil war. The Doha Talks are credited with saving Lebanon from entering another bloody era.

4) Population - This is one of the most dramatic changes, I would wager. The population of Qatar has almost doubled to 1.4 million people since 2004. That's just 4 short years, people. No wonder there is so much traffic!!! Most of this is from people like us - expatriate workers. Most workers, however, come from the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia to work on all the construction projects and energy companies.

In fact, Qatar has the highest male to female ratio on the world. For each woman in Qatar, there are three men. Men account for 76% of the population. In fact, the first night we arrived in Doha, Emily had a total breakdown and most of the reasoning behind it was that she didn't see any women at all. It is very strange to look around and see such a predominance of men.

5) Economy - Qatar is poised to become the richest country in the world in the next year or two. It currently is second only to Luxembourg. It also has one of the fastest growing economies in the entire world, expected to double by 2012.

6) Peacefulness - According to the Global Peace Index, Qatar comes in at #33 out of 140 countries ranked. This means it is rated more peaceful than France (#36), the U.K. (#49), Jamaica (#96) and even the United States (#97).
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Back to Monday and menu planning again. I'm making a couple of adjustments this week (what else is new?!?!), because I am just dying to have Yummy Taco Salad again and I'm swapping out Toasted Ziti and Cheese for Zesty Mac and Cheese just because I have all the ingredients for it on hand.

I'm excited about next week because there are a few things that I haven't been able to make on my 8 Week Menu Plan because we haven't had the legal ability to purchase wine since arriving in Qatar until now. Some of my favorites (Uncle David's Spaghetti and Beef Burgundy) require a bit of wine so we've been going without these yummy dishes for quite a while.

Sunday - Pineapple Glazed Meatloaf, potatoes au gratin, Italian broccoli

Monday - Koosa Mahshi (Arabic stuffed zucchini) with lemony chopped salad

Tuesday - Zesty Mac & Cheese with a tossed salad

Wednesday - Taco Salad (it was so good the other week I wanted to have it again!!!!)

Thursday - Roasted Chicken and potatoes with a tossed salad

Friday - Crockpot Shredded Beef Sandwiches and potato salad

Saturday - Blackened Chicken Salad

That's what we'll be eating around these parts this week. I'll be looking forward to seeing what everyone else is going to be enjoying by taking a peek at some of the other posts to Menu Plan Monday over at The Organizing Junkie!

Doha Quirks

Ok, so now having lived here in Doha for two months, I feel somewhat qualified to mention a few things that...well, they take a little getting used to. Nothing earth-shattering, just a little unusual for most Westerners.

1) The Schedule - Everything starts earlier and the "work" day goes later for many. For instance, I've had my phone ring at 7:45 am for non-emergency call. My whole life I was told you don't call people before 9 am or after 9 pm. I've had workmen show up to my door at 7 am (completely unexpectedly and waking me up).

Conversely, I've had the cable guy show up to our house at 9:30 at night and stay until after 11. We had our air conditioners cleaned yesterday and they were here until almost 10. All of our appliances were delivered to our home after 7 pm.

Fortunately for us, Hubby's work day is over at 4:00 most days, but it's strange getting used to all this work being done in the evenings, when you are used to quiet evenings at home relaxing.

2) The Signage - Let's just say it - people dress differently here. Women wear "abayas," the long, black robe you often see. Men wear "toups," the long, white robes. That's fine - I even think it's neat to see people in their native dress. Many cultures today have forsaken that part of their heritage. But seeing this, well, it always makes me giggle a little:

This is our crosswalk sign and, yep, that's a dad and son in this picture, though some might assume it's a woman and girl, both wearing dresses.

3) The Water Temperature - Now I know I've mentioned this before, but it's becoming more pronounced as summer comes on. The water here? Well, it's hot. Really hot.

Usually, I shower in the afternoon - after I've done all my housework and before Hubby comes home. This way I'm all nice and fresh. But that's becoming impossible here because the water at 2 pm is, like, 492 degrees. And that's with only turning on the cold water! The only way it's bearable is to turn on the cold tap, let it run for about 10 minutes to let out all the super-hot water and then I get a shower that's just the right steamy-hot temperature.

Imagine how on earth I'm supposed to wash my clothes in cold water?? I haven't figured that out yet unless I were to stay up and do laundry at 2 am. Maybe the cable guy could keep my company...

4) The Driving - I am now qualified to drive in any demolition derby around. I have become a pro at figuring out where insane people around me are going to go. I say they are insane because they somehow believe that, even though they see me, I am not ACTUALLY there. I am a figment of their imagination. This particular form of mental illness seems to strike most often at traffic circles.

My car is not small, people. Hubby insisted that we get a BIG vehicle. And yet, they swerve in and out of my lane as though it is made of cotton balls. IT IS 6,500 POUNDS OF STEEL, PEOPLE!! It will roll right over your little mini cars. Back off!!!

5) The Lack of Street Names and Addresses - In Doha, you navigate by landmarks, i.e., "Turn left at the gas station and then make three rights in a row and then go straight through the circle. When you get to the 5th street, take a right and then a left and then a right. We are the 5th house on the left." See, I have a GPS in my car, but it doesn't do any good until AFTER I get somewhere. You can't just plug in an address and get there.

Also, this means there is no mail delivered to your home. You either have mail sent to your place of employment, or rent a post office box.

6) The Construction Boom - I have never seen anything like it. Never. Everywhere you look there is construction. On every street, a building is either being torn down or a new one built. Qatar is on the fast track to be the next Dubai and they are aiming to catch up fast.

This is what the whole town looks like. It's amazing.

But apparently buildings are torn down just as fast as they are put up. There is an entire stretch of land - miles and miles long - that is apparently set to be scrapped to make room for newly planned construction. But meanwhile, they are still building things there right now. To be torn down in a year or two. I just don't get it.

8) Television Schedules - Shows might start at any time during the hour - 10:10, 7:35, or 4:15. Or they might not start any time at all when they are scheduled to. Something could be scheduled to start at 12:15 and you will set it to record only to find 25 minutes of "Wheel of Fortune" and 5 minutes of your desired show.

You'll record a movie only to have the last 20 minutes cut off, even though it started on time. Or it might be something completely different than what the schedule says. "Barney" instead of "Die Hard," for instance.

It just makes no sense. But at least I'm getting to watch "Lost" and "Heroes" even though we are behind. I should be caught up with the rest of the world by the end of summer.

9) The "Inshallah" Mentality - This is the one that probably drives most Westerners craziest. Inshallah means literally, "If God wills."

I have a very good friend back in Miami, Ivis, who carefully puts "God willing" around anything she promises to do. But she wholeheartedly intends to follow through, she just recognizes that ultimately God is in control of all we do.

probably started off like that. But now it has become an excuse to just change your mind. If you hear someone say, "I will be there at 8, inshallah," you know they probably aren't even planning on coming. Not at 8. Not at 9. Not at all. Well, maybe in a day or two. And nothing happens to change the plans. It's not like God miraculously intervened and said, "No, I don't want Lori to have cable tonight. Don't go to their house, Mr. Cable Man." (Can you tell I have issues with the cable man????)

It's kind of like the Spanish word "manana," meaning tomorrow. They'll get to it tomorrow. But it's always tomorrow.

* * * * * * *

Doha is a place of contradiction - trying to hold on to tradition while being inundated with peoples of different cultures. Tomorrow I'll hopefully post a bit about how Qatar is adapting to this quickly changing world around them.


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