Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Non-Resolutions for 2009 (Well, the First Half of It, Anyways!)



Well, 2009 is just hours away. Another year ends. Another begins.

As I have gotten older, and perhaps wiser, I've stopped making resolutions. I've come to see that January 1st is just like December 31st. There's no magic reset button that suddenly makes me have infinite willpower to conquer my bad habits. That would be really nice, but it's just not realistic.

However, there are some habits I would like to work on, regardless of the time of year. I've been thinking that maybe the best way to work towards a healthier, happier life is to make small, gradual changes. As opposed to the big sweeping changes all at once that I usually try to pull off and give up on after just a few short days.

So here then are what I want to work on for the first half of 2009. I'll think about the second half of the year later!! Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

January: Not eating at night. I'd like to make it a goal not to eat after 7:30, but for sure not after dinner if we eat late for some reason. The nights of sitting up alone consuming a bag of chips have to end.

February: Exercising 5 days a week. Currently, Hubby and I meet at the gym 3 times a week. I would like to get in the habit of adding in two more days of exercising here at home. We are not planning on renewing our membership (for financial and other reasons), so I need to get into the habit of exercising at home anyways. I've got a treadmill, exercise ball, free weights, exercise bands and countless workout DVD's. I've got no excuse!

March: Get enough sleep. Normally I get 5-6 hours of sleep at night. That's usually due to staying up late (see January!) to watch silly tv or surf the internet. I want to make it a habit to bed in bed by 11:00.

April: Drinking more water. Many days I allow myself to become dehydrated by not drinking much of anything. Most days I drink 1 to 2 sodas. I do drink water - just not enough of it. And I know that drinking those sodas is just drinking empty calories. But it's like an addiction, I swear!

May: Upping my fruit and veggie intake. I love, love, love veggies! I love salad, broccoli, green beans, even brussels sprouts! But often I don't take the time to prepare them for myself. It's easier to do some that you just grab from the cupboard. Fruit? Well, I'm not such a big fan of that, to be honest. I like it - just not enough to choose it over something I like more. I'd like to change that and make healthier choices in my eating habits.

June: Actually take all those supplements I have in my house. Calcium, B vitamins, Vitamin E - you name it, I've got it. But I never take them. I'd like to take them just to get rid of the bottles!! LOL!! No, I've read so much about how important supplements are, but somehow I just never think about it.

So that's my plan. Small baby steps. A little at a time, instead of overwhelming myself with change. Perhaps I won't lose a ton of weight in just a few weeks, but slow and steady wins the race, they say.

If you have any ideas for the second half of the year, bring 'em on!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book List

For those of you who didn't know, I'm a reader. A voracious reader. Usually, I've got about three different books going at one time, picking up the one that grabs my attention at any given moment.

This has become a problem since moving to Qatar. There are a couple of bookstores that carry English books, but they are so expensive! Most books are close to three times what I would pay in the US. So books definitely topped this list of "what to buy" when back home. Every suitcase had between 5 and 10 books stuffed into it. Most were for the kids. I think reading good literature is extremely important and it's always been an important part of our school day. But there were a few treasures tucked away for me. ;)

Here is the book list for 2009:

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch (This is for a book club I'm joining, but I haven't been able to find it in stock anywhere!!!)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
The Pursuit of God - A.W. Tozer
Ordering Your Private World - Gordon Macdonald
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed - Lysa Terkeurst
Food and Love - Gary Smalley
Heaven - Randy Alcorn
Jesus, The One and Only - Beth Moore
90 Minutes in Heaven - Don Piper
The Next Big Thing - Johanna Edwards
Love Dare - Stephen Kendrick (from the movie "Fireproof")
Healthy Balance for Body and Soul - Cynthia Culp Allen and Charity Allen Winters
How to Really Parent Your Teenager - Ross Campbell
The Great Money Makeover - Dave Ramsay
Hinds Feet on High Places - Hannah Hurnard (re-reading an old favorite that always touches me)

Hopefully I will find more things as I go. It's kind of light on fiction, but then I've always been more of a non-fiction girl. There's no set plan or order. I've already started The Memory Keepers Daughter and Heaven.

I'll follow my friend Mylinda's lead and post the list on the sidebar. Not because you will be breathless with anticipation as you follow my progress *snort!!* but to serve as a reminder to myself.

What are you looking forward to reading soon?
Monday, December 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Cheap Eats!



Well, after two months of spending more than we normally would (between our five week vacation to the US and Christmas), it's time to tighten our belts. The way we work it in our house is that Hubby handles the bills and I'm given a weekly "allowance" which I use for groceries, gas and household items. The amount doesn't matter - all of us would have differing needs and standards. The point is to make the most of what you have and to spend wisely.

The first step for me is to look and see what I have that I can use here in the house. As Benjamin Franklin said, "A penny saved is a penny earned." It's better to "shop at home" when possible. Sometimes you have to be creative to figure out what you can do with the things you have on hand, but it's worth it when you see the savings. Today I only spent about 40% of my regular grocery budget and much of that was for snack-type things that we've been running low on!!
Another idea to save money in the grocery store is to go meatless for several meals. Soups, pasta dishes and salads are great ways to pull that off. This week, I'm only using leftover turkey and one package of chicken left over in my freezer stretched out to be part of two different meals.

Here's the menu for this week (recipes follow for those items with an asterisk):


Sunday - Turkey Noodle Casserole (the last of the Christmas turkey leftovers!! Hallelujah! I just tossed together turkey, bowtie pasta with 1/2 a bag of frozen veggies, sauteed onions and celery, a can of cream of celery soup, some milk and mayo and seasonings. Top with parmesan cheese. Easy as pie!)


Monday - Potato Lover's Salad*


Tuesday - Hummous* & Tabouli


Wednesday - Chicken Stir Fry with rice






Saturday - Clam Chowder* (this was on the plan last week, but I never got to it)

Potato Lover's Salad
This sounds unusual, but it's so good! I get tons of compliments every time I serve it to someone who's never had it. It's filling and delicious!
Dressing:
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 t. oregano
  • 1/4 t. thyme
  • 2 T. mayonaise
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Mix dressing ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

Salad

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/2 t. sea salt OR seasoned salt
  • 1/4 t. paprika
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 4 cups lettuce, washed and torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups spinach, washed and torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 1 cup chopped red cabbage

Steam the potatoes until they are fork-tender. While they are steaming, prepare greens and cut the broccoli. Remove potatoes from steamer and put into a mixing bowl. Melt butter and pour over the potatoes. Toss well. Add your choice of salt and paprika and mix well. Broil 2 inches away from the broiler element for 5-10 minutes. While the potatoes are broiling, steam the broccoli until tender and bright green. Toss greens with red cabbage, alfalfa sprouts and add broccoli and potatoes (still hot). Add the dressing and mix well.

Hummous

This is such an easy dish to make. When I see those little tubs of hummous in the stores selling for $4.00 for about half a cup, I want to cry! You can make it yourself in 5 minutes and for far, far less.

  • 1 can of chick peas, drained (liquid reserved)
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste, sold in the ethnic section of most grocery stores)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • the juice of one lemon
  • salt to taste

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid and begin to blend. You will need to stop and stir frequently until the chick peas begin to be processed well. Pour in either more lemon juice (if you want it more strongly flavored) or more of the reserved liquid (if you are sastisfied with the taste), until the hummous is lump-free and a smooth consistency. Transfer to a plate, smooth out in swirls and sprinkle with a little dried parsley and paprika. Go once around the plate with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with warmed pita bread and raw onions. Also goes great as a dip for vegetables!

Clam Chowder

  • 3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups cubed potatoes
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart half-and-half cream
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • ground black pepper to taste

Drain juice from canned clams into a large skillet over onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. Add water to cover and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Meanwhile, in a large saucepot, melt the butter and whisk in the butter until smooth. Whisk in the cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clam juice. Heat through but do not boil. Stir in clams just before serving. If you cook them too long, they will be tough. When it is heated through, stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. (From allrecipes.com, by PioneerGirl.

That's my plan for this week. I'm happy to have been able to use up some of what I had on hand and be able to contribute in that way to the family finances. We women often have a great ability to use what is already in our hands that we don't even pay attention to. I'm committing to trying to be more frugal and wise, while not cutting back on enjoying our life.

For more menu ideas, be sure to visit the Organizing Junkie!
Friday, December 26, 2008

Post-Holiday Wrap Up

Well, here it is - the end of Boxing Day. Which is an extra holiday tacked on to Christmas that you get to experience if you aren't living in America. Although no one can really explain to me what Boxing Day is, it definitely signals the end of the Christmas celebrations.

Hubby braved the mall on Christmas eve to replace our damaged VCR/DVD combo so that I could watch, "It's a Wonderful Life." That's Christmas to me. We also watched, "A Christmas Story." We tried to like it. Really we did. It had come highly recommended by a friend so when I saw a copy at a garage sale during our trip home I grabbed it. Sadly, none of us really enjoyed it. There were some funny moments, but I guess it's just not our kind of movie.

The next morning, the kids burst through our door at 6 am sharp, hollering "Merry Christmas!!! It's time to get up!!!" After we stumbled downstairs, bleary-eyed and in our jammies, they opened their presents. I think most everything was a hit but the big surprises were the aquarium for Daniel and a bird for Emily. Well, those things plus the air hockey table we got for the loft. That went over REALLY well too!! I really want to make the loft a cool, fun place for the kids to hang out with their friends, you know?

After present time was over and the turkey had made its way into the oven, we straightened up all the un-wrapping frenzy mess and just chilled out together. We had invited a young man from India, whom Hubby had led to the Lord, over for dinner. We asked him to come around 1:30 and said we would eat by 2. Well, let's just say that time is more elastic in some cultures than others. He didn't arrive until after 2:30, so dinner wasn't quite the sparkling success it could have been, but we enjoyed his company and had a nice time together.

He was something of an aquarium expert himself (or so he told us), so he offered to go with Hubby and Daniel to get the necessary supplies and fish for the tank. (One benefit of being in a Islamic country is everything is open on Christmas just like normal.) Well, it turns out everything he told us is wrong. LOL!! They went today to a different fish shop where the guy really knows his stuff. The tanks there are works of art, not just a few fish swimming around in an empty tank. Basically, our very-helpful-guest recommended the wrong filter, the wrong rocks for the bottom, the wrong fish - the wrong everything!! But hopefully this guy will help us make it really nice for Daniel.

After our guest left, we bundled up and headed down to the corniche to take a dhow ride. Dhows are the traditional fishing boats here in Qatar. Many of them are still used for fishing today, but there are always several docked along the corniche offering rides around the bay. I've been wanting to go since we moved here, and the weather was just perfect last night. We climbed up to the top deck and had it all to ourselves and laughed and giggled and danced and acted silly in between looking at the beautiful Doha skyline reflected in the water.

Then today was spent in church and just resting during the afternoon. Tonight we went to a barbecue at the home of a family from church. It was really fun and I got to meet some new people and get to know others better. Even Hubby enjoyed himself as all the men huddled together in the "majlis" which is a feature of traditional Arab homes. It's a room outside the main house for the men to meet and socialize so that they don't interact with the women. All of us women had a great time ribbing the guys about being in their "man cave" and that we were "forbidden" from entering. They served 3 whole roasted lambs and a huge (I mean bigger than your standard coffee table) platter of couscous with it. Many of the men opted to eat the traditional Arab way of just using their hand to eat straight from the platter. Ick!

We ended up having a really nice holiday. No tears from anyone (though Emily was a little teary-eyed after talking with Grandma) and happiness all around.

Just the way it should be.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!

I want to wish all of you a very happy and blessed Christmas. I pray you have a joyful day, but more importantly, a joyful heart year-round as we can always celebrate the fact that God sent His son as a little baby to earth to intervene on our behalf.

Also, I want to thank those of you who are regular readers (and especially commenters!!) here. I can't tell you how much it has meant to me this year as we picked up and moved our family across the ocean to a (very!) strange land. You have become my friends and your support and encouragement has been such a blessing to me. Thank you.
Monday, December 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Christmas Week Edition!



I'm so excited Christmas is almost here!!! I had been so worried about how Christmas would be this first year of living in a Muslim country, but so far things have been going fabulously. The one hitch has been the lack of sausage for my Christmas stuffing, but I'm doing my best to try to improvise for that.

With Hubby home for the week on vacation and Christmas, menu planning took on a greater importance this week. I mean, am I the only mom who tells her kids to go fix their own lunches when Dad isn't around? (My kids are 11 and 13, I should mention.) This week I'm needing to plan out lunches as well - and chicken nuggets aren't gonna cut it! LOL!

So here's the plan:

Monday

Lunch - We'll be out finishing up our Christmas shopping, so we'll probably eat at the mall

Dinner - Chicken stir fry and rice

Tuesday

Lunch - Homemade Clam Chowder

Dinner - Meatballs & rice (frozen meatballs with a sauce made up of chili sauce and grape jelly - sounds odd, but it's delish!!)

Wednesday

Lunch - Tuna Waldorf Salad

Dinner - Sloppy joes and potato salad (stupid Christmas eve menu I know, but somehow it's become tradition)

Thursday

Christmas Breakfast - Monkey bread (to die for!!!!)

Christmas Dinner - Roasted turkey with sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing, roasted garlic and onion mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, broccoli salad, tossed salad, devilled eggs, and for dessert a birthday cake for Jesus.

Friday (and for several days afterwards!!!)

Turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrazzini, turkey soup, turkey pot pie...LOL!!

For more menu plans, be sure to visit the Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Randomosity

Is that a word? I'm pretty sure randomosity does not appear in Webster's. However, when you start hearing it all over the place in the upcoming years, just remember you heard it hear first.

I don't have anything big to share today. Just lots of little, random tidbits. Here we go.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the Christmas season here in Doha. Yes, it's different. But I'm honestly surprised by how widely acknowledged it is here. Yesterday I was getting my hair cut (for the first time ever in Doha - and I'm REALLY happy with the woman I found!!) and the Qatar government radio station was playing non-stop carols. There are Christmas trees all over the place, both as store decorations and for sale. I've even heard that you can find REAL Christmas trees somewhere in town. We went to do some shopping at one of the biggest malls here and there was a huge holiday display - a tree that must have been 40 feet tall. I was most excited to even find a nativity set for sale!! I really would like to start a collection, but figured I'd never find one for sale here. All of the things I've seen (and heard) so far have been strictly secular - Santa, snowmen, etc. So the nativity set was the highlight of my shopping trip yesterday.

This weekend I did snack duty at church. I brought a veggie tray and a plate of Monkey Bread. It was gone in minutes!!! My kids loved it so much they asked to have it on Christmas morning. It's simple and quick so I agreed. The fact that it's yummy and gooey and carmel-ly had NOTHING to do with it. Nothing. Here's the recipe:

Monkey Bread

3 packages of refrigerated biscuit dough (12 oz. each)
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/ cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional - I didn't use them, but I will next time)
1/2 cup raisins (optional - I didn't use them)

Place sugar and cinnamon into a large ziploc bag and shake well to combine. Cut the biscuits into quarters and place several at a time into the bag. Shake to coat with the cinnamon sugar. Lay coated pieces into a Bundt pan, interspersing nuts and raisins amongst the pieces. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small pan and let boil one minute. Pour over the biscuit dough. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a plate. Serve warm - just pull the bread apart with your fingers and enjoy!!

Doesn't that sound yummy? It is!!

The weather here continues to be fabulous! Highs around 70, lows around 55. Perfect. The skies are blue and beautiful - quite a change from the brown skies we had during the summer sand storms!

I'm so excited about what we are getting the kids for Christmas. I can't put it here because they read my blog (why I don't know? You'd think teenagers would get bored with the ramblings of a 40 year old housewife) so that would spoil the surprise. But I think they will be quite happy.

And the fireworks for Qatar National Day the other night were amazing!!! They were worth the 1 hour plus delay in setting them off. Yes, that's right - over an hour late. Hundreds of thousands of people waiting in 55 degree weather, right on the water where it's colder, and they didn't start until after 10 pm. We almost went home, but I'm glad we stuck it out. They did things I've never seen before. It was a fun night in the end!

Well, I guess that's about all for today. Tomorrow I'll try to have something more, uh, focused! Yeah, that's the word. And I'm pretty sure that IS a real word!
Friday, December 19, 2008

I Think It's Finally Happening

I think that today is the first day where all of us have really felt like we "belonged" at our church here in Doha. Not that anyone as ever been unkind or anything. It's just that today it felt like all of us were suddenly comfortable and happy there.

We all had met up with people that we knew and were happily engaged in conversation. We were invited out to lunch. Usually, a large group from the church goes to either Bennigans or Chili's or something. We've gone a couple of times, but more like tag-a-longs, never really invited, usually off at a table near the group, but not really with the group. That's really more about Hubby's issues - personally, I would have just walked up and sat at the table, but that's not ok in his culture, so we haven't done it. Today we were invited along and got to know some really lovely people.

It was great for the kids because kids their ages, who they liked!!!, were there so they were happy. Hubby and I were at opposite ends of the table since the guys were together and the girls were together, so he got to know some guys better. At the end of the meal, one of the men he had been talking to invited us over to his home on the day after Christmas for an open house.

I know it's a minor thing, but it's been a long hard road for us. We were so deeply a part of our church back in Miami that those kinds of relationships have been very painfully missed.

It's funny. I had thought that coming back from the US would be really hard. I assumed that we would kind of go back to square one, missing all of our friends and family and the conveniences of home. But just the opposite has happened.

While home, I realized that there are plenty of inconveniences there as well. It's easy to romanticize how things used to be, but going back can be a solution to that. Now I'm not lying: Life is easier in America. But it's good to know that here in Doha can be "home" too.
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thankful Thursday


I have a lot to be thankful for this week. Here's a quick list:

  • I'm thankful that today is Qatar's National Day. It's given us something to look forward to all week. Supposedly the fireworks display is going to rival that of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics!
  • I'm thankful that Hubby is on vacation for 9 days, starting today. We are looking forward to having some fun together as a family, doing all the touristy things that we haven't gotten to do yet since moving here.
  • I'm thankful for Skype! It's very helpful to have a free way to stay in touch with my family at this time of year since we are so far away. It makes it much easier!
  • I'm thankful for all the Christmas trees I've been seeing in the stores!! I hadn't expected to see any and I'm seeing them at almost every store I frequent!!
  • I'm thankful for Christmas itself - the very thought that God chose to leave the glories of heaven and come to earth as a poor helpless infant, all so that we, a sinful people, could enjoy relationship with Him. It's truly humbling and amazing. All the presents and special treats and gift wrapping and shopping - it's all just the sideshow. The real meaning of Christmas was in a small, dank manger and then on a rocky hillside dotted with crosses. Thank you, Lord.

For more Thankful Thursday posts, be sure to visit Grace Alone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Most Wonderful People in the Internet

Thanks to all of you who were so kind and encouraging to me following yesterday's post. I am so blessed to have a circle of women who I'm able to be honest and open with and not be afraid -afraid of rejection, afraid of condemnation, afraid of being vulnerable.

I am feeling better today. Your words have a lot to do with it. I know that all of have days when we feel like failures. I'm not thoroughly convinced that I'm doing my absolute best in all my endeavors, but I'm at least realizing that I'm not a complete loser! LOL!!

There are many areas in my life where I make wrong choices - my eating habits (and, oh, Debbie, how I wish it was just a problem that had cropped up over vacation!!!), my sleeping habits, how I choose to spend (or rather waste) my time; my lack of self-discipline again rears its ugly head. It's nothing new.

I guess the ticket is to not give in to those times when we feel defeated, but instead to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and start all over again.

Did you find yourself singing along with that last line???
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Bad, Bad Day

I try to stay pretty upbeat here. Not in an attempt to whitewash my life or to appear better than I am, just because I like to focus on the positive and be an encourager. As opposed to what I am going to be today. Totally transparent.

Sometimes I just feel like a failure in every area of my life.

As a mother, I agonize over the fact that my children can be unkind, even mean-spirited, to each other. I wonder why I haven't been able to better instill in them a sense of lovingkindness.

As a homeschooler, I am ashamed that my kids struggle in some very basic areas. Where I am going wrong? Why can't my kids be excited about learning and end up like those homeschoolers who get accepted to Yale at age 13? Why do my kids still struggle with remembering basic things unless they practice them every single day? Why aren't they better writers? Why am I so short-tempered with them when they need my help?

Why am I unable to keep my house in order. Everywhere I look there is stuff. Just random stuff that accumulates no matter how much I try to control it. I can't find things, and I get overwhelmed by all the clutter and feel like I just don't know where to start.

Why is it so impossible for me to lose weight? What is wrong with me that I make such bad and unhealthy choices, all the while knowing what a mistake it is? Knowing that my husband is so unhappy with me because of it. Knowing that it's causing me physical pain and unhealthiness. Knowing that I'd be happier if I lost it. Why do I keep myself in a pit?

I just am feeling like every area that I set out as my "domain" is in a state of disarray right now. I'm not doing a good job anywhere and I'm feeling very defeated. I'd like to just go to bed and pull the covers up around me and not think about any of it.

But that doesn't help, does it? Sigh...

Sorry to be a downer today. I just want to be real and it felt phony to sit down and try to write about something else when this is all heavy on my heart.

Big Doings in Doha

Thursday is Qatar National Day, marking the independence of Qatar from British colonialism. I think. Apparently the original Qatar Independence Day was September 3, but that has been done away with last year and now we celebrate National Day. Anyhoo...


Now, Doha is a city rising out of the desert. It's constantly in flux, old buildings being torn down and new glorious ones coming up in their place. It is rising in prominence in the region and, slowly, in the world. Since we arrived in late March I've seen a tremendous amount of change, but not on this scale.


Doha is being transformed right before my very eyes. New Qatari flags are flying on every streetpole. Almost every median, particularly those on the corniche (which flanks the bay) have been replanted with new landscaping including bright flowers, many of them using white and deep red, the colors of the flags. Huge flags drape over buildings and semi-trucks. And then there's this:






and this:



Each night this week there is a fabulous light show going on along the waterfront. Thursday night will also bring a water show and fireworks the likes of which I've never seen (or so they promise). I am hoping to convince Hubby to brave the crowds and take a picnic down and watch the show.

Then today, as the kids and I were driving downtown, we spotted about 10 traditionally dressed men riding camels. Now, occasionally you'll see a camel here or there out in the middle of nowhere or, yes, even riding in someone's pickup truck (in the bed, not the cab!!), but in the middle of downtown??? Got to be something to do with all the celebrations. I'll let you know if I find out.

I'm excited to be here for all the excitement. There's plenty of activities going on, so we will see what we can take in. Hubby will be on vacation for 9 days starting on Thursday, so we are hoping to get to experience Qatar like tourists for the first time. Should be fun!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday



I'm so excited at this time of year! It's a time for delicious treats, beautifully decorated homes, delightful music, and so much more. Christmas is a great time of the year! Even here in Doha, Qatar (where we are currently living), I've been surprised at the amount of Christmas trees in stores. It's a pleasant surprise.

I've got some really yummy things planned for this week. My mom blessed me with two (TWO!!) Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking cookbooks for Christmas while we were back in Tucson and I'm putting them to good use this week. Here's my plan:

Monday: Lemon-Rosemary Chicken, buttermilk-garlic smashed potatoes, tossed salad

Tuesday: Baja Beef & Beans and Tex-Mex Rice

Wednesday: Island Chicken, fruited rice, and garlic-roasted green beans

Thursday: Picnic in the park (it's Qatar's independence day and there is going to be a light show and fireworks by the gulf. Should be fun!!)

Friday: Broiled salmon with creamy horseradish sauce (recipe below), brussel sprouts, and roasted potatoes

Saturday: Stuffed zucchini, rice with vermicelli and chopped salad

Sunday: Lentils & rice and a lemony salad

Broiled Salmon with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

  • 1 lb. salmon fillets
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 T. prepared horseradish
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 t. lemon pepper seasoning

Preheat broiler. Rinse fish and pat dry. Cut into 4 serving pieces. Coat a baking sheet with the cooking spray; set aside.

Stir together sour cream, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Brush fish with oil; sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning. Place on baking sheet and broil 4-6 inches from heat for 4-6 minutes per side. Serve with sour cream mixture.

* * * * * * * * * *

Doesn't that sound yummy?! It's from Sandra Lee's book, Cooking Made Light. Well, to be honest, her recipe calls for fat free sour cream, but, uh, NO! Though I guess you could use it if you really wanted to.

For more great menu planning ideas, be sure to check out Laura at The Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Decorating The Simple Life

Well, since I'm all done decorating my home, I was kind of itching for something else to add a Christmas-y touch to. So I've got a new look here for the Christmas season. I really love the simplicity of the layout, which I found at Final Sense.

I'll be working on rebuilding my blogroll over the next few days. If you are a regular reader here and would like to be included, please let me know. I always love to get to know the people who visit. C'mon, you can de-lurk just this once!!

I may or may not return to the old layout once Christmas is over. The beige was beginning to wear on me. Anyone have any opinions? Keep it or go for something new?

O Holy Night

Since I was talking yesterday about how much I love the song, "O Holy Night," I thought I'd share one of my favorite renditions with you. This is Martina McBride's version and she is one of my all-time favorite singers.

If you really pay attention to what the song is saying, you just may cry. I warned you!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

For Lack of Something Better to Say...

The Christmas Meme!



I've seen this on too many people's blogs to mention lately, so here's my version.



Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Wrapping paper. Honestly I'd much rather do those beautiful gift bags, but can't bring myself to pay the price of $2 plus just to wrap a present. If it's something special, ok, but to do that number of presents times that number of gift bags - well, my wallet doesn't open that far!


Real tree or Artificial?

Sadly, artificial. The first few years of marriage, I convinced Hubby to go the natural route, only to spend months afterwards picking pine needles out of the carpet. Eventually we broke down and got an artificial one. I miss the smell terribly, but not the work of a real tree.


When do you put up the tree?

Thanksgiving Day, preferably, but if not then definitely by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.


When do you take the tree down?

Sometime between the day after Christmas and New Year's Day, depending on how sick I am of the decorations by then.


Do you like eggnog?

Ick!


Favorite gift received as a child?

The gift I most remember getting was a new bike. Flying through the neighborhood that day with the wind in my hair and the sun on my face was glorious!


Hardest person to buy for?

My husband!!!!! Usually he buys himself what he really wants throughout the year and he is generally very careful with money, so he doesn't always appreciate the thought that goes into a gift. He's too busy thinking about how much it cost!


Easiest person to buy for?

My kids, because by this time I've gotten numerous, and continuously revised, Christmas lists. Except for the fact that every year Daniel puts on his list, "a baby brother." Emily used to put another sibling on her list as well until she started babysitting and realized that babies are hard work. Now she's got a puppy on her list. Fat chance, baby.


Do you have a nativity scene?

Yes, we do. Actually, I've got a larger one downstairs, with the whole creche and everything, and a smaller, wooden carved one upstairs. My friend back in Miami, Kathy (who sadly is blogless) collects them which I think is way cool and I would like to do that as well. Except I don't think I'll be finding too many nativity sets over here. Sigh...


Mail or email Christmas cards?

Nope. I'm a total loser when it comes to Christmas cards. Shame on me!


Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

A purse my mother once gave me that had an embroidered scene by Thomas Kinkade on it. I was a young, hip girl and this was a purse made for a 50 something year old woman. Hmm, how coincidental??!! Somehow it made it's way into her vast collection of purses.


Favorite Christmas Movie?

It's a Wonderful Life. First off, I love Jimmy Stewart. And this movie carries such a strong message of how we are all important and how God weaves the lives of all of us together. That scene at the end when everyone is coming to donate money to keep George out of jail? I cry every. single. time.


When do you start shopping for Christmas?


Usually sometime in November, but often not until December. I'm still working on it now as a matter of fact.


Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

I don't think so, but it's quite possible.


Favorite thing about Christmas?

Christmas carols. Many of them are old and contain such amazing theology - those are my favorite ones. (See below)


Lights on the tree?

Seriously, do people put up trees without lights? I never knew this was an option. But one of my favorite Christmas activities is sitting in a darkened room with a cup of hot chocolate gazing at the lights of the Christmas tree.


Favorite Christmas song?

O Holy Night. Far and away, it's the most powerful song that gets to me. Especially this verse,
"Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt it's worth."
I start to tear up every time I sing it. Just thinking about how miserable I was without Christ and how much He has completed me and made me into a new person.


Travel at Christmas or stay home?

Stay at home. I really don't like to travel for Christmas. I mean, it's good to be with family and all, but I prefer them to come to me, you know? I just feel more at ease and relaxed in my own home.


Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer’s?

Yes, but only if I sing the song.


Angel on the tree top or a star?

For a long time when we were first married we had an angel. But she blinked. And that was just wrong, IMHO. I mean, shouldn't an angel be a steady beacon of God's love? So then we switched to a star which lit up. It was beautiful - country'ish, bronze, I loved it. Sadly it gave up the ghost last year and fell apart. Now I've got this gaudy gold star up there that I don't really like, but my options are limited, so I guess I'll have to live with it.

Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Christmas morning. Sometimes we'll let the kids open up one present on Christmas eve, but it is usually a board game that we can all play together before they go to bed. Growing up, every year, my brother and sister and I would get to open one present each. It was always pajamas. Way to build the excitement, Mom!!


Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

Mall parking lots. Normally the bane of my existence, at Christmas time I have nightmares about them.


Favorite ornament theme or color?

We've got a country thing going on with our tree. Homespun-type ornaments, direct from China via Target, abound. Snowmen, cabins, things made out of twigs. That kind of thing.


Favorite Thing for Christmas dinner?

Well, I like it all so I'll give you a regular Christmas menu at this house: turkey (Hubby doesn't eat ham, so that's never on the menu), Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing (not this year, however!! sob!!), mashed potatoes, corn, devilled eggs, broccoli salad, tossed salad, rolls and various desserts.

What do you want for Christmas this year?

Well this year I went a little hog-wild in my spending while in the States. So I really can't ask for anything. If I had to think of one thing I would really like, it would be a porch swing for the front porch.


Snow Christmas morning?

Bwahahahahahaha!!! Let's look at the places I have lived in my life: Tucson, Arizona; Southern California; Miami, Florida; and now Doha, Qatar. Ok, ok, I did live in Pennsylvania, but I left there when I was so young I don't remember it really. So, no, snow is not an integral part of my Christmas experience.

Hope you are enjoying your Christmas season!!
Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas, Christ and Living in the Muslim World

With just about two weeks until Christmas, we are being forced to take a second look at some of our Christmas traditions. While lots of effort goes into making expatriates feel at home here during the "magical season" (as one local store has decided to market it), it still isn't quite right.

Some of the things that I always associate with Christmas are missing. Driving through town looking at the brightly decorated houses with the Chipmunks Christmas album playing in the background. Christmas cookie exchanges. Christmas trees everywhere from large malls to small gas stations. Radios playing non-stop holiday music. People wishing each other "Merry Christmas," or at the least "Happy Holidays." But while I was missing all of that, I realized something.

None of it has anything to do with what Christmas is really all about.

There were no brightly decorated houses the night Christ was born. In fact, there wasn't even a home that would welcome Him. His birthplace was a stable, home to oxen, cattle, or donkeys. It was probably cold, smelly and damp.

There was no music. Mary was forced to deliver her first-born Son in the silence and alone. She was a young girl, without her mother or other family to be with her in this very frightening and amazing time in a woman's life.

Christmas cookies? I'd wager that there weren't any on the menu for Joseph and Mary that night. They probably hated to part with the little money they had just to buy some bread and dates. There would be no turkey or ham, no family recipe stuffing (which calls for sausage and as such would not be happening in Doha this year!!), no pies, no green bean casserole. Just a simple meal to give them the basic sustenance they needed.

As for holiday greetings, that was far from what Joseph and Mary received. They had the door closed in their face time and time again, probably without much compassion. After all, the town was full and bustling that night due to the census Caesar had commanded. People would much rather open their doors to those who could afford to pay and pay well. A poor couple expecting a baby didn't find any smiling faces.

And so our Christmas here may be more sober than usual. Some of the cultural trappings may be missing. But maybe, just maybe, we'll get a truer picture of what that first Christmas was really like.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hysterical!

I found this clip completely funny, especially since my own Hubby is in the doghouse right now for reasons which shall remain unmentioned. Hope you get a giggle out of it!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Back to Normal (Kind Of)

Well here it is Sunday again. We are slowly getting back into the ebb and flow of regular life.

Most of the laundry has been done and the last few loads are hanging up to dry. The house has been stocked with fresh groceries. The house has been thoroughly cleaned. Christmas decorations are up.

The weather is beautiful, cool and breezy. Yesterday's downpour and cloudy skies have given way to clear skies and bright sunshine.

Hubby is off for the next few days due to the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Fitr. It's nice to have some uninterrupted time with him after such a long separation. He goes back to work on Thursday, then will, as usual, have Friday off. During his vacation, we have planned to keep it low-key. Tonight, Spiderman is climbing a local hotel and we are planning on going to enjoy the show. Perhaps we might drive out to the sand dunes and rent ATV's and ride the dunes.

It's good to be home.
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Content

Today was really a good day for me. Even though I was completely exhausted (owing to a certain child being way off this time zone who kept me up until 3 am!!!), I'm feeling really "home" here now that I'm back.

First off the weather was amazing! In the morning we were in the mid 60's and only rose up to about 74 degrees for a high. Then, wonder of wonders, it rained. And not just a few sprinkles, but an actual downpour caused by a thunderstorm that lasted for hours!!!!!! It was heaven. I had all the doors open so we could listen to the sound of the raindrops (and the hail!!) as they hit the ground and, more noticeably, the metal roof of my car cover. It was great!!!

Also, I went out to do my grocery shopping and found everything on my list. A rare occurrence here in Doha!! Actually, I was so excited about one find. As a Christmas gift, my mother had given me a Sandra Lee cookbook. One of the recipes called for ginger preserves, which I had NEVER heard of and figured I'd never find it here of all places. Well, sure enough, I did!! I'll let you know how the recipe turns out.

Happily, we got the call that my missing suitcase has arrived here. Hubby has run over to the airport to pick it up, and I'm so excited to find out what I was missing!! I know of a few things, but I honestly don't remember all that was in there.

And today we got our Christmas tree and the bulk of the other decorating done. It looks very nice, if I do say so myself. It's making it a little homier somehow. And while shopping, I picked up a Glade apple cinnamon candle, so it's even smelling like Christmas!!

Lastly, Emily hasn't cried at all today. That's huge right there and I'm totally grateful.

So it's been a super great day here in Doha. Hooray!!!
Friday, December 5, 2008

We're Home!

Hi everyone!

Just a quick note to let you know that we made it home safe and sound. We are all exhausted.

Since there was no food in the house (Hubby was living off takeout), we went to KFC at 1 am after leaving the airport. By the time we unloaded the car, ate and calmed Emily's sobs about being back in Doha, it was after 2.

I woke up at noon, Daniel followed around 12:30 and Emily finally was coaxed out of bed around 3. We've been busily unpacking ever since. Except for Daniel, who decided that we MUST decorate for Christmas right now and promptly drug out everything, which is now all sitting in my dining room.

We did arrive missing one suitcase. I hope it is found and returned soon as it contained some real goodies for us here.

Well, I'm off to do a little more tidying up before getting to bed. The next few days will be a little hectic as I get the house and the kids and Hubby and I all back to normal. See you Monday!!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Update on My Niece

Gosh, thank you all so much for your prayers. I can't tell you how much I appreciate them. I'm sorry I wasn't able to update you earlier, but my mom and I spent the day out at my brother's home watching the other 5 kids so my brother and sister-in-law could do what they needed to do to take care of Sarah.

She is being kept another night at the hospital, but has been moved out of the ICU. We are hopeful that she will be released tomorrow.

Apparently she has a fracture of her skull from the base of her skull (by your neck) to the top of her head. It sounds scary (and the doctor told us most people with this injury would have been brought in comatose already), but we are blessed and thankful that there was no bleeding or swelling of the brain. Nor was there any displacement of the skull bone itself, but rather it was more like a hairline fracture.

I am now a firm believer of bicycle helmets. I always knew it was the right thing to do, but it didn't seem really necessary for my kids. After all, they are just cruising around the neighborhood and there isn't much traffic, right? But just that fall from losing her balance caused a major, major injury. In a second, Sarah's life could have been ended, if not tragically changed forever. From this point on, my kids will be wearing their helmets and I pray that you will remember what happened here and make a point of keeping your kids safe.

Again, your continued prayers are coveted and your prayers are making a difference. Thank you so much!!

On another note, we leave tomorrow to go back to Doha. We've got a long trip ahead of us, but I'm anxious to get back home to Hubby. Emily is struggling (as expected) and Daniel has lost his cell phone (grrrrr!!!!), so if you could pray for those two things and for safety as we travel, I'd really appreciate it as well.

Now that I've taken up all of your intercessory prayer time, I'll be on my way. I've got more packing to do and I'm hoping to get to bed before midnight!!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Urgent Prayer Request!!

Would you please take a moment to pray for my 4 year old niece, Sarah? While she was visiting us this evening she stood up and fell out of the bicycle basket that my daughter Emily was giving her a ride in. Within moments she was vomiting and lethargic. Her mom called the doctor, who felt it was warranted to call 911. The paramedics came and checked her out and said her vitals were fine, but we might want to take her to the pediatric ER just for caution's sake.

Thank God that we did because she does indeed have a skull fracture and it's in a tricky place. There is no bleeding or displacement, but they are transferring her to a trauma unit just as a precaution that should occur overnight and a pediatric neurosurgeon should be needed.

Please pray that her condition remains stable, for a quick recovery, for peace for my brother and his wife, and for Emily and Daniel (who feel somewhat responsible since they were watching over here at the time).

Thank you, bloggy friends!!! I'll keep you updated.

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