Monday, March 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - March 29

Back again for another edition of Menu Plan Monday!  Two weeks in a row - wow!  I'm on a roll!

We are on Spring Break here this week.  Emily is off in Jordan on an outreach trip with our youth group, Hubby is busy working and Daniel and I are hanging at home relaxing a bit.  I've been on an organizing spree, and boy, can our home use that!  Ever since we moved in to this house in late October, I've just never really found a "home" for lots of things.  Consequently we have been living in chaos and it's contributed a lot to the stress level.  I'm so much more relaxed already and I'm only a few days into getting it all done.  I can't wait until I get everything done and settled.  

This week we are still trying to be frugal and "shopping from home."  Tostadas are a great bargain dish, as are most meatless dishes, and easy to boot.  The Potato Lover's Salad is also very inexpensive to make and it's one of Hubby's and my favorites, full of flavor and delish.  I found a great deal on shrimp this week, inspiring me to make the shrimp scampi. The stuffed squash dish needs just 1/2 lb. of ground beef, rice, squash (very inexpensive here) and a few tomatoes. Our big splurge will be dinner out on Easter, but frugality should also include a splurge once in a while, or everyone becomes miserable, right?

Monday - Tostada bar

Tuesday - Baked shrimp scampi over fettucini, caesar salad

Wednesday - Koosa Mahshi (stuffed squash)

Friday -  Pizza (for lunch - don't forget Friday is our day off here); sandwiches for dinner (then off to the airport to pick up Emily!!)

Saturday - Rosemary and lime chicken (one of Emily's favorites to welcome her home), basmati rice and steamed vegetables

Sunday - We'll be going out out eat to celebrate Easter this year.  Hams are not available here in Qatar, turkeys by themselves cost as much as a meal out anyways, and we will be celebrating two birthdays in our family which fall this week (not mine - yet).  

And now, I'm off to organize my entertainment center cabinets.  Bliss!!!

Happy Monday!

(For more menu ideas, be sure to visit The Organizing Junkie.)
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well, I've Been Surprised Again!

You know, after two years of being in the Gulf, I thought I'd already had all the new, funny experiences I was going to have.  I've fallen down stairs only to be stared at by passers-by, I've had workmen show up at my house as early as 6 am and as late as 10:30 pm without an appointment, I've seen camels riding by in pick-up trucks, I've learned to hoard precious and rare ingredients like vanilla pudding, learned to deal with bureaucratic incompetence at the doctor's office, and much, much more.  I thought I'd seen it all and that nothing could surprise me anymore.

I was wrong.

I should know in Doha there is a never-ending supply of things to surprise you.  Though I don't even bat an eye anymore when a car come barreling towards me, heading the wrong way down a one way street, and the sight of men greeting each other by rubbing their noses together barely gets a giggle anymore, yesterday I something new happened that caught me totally off guard.

I had run up to the little supermarket nearby.  Now, when I say supermarket, think of a tiny little stall of a storefront where the aisles are about 2 feet wide and so jam-packed you have to navigate carefully to avoid knocking everything to the ground.  All I needed was a can of corn.  I was roasting a couple of chickens (chickens come small here, so two are always needed) and I was just craving mashed potatoes and gravy.  And, to me, mashed potatoes MUST always be accompanied by corn. It's the law, which I'm sure I could prove if I spent enough time looking through the books.

So I find my can of corn, make my way up to the little man at the front.  There's someone ahead of me so he indicates for me to put the can on the cooler of ice cream in front of him while I wait.  I do and he tells me it's 5.50 Qatari riyals.   Because coins are very rare here (which is why you will often get your change in candy!), I handed him six riyals.  He must not have had change either because he looked in his drawer (yes, drawer, not cash register) and gave me back the 1, keeping the 5.  Remembering that I had one 50 cent piece that I had been hoarding, I got it out of my wallet and tried to hand it to him.

He instantly started gesturing at me, pointing at the cooler again.  When I just looked at him in confusion, he finally started yelling, "Down!  Down!  Put it down!"  Startled, I put the coin down on the cooler, from where he picked it up and put it in the drawer.

He didn't want to take the chance that he might accidentally touch me while I handed him the coin.  

Shocked I walked to my car and just couldn't get over this.  I don't know why it is bothering me so much.  I know that Hassidic Jews often do the same thing and that it's a sign of respect to them.  But trust me - this was not a sign of respect.  The last word you could use for how most Muslim men view women, particularly Western women, is respect.  It's more a fear of contamination.  Seriously.  

So, once again, Doha managed to pull it off again.  Shocking me has become more and more difficult the longer I live here, but hat's off to you, little grocery-store man.  You did it!
Monday, March 22, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - March 22

Gosh, it's been ages since I've been able to participate in Menu Plan Monday.  The whole time difference thing totally throws me off.  By the time I get online over here on my side of the world, y'all have gotten posted so quickly that I'd be #973, so it just kind of seemed silly.  LOL!  But now that it's going up at a new time (6 am PST, 4 pm my time) there's a slight chance I might be able to crack the top 200!! ;)

This week I am doing a frugal version of menu-planning.  For one thing we are pretty tight on finances from now until the end of the school year what with paying off school fees, saving for vacation and such, so it's good to just tighten the belt and make do on what we can.  Also, since the kids and I will be vacating the house for 6 weeks while we are in the States for the summer and Hubby will probably eat out a majority of that time, I figured it's a good idea to begin "shopping at home" as much as I can, using up what I already have. 

Here's my menu plan for this week:

  • Monday - Homemade pizza using this fabulous pizza crust recipe.  The kids' pizza will be cheese and pepperoni, but Hubby and I will enjoy pizza Margherita, fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh basil and cheese (no sauce).  Yummy!!
  • Tuesday - Roasted chicken in the crockpot (I recently discovered this great tip - ball up tin foil at the bottom of the crockpot and place the chicken(s) on top of it.  No more slimy chicken!
  • Wednesday - Lentils and rice with a lemon-dressed salad - the ultimate frugal meal!
  • Thursday - Ribs with baked potatoes and steamed veggies.  I'm so excited about this meal!!!  A friend of mine, whose husband is stationed at the US airbase nearby, has kindly given us this rack of (shhhhhh!!!!) pork ribs!!  I'm dancing gleefully around the computer right now just thinking about it.  (Well, not really, but in my imagination I am!)
  • Friday - Tuna salad sandwiches (hitting the bottom of the barrel, here, right?!)
  • Saturday - Mezze - homemade hummous (recipe below), pickles, olives, cheeses, crudites, and pita bread
  • Sunday - Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup

Hummus seems to be gaining in popularity these days in the U.S.  It's healthy and a great dip for breads, carrots and other veggies.  But when I see those small little tubs of it selling for close to $4 in the deli section, I want to cry.  It's SOOOO easy and so cheap to make, it should be a crime to charge that much for it.  Here's how I make it at home in less than 5 minutes:

1 can chick peas (liquid reserved)
3 Tbsp. tahini (kind of like a sesame seed peanut butter)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 cloves garlic
salt to taste

Put all ingredients and about 1/3 of the liquid from the chick peas into a blender.  Blend, adding more liquid as necessary, until the mixture is smooth and is the consistency of a thick dip.  Put onto a plate and drizzle a swirl of olive oil onto it and sprinkle on a little parsley and paprika for an authentic look.  That's it!  You've just made hummous!

Be sure to visit for more great menu plan ideas!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The First Step

Yesterday I was trying to think back to how things got so far off track.  How did we go from being a happy, Christian, loving family to this creation I don't even recognize?  The constant arguing, the sniping at each other, the antagonism - I look around and am heartbroken.

The cause could be any number of things.  We have gone through major changes in our lives over the last two years.  Moving overseas has created a lot of turmoil and even some resentment.  Putting the kids into school for the first time has exposed them to a whole world from which we had always tried to shield them.  My return to full-time work has left our home without a full-time "manager" and has left things in low-level constant chaos.  Hormones are raging through my soon-to-be 15 and 13 year olds, creating mood swings which take us all by surprise.

The first step in rectifying all this mess?  Resume our daily time of Bible reading and prayer.  When we homeschooled, it was always the way we started off our day.  But lately we're all in such a hurry in the mornings - packing backpacks, preparing lunches, getting out the door on time - that our daily time with God and His word has fallen by the wayside, I'm ashamed to admit.  I feel like we have lost our focus as a family and this is where our focus should be - on God.

It might not solve all our problems overnight, but it is the firs step in the right direction.

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth."
Deuteronomy 11: 18-21
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Caps for Sale

I've decided that I wear too many caps.  (Not actual hats, of course.  I have an unusually large head and hats don't generally fit on it.)  What I'm referring to is the number of roles I play.  It's nothing new really, this multiple hat-wearing.  As any mother knows, we all wear enough hats to fill Imelda Marcos' shoe closet - wife, mother, cook, housekeeper, nursemaid, teacher, chauffeur...the list could go on and on.

Adding in full- time employee has seemingly pushed me right over the edge.  I've been working for one year now.  It's been a hard year, full of adjustments and letting go of expectations.  I've had to learn to give myself permission to not feel guilty for being the perfect Suzy Homemaker that I always dreamed of being.  To be honest, home-cooked meals only happen about 2/3 of the time - our local Arabic restaurant's number is stored in my memory and I can dial it in my sleep.  Dominos and KFC are getting quite bit more of our business than ever before, as well.

Housekeeping standards haven't been exactly up to snuff either.  Mind you, I was never the best housekeeper in the world to start with.  (Mother - stop laughing!)  But in the last few years I had really gotten on track by implementing routines and was so proud of myself for really pulling the house into shape.  Now I'm happy with myself if I get the dinner dishes done.  By the time I get home, prepare dinner, help with homework and do a very basic tidying up, I'm D-O-N-E.  

Having the weekend be reversed doesn't help either.  Since weekends here are Friday-Saturday, and church meets on Fridays because many people, Hubby included, work on Saturdays (yes, he works a 6-day week!!  UGH!), that means that the weekend starts off with the day of rest/church.  Somehow that has completely thrown me.  I absolutely don't want to do anything on Friday after church, but then that lethargy carries over onto Saturdays.  I always grew up that the first day of the weekend you did your housekeeping, gardening, errands and then the next day you rested.  I just can't seem to get the hang of it being swapped.  It just seems...wrong.

So much as I would like to, I can't really sell any of my hats.  I just have to find a way to wear them with more panache.  One issue is the overwhelming fatigue I've been dealing with.  The last few nights I've been in bed by 8:30 - totally out of character for me.  I've been trying to get more exercise, attending Zumba classes and hitting the gym a few nights a week, but that just seems to make me even more tired.  I'm thinking that maybe some vitamins or something, but I don't know what.  Any advice?

I'm thinking that I strongly need to get back to using routines - even if they are vastly different from the previous ones I had in place.  Less ambition, more accomplishment.  I think I've just kind of given up - since I can't get as much done as I really want to, why bother.  All my wonderful meal plans have fallen by the wayside as well.  :(

I think I'm at the point now where a year is long enough to get into the flow of things.  It's time to stop making excuses and start making things happen.  We have spring break coming up next week, so I guess I should use that time to sit down and figure out routines and plans that realistically work for me in my current situation, so be looking for some "Routines for the Working Woman" in the next couple of weeks.  

That gives me one week to continue my sluggish ways.  I'd better go buy some Cheetos and soda and clear a space on the couch!!
Monday, March 15, 2010

In the Desert

I've gone back to my desert-themed layout here on the blog.  As temperatures rise and the sun becomes more intense, it just seemed like the right 'feel' for the postings.  

As I look at the picture, I'm struck by how diverse Qatar is.  To be sure you do indeed see things like this camel (though usually only at the markets or in the back of a pickup or out in the wild) and the man in the robe (known locally as a thobe).  But right alongside those sights, you'll see skyscrapers and Lamborghini's.  

Qatar is one of the most multi-national places I've ever been.  One of the things I enjoyed about living in Miami is how diverse it was - Cubans, Haitians, South Americans, Europeans and native-born Americans.  Miami has nothing on this place.   Not only do you have the local Qataris (who make up only 20% of the population), but you have Indians, Filipinos, South Africans, Brits, Canadians, Nepalis, and just about every other place you can imagine.  The school my children attend has students from 70 different countries.  

While we are very strong in our Christian beliefs, I am thrilled that my children are friends with people of other faiths and cultures.  I think their entire world view is being shaped by the fact that they are getting to know real people from all over the world, not just radicals who get on the evening news.  It's very easy to just paint everyone in a group with a broad brush and not get the whole picture.  

Living here in Doha it's very easy to take out your frustrations on a certain group of people - these people are rude, these people are the worst drivers, you name it.  But then you meet someone from that group and realize that it's just people.  That there are rude people where you are from too.  That there are bad drivers in your hometown.  It may be more prevalent here because there is such a mix of cultures where people have come from that it's like a melting pot of expectation and backgrounds, but the truth is there is good and bad in all of our cultures.

I'm glad that my kids are getting to know that now instead of when they are my age.  
Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bugs and Heat

Now in Miami, this would be a whole different post.  Mosquitos there grow to the size of rodeo-type bucking broncos.  And they thrive in the summer heat of Miami, congregating by the thousands at your front door, ready to pounce on you the second you crack the door open.

The kind of bug I'm talking about today, however, is the insidious computerus virusium.  Foolishly, Hubby and I allowed our security software to expire on our home computers and we have been hacked.  Big time.  To the point where the government-run internet provider has blacklisted our IP address and we can't use the internet at home.  Every time we turn on the computer, thousands of warnings pop up - key loggers, email worms, trojan viruses, you name it - I've got it.  Then I was even too scared to attempt to renew our software license because they'd have access to our credit card info.  So we bought new security software, but the hackers are too smart and the system won't allow us to load it. And so, the only solution?  

Wiping out the hard drive and starting clean.

Do you hear my whimper coming out through the speakers of you computer?  Wiping out everything - all the programs, all the documents, all the pictures (though thankfully Hubby had uploaded many of the most special ones to Facebook).  The guys at the computer shop were going to see what could be saved, but we are preparing for the worst.  Sigh...why do people come up with stuff like this?  What kind of people are they?!  (Evil, I tell you! They are just plain evil!)

Ok, now that that little rant is over, let me just update you on what it's like in Qatar at the moment.  Yesterday I had to run the kids over to the school for homework purposes (multiple times!!! grrrr...) since we couldn't use the internet at home.  Once, at about 1 pm, I happened to glance at the thermometer in my rear-view mirror as I got in the car.  It read (drumroll, please!!) 105 degrees.

Now, it dropped pretty rapidly down to a near-chilly 95 degrees.  What on earth am I complaining about?  I mean, here it is mid-March and it's already 95 degrees.  Can you imagine what it will be like around here when summer really arrives?
Friday, March 12, 2010

95 Days

We're finally down into the double-digits!!  Only 95 days until we get to fly back to the US for the summer!  I bought our tickets last night and it seems so close I can taste it.

(That sounded dumb.  What exactly does the US taste like anyways??)

Well, let me tell you what the US tastes like.  Here's a list of all the places my kids and I have been dreaming of and that are on our "must visit" list.

1. Wendy's - Oh, how I have missed you, Frosty!
2. Taco Bell - Yo quiero Taco Bell!
3. P.F. Chang's - Ok, that's just me, not the kids, but, mmm...Mongolian Beef and Chicken Lettuce Wraps
4. Sweet Tomatoes - Best salad bar restaurant - yummy!
5. Panera Bread - need I say more?
6. Cracker Barrel - Okay, honestly, it's more about the shopping than the food.  :)
7. KFC - Yes, we have it here, but they don't offer mashed potatoes and I'm ALL about KFC's mashed potatoes!
8. Wienerschnitzel - Chili dogs, chili dogs and more chili dogs.  A smile just crept onto my face.

I'm thinking that over the course of the next 95 days there will be more lists of what we can't wait for in store here at ye olde blog.  Sorry in advance - we are just a wee bit excited over here!!
Friday, March 5, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

My mother would tell you that I was something of an impatient child.  If I didn't get my way, I might even be prone to going outside into the street and stomping my feet and screaming.  Personally I don't remember that, but she claims it's true.

This propensity to lose my temper easily has always been a source of frustration for me.  For as long as I can remember I've prayed that God would give me patience.  Well, we all know that patience isn't just given, but that it's instead developed through situations which God allows into our lives to grow us.  

And I just want to let you know that if you are praying for patience, I'll be happy to be your Doha tour guide when God sends you here, because this is the ultimate training ground for people with a shortage of patience.

It's not only that you will soon not even care about the people who are going the wrong way down the street to skip to the head of the long line of cars waiting at the stop sign.  But you'll also find yourself barely batting an eye at the people in the grocery store who blithely stand in your way and don't even bother to move when they notice you are waiting to pass but continue to peruse the 50 different varieties of canned corn on the shelf.  

But the ultimate game of patience for me seems to be what I've come to think of as The Ingredient Game.  As I've mentioned before, keeping store shelves consistently stocked with a regular line up of products seems to be a problem here.  For the life of me I can't understand why since this is the richest country in the world, but such is life.  

This means that it's like a game to try and made something special.  You have to carefully collect the different ingredients over time and wait for that magic moment when you find the last missing piece.  For Valentine's Day the stars all aligned just in time to make one of Hubby's favorite desserts - Oreo Pudding Pie.  Pudding mixes are extremely hard to come by here for whatever reason, particularly chocolate.  For months I had been hoarding the chocolate Oreo Keebler pie crust and when I found the chocolate pudding in early February I knew it was a sign that I was meant to make this dessert as a sign of my love and effort for Hubby.  He loved it.

And now I've moved on to my next challenge:  collecting the ingredients for Hawaiian Wedding Cake.  I've had the crushed pineapple for several months, the instant vanilla pudding mix I found at the same time I found the chocolate pudding and last week found yellow cake mix.  Now all I'm lacking is Cool Whip.  I've gone from one grocery store to another trying to find it, all with no luck.  It's not normally so hard to find, but that's life in Doha.  You might lose access to anything at any time.  And so I wait (yes, patiently) for that little tub of creamy goodness to appear once more on the store shelves.  

And then I'll start collecting all over again.


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