Friday, January 10, 2014

Where The Sidewalk Ends...

There is a place where the sidewalk ends 
And before the street begins, And there the grass grows soft and white, 
And there the sun burns crimson bright, 
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight To cool in the peppermint wind.
- Shel Silverstein

I like Doha, I really do. There are so many great and wonderful aspects to living here. I am able to stay at home with JJ, we have the Persian Gulf (the PERSIAN GULF!) immediately outside our building, the weather is pretty darned perfect (during the winter months at least) and it is a city keen on advancing, but interested in keeping its culture alive. I love hearing the call to prayer on the radio or in the mall, love looking around and seeing so many different cultures at play. So I like Doha and I may just grow to love it...

Something I don't love? The sidewalks... Oh. My. God. We don't have a car at the moment, nor do either of us have a driver's license. CJ walks to work every day and JJ and I typically walk to the grocery store every day or enjoy a little mall walking at City Centre.  Yes, I'm becoming a mall walker. Holy Hell.

But now that the weather had gotten nicer, something JJ and I have tried to do is walk over to The Corniche (at least) once a week. I love living near water having grown up on Lake Michigan and lived in Santa Barbara for 3 years; and any time I don't have water near me, I miss it. 

So, the other day JJ and I walked over to CJ's work (he had our only credit card) and continued on to The Corniche where we would use the crosswalk to get over to our grocery store. 

Now, it's always hairy and a little dicey walking in this city. Sometimes I feel like I'm playing a live version of Frogger. It's not enjoyable. A lot of times, the sidewalk looks as though it is fine and then it stops. Just ends. My luck is that it is usually on an incredibly busy street. Other times there are cars simply parked on the sidewalk... CJ likes to say, "Where my car is, is where it should be." This seems to be the Qatar mentality and it drives me insane. 

Look! What a nice, long (and pretty) sidewalk on a busy road!
Well, Hell. Guess they are done for now. I'll just hop up on the grassy knoll and push my stroller on the grass. 
Anyway, on the way to The Corniche, we walked through construction sites (yes, seriously) and ran against (light) traffic in a roundabout (Look Kids, Big Ben! Parliament!). We finally made it to The Corniche (my most favorite part of this city besides our home) and saw all of about 6 people total... thought it was odd, but didn't think too much about it. Then I got to our crosswalk. No, the crosswalk is gone. Sonofa. 

Apparently, after asking one mother (she had two young boys with her) how they got on to the Corniche, she informed me they ran across the road and through construction as well... Like crawled over barricades and everything. I had a stroller with JJ inside and was done risking both of our lives, plus, I can't lift the stroller over the barricades by myself. 

So, I ended up just walking... and walking... and walking. Thank God for my FitBit Zip as it gave me some joy after seeing how far I walked. Some. 

And while we were on The Corniche, after a few tears (seriously trapped), JJ and I enjoyed a photo shoot. Because, well, why not? Lemons into lemonade type of thing.

Such a trooper. God, I love this kid.

To show how I'm not making this up, here are a couple of examples of the asinine sidewalks here in Doha. #OhDoha

Where my car is, is where it should be...
Who cares that it is blocking the sidewalk? 
It is kindof fun to see a Lamborghini though; albeit still frustrating. At least this sidewalk is on the larger size and we can walk around this sexy beast.

This is my favorite... check out the curb and then where the pedestrian walkway is located. Sometimes there will be an on / off ramp on one side and on the other side? Nothing. You have to kick up the stroller to get back on the sidewalk. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cloth vs Disposable Diapers...

I'm not a super crunchy kind of person, but I use cloth diapers about 90% of the time with JJ. I'll be honest, a big part of the reason is cost and helping with the environment is simply a bonus.

When it came time to decide on whether I (we) would use cloth or disposable, I gravitated toward cloth diapers. And then I started researching Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Diapers. And it became a no-brainer decision. I'll be honest, CJ was slightly apprehensive about going the cloth diaper route, but I think he's come around totally now. 

So! Why did we make the decision to go cloth? I'm cheap.

Since babies typically potty train between two and three years, and I'm not going to be neurotically potty training with M&Ms as a reward so I'll go with closer to three years before JJ is potty trained, I did some calculations as such:

If one approximates 10 diaper changes per 24 hours in the first 3 months and 8 changes from 4 - 36 months and using an average cost of newborn and bigger diapers, I found it worked out to be anywhere from $2675 - $4250 depending on diaper brands.

Now on to cloth diapers... it's slightly different to calculate as the cost of cloth diapers will remain no matter how many times (!) you change the bambino. Now, the upfront cost expenditure is higher, there is no getting around it, but after the initial purchase, it is simply laundry detergent (I use TIDE and not their recommended diaper washing laundry detergent, call me crazy) cost and water / electricity. If you get the One Size diapers, you can use them from birth til potty training. 

So, for three years, my cost will be approximately $750. Sweet! And then, when we have a second baby and I reuse said cloth diapers? Um, yeah, that's going to go down to about $300 for newborn to three years old. Ah.Maze.Ing. As I said, CJ has most definitely come around to cloth diapers... He's cheap too.

We do tend to use disposable diapers still at night (that 10% of the time we don't use cloth? It's for bedtime) as JJ sleeps through the night since 9 weeks and I don't want to disrupt that schedule. I'm frugal, not crazy.

My favorite cloth diapers are:

Also, another bonus we have noticed? He doesn't have as many blowout diapers as he does with disposable? They seem to hold everything in and not be as blowout prone. Yes, please.

Oh! and the environment. Apparently disposable diapers need to be exposed to sunlight and oxygen to decompose and in a landfill? Yeah, they don't degrade well there. According to Women's Environmental Network (WEN) they take approximately 200 - 500 years to decompose and, well, I don't want to leave that kind of legacy for JJ and his children. Global Weirding, Global Warming, Climate Change, whatever you want to call it is a reality.

And then there is my most favorite part... They're pretty damn cute. Either wearing just his diaper or matching them with an outfit. And if you're like me and have a difficult time keeping the "chatter" going while changing, it's nice to give him the option of the blue one or the red one... He usually goes with blue in case you're wondering.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baking? Bran Muffins? Who Am I?...

I've never been a cook, let alone a baker...

Don't get me wrong, I love food and I love to watch people cook. Going to the grocery store gives me a small thrill and I recently described our newest grocery store here in Doha as "sexy" (because it is...). But I'm not a cook.

That being said, I was getting antsy while JJ takes his morning naps. There is only so much Facebook and reading one can do. So! I've taken up baking Bran Muffins and I have to admit, I'm loving it.

My mom (The Ging) makes a mean Bran Muffin and I love her recipe. Unfortunately, her recipe takes up to an hour of prep (soaking, etc) and I don't have that kind of time. So! I have discovered a different, and yet, similar recipe. Here we go:

Ingredients                                           Serving (24)

Bran Cereal, such as Kellogg's All-Bran         4 cups
Buttermilk*                                                3 1/2 cups
Raisins (if desired)                                      2/3 cup
Vegetable Oil                                            2/3 cup
Maple Syrup (or Honey)**                           1/2 cup
Egg(s)                                                       2 Large
Packed Light Brown Sugar                          1/2 cup
All-Purpose Flour                                       2 1/2 cups
Baking Powder                                          4 tsp
Baking Soda                                              2 tsp
Salt                                                         1/2 tsp
Cinnamon                                                2 1/4 tsp
Ginger                                                     1 tsp
Wheat Bran***                                          1/4 cup

* I make my own buttermilk as I am unable to find it in the stores here in Doha. The ratio is 1 Cup milk to 1 tbsp White Vinegar and you allow to sit for 5 minutes. Who knew? Besides my husband and I'm sure every other well established chef in the world. But seriously, who knew.

** As we are unable to get Maple Syrup here, we have substituted pure honey. Works quite well and it's cheaper.

*** The Wheat Bran doesn't have to go in, just an added boost if you will.

Pre-heat the oven to 400*F or 200*C.

Combine the bran cereal, buttermilk, raisins (if desired) and wheat bran (if desired) in a large bowl; let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in the oil, maple syrup, egg and brown sugar. Sift the dry ingredients over the mixture and gently stir until combined. Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.

Bake at 400* (
200*C) for 18 to 20 minutes (our oven bakes them by 19 minutes). 

Dried apple or chopped toasted pecans may be added to the batter instead of raisins. I've started adding (1 - 2) Banana(s) to the second batch for Banana Bran Muffins. So good if you're a banana freak like me.

It's nice as opposed to allowing to sit for one (1) hour, it's only 10 minutes... For someone who tries to bake while the Little Man is sleeping, a difference of 50 minutes is HUGE! ;)

****The bones of this recipe come from "The Baker's Manual; Fifth Edition" by Joseph Amendola and Nicole Rees. I've adjusted baking temperatures and included some ingredients (ginger / cinnamon or pumpkin spice should you so choose)****

As the muffins do not have any preservatives, I typically freeze all but 4 - 6 of them and pull them out accordingly. 


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bacon and Rain

The Little Guy (JJ) and I moved to Doha two months ago today and for the most part we are both loving it. 

Since moving to the Middle East, I've missed two things. Bacon and Rain. Don't get me wrong, I love the sun and all it has to offer; especially as it allows for JJ and me to get out and about during the waking hours. But I love a good thunderstorm. And bacon, ahhh, bacon. Let's just say I've never had to do without it and thus didn't realize how much I love it. 

So an interesting thing about Doha is that one can buy bacon, but they have to go to Qatar Distribution Center (QDC) or, as I like to call it, the Sin Store. At QDC, you, well my husband, buy(s) the alcohol and/or pork products. It is the only place in all of Qatar which sells these products. I am not allowed to even enter the store. Only my husband may enter... Let me tell you when people go, it's a go big or go home mentality.

(ExPats exiting QDC with boxes of Booze and Pork)

Anyway, I digress.

Today we (CJ and I) enjoyed bacon which we had been saving since last month's visit for the right occasion and it turned out to be a rainy day! Oh God, so dreamy. Bacon and Eggs while listening to the rain drum against the windows. Is this heaven? No, it's Doha.

(Rainfall is scarce, at a total of 75 mm (2.95 in) per annum. - Wikipedia)

(We enjoyed a rainy day photo shoot... as one does)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For... Rolling from Back to Tummy... at Bedtime

My new motto is "Be careful what you wish for"...

Why you ask? Because we, well I, have been obsessed with my Little Man rolling over. We practice it and cheer when he sporadically does it and focus on it every day. You know, because I am a helicopter mom (or is it a Tiger Mom??) to the Nth degree.

And yesterday he was rolling over every chance he got. I would walk out of the room with him on his back, one minute later I return and he's triumphantly on his stomach. It was glorious!

And then last night happened. We did his bath time, read a few books, nursed... He's so tired and rubbing his eyes. Perfect timing as it is 658 and bedtime! But then the crying began. This is not normal for bedtime... daytime nap time? Yes, totally normal. Never for bedtime - this kid looks forward to bedtime. Whenever I put him down, he gives me a big gummy smile, his arms over his head and falls asleep in about 2 minutes with a contented sigh. After 10 minutes of listening to him cry, I asked my Big Man to go in, soothe him, but do NOT pick him up.

Big Man comes out and states, "I think we're going to have a problem." "What's that?" I ask innocently. Apparently he had rolled over. Yay! Or not. As we haven't mastered the art of rolling from stomach to back. No. Bueno.

An hour later, finally he was so tired I don't think he had the energy to roll over and he was asleep. Until 520 am when he woke up because.... He rolled over. Nooooooo! Don't roll over until you can roll back over. Sonofa.

So! Be careful what you wish for...

Enough story time: Looking for thoughts as to what to do regarding rolling over. I've read everything from let him cry it out and sleep on his stomach (SIDS is not as big a concern due to his strength and age now). Go in and roll him back over... yeah, except he rolls back over before my hands are even off his chest. Pick him up and nurse him again. Or, my favorite, "Go with your gut." ... My gut tells me to do all of those things and none of those things at the same time. Especially as my gut is exhausted.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Time for Everything

Well! Labor Day Weekend 2013 was a lot of firsts...

First Labor Day since I was 10 years old I wasn't found in New York City at the US Open.
First Labor Day Weekend as a wife. And as a mother.
First Labor Day Weekend for JJ (I'm all about ease of nicknames whilst writing).
First boat ride for the little guy (ah, even though he is only 10 weeks old, still cost a 1/2 price ticket -ouch). First El Ride for JJ as well.

Oh! And first night at a Four Seasons Hotel (The Ritz-Carlton Chicago). In a suite. This kid's life does not suck.

Loving Hanging out with Miss Ece.

Drinks at the Park Hyatt Chicago on the patio.

On the Brown Line heading up to Southport

War Eagle! With The Sewells!

At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel). Wildly appropriate this was JJ's first Four Seasons as this was my first Four Seasons at which I worked back in 2002.