Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The weather outside? SO not frightful in my opinion!

It SNOWED yesterday! So Santa must be reading my blog...I was down in D.C. visiting Kelly and Laurie when both of my parents started calling me to tell me that it was snowing and I should hurry home. I guess I am 16 again. The visit with the ladies (and the new little man!) was great, we ate and shopped and had a wonderful time. I headed home around 2:00, missed the GW Parkway turn (typical), took a ride around the Washington Monument (Look kids! Big Ben!) and then got back on the road home. It was fine at first, the roads were dry and then they got wet and then they got icy. I was fine, just stayed in my lane. But I did see a few cars that had run off the road! I came home to the winter wonderland that I've been dreaming about for the past few months. The trees are white and icy and beautiful. Kids got to go to school late and I am writing to you from the Panera Bread in Camp Hill, Pa where I am happily nestled in an armchair with a mug of coffee next to a fireplace. I have a pedicure in a couple of hours that will hopefully undo what four months of Cairo has done to my feet. I am a happy girl. But I miss Ira! Hurry home, husband!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Home Again, Home Again Jiggety Jig"

That's what my dad would say after we arrived home from a long car ride somewhere. I don't know what to say after a long plane/bus/cab/train/car ride! I will give more details soon, I just wanted everyone to know I am safe and sound in my little hometown. Things are exactly the same and completely different all at the same time. Like I said, I'll write more soon. Off to meet the new baby tomorrow!! Pictures to follow...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dear Santa


Santa,

I have been very good this year. I hope that I'm still on the Nice list. My list is kind of long this year, but hey, it can't hurt to ask, right?? Oh, and a BIG thanks for taking care of the "Make Obama president" item on my list from last year!

1. World Peace (no, I'm not sucking up)

2. A safe flight home

3. Decorate the Christmas Tree with Connor

4. yarn

5. sit by the fire with Ira

6. sushi

7. cupcakes

8. Tea

9. Coffee

10. a new yoga mat

11. a Domani Star dinner (maybe 2?)

12. lots and lots of time with my family

13. lots and lots of laughs with my friends

14. fresh air

15. SNOW!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Al-Azhar Park








Yesterday Ira and I went on a date to Al-Azhar Park. It's a green space that sits high above the city. It's landscaped beautifully with trees, flowers, and fountians. There are many walking paths, a theater, and a few cafes. We sat on a blanket and played cards until it got dark and then we made our way to one of the cafes for dinner. The food was good and the view of the Citadel was lovely. It was nice to feel like we were away from the city for a few hours. Enjoy some pictures!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

T-Minus one week...whatever T-Minus means

A week from today I'll be in the air heading west...I think, maybe we go north first I'm not sure. Anyway, I'll be crossing the Atlantic in a mere TWELVE hours. Twelve hours! What the HECK am I going to do for 12 hours? Now, I know there people who would kill to have 12 hours to themselves to read or listen to music. But I have to say, it makes me twitch a little. From the time I was kid, I would pack all of these things to do a read and I would never touch any of it. It always happens. I'm only a 1/4 of the way through Orhan Pamuk's Snow, I could finish that. I do have a few Fresh Air episodes downloaded as well as over a week's worth of Rachel Maddow's two shows. But I have to say most of the time when I'm on a plane, I end up staring at the back of the seat in front of me. I don't know why! I can't sleep, I can't read, when I'm not staring at the seat back, I'm annoying Ira and he's not going to be there. Sigh. And it doesn't help that I am SO EXCITED to get there. That's going to make the time go even slower. I know there are going to be some folks on the ground that are anxiously waiting my safe arrival as well. And then I have to get through customs (see previous posts) Stay tuned for a list of the things I am most looking forward to when I get home...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I love Egypt!


Who would have thought?! haha I spent most of the day holiday shopping at the Khan with Amanda and Amy. We had a great time! We all accomplished our missions (which, as you know, is the marker of a successful shopping trip) I can't tell you what we got, obviously! You'll have to wait until "Santa" (otherwise known as me) flys across the ocean in the sleigh pulled by...jet fuel with her red sacks (otherwise known as Ralph Lauren luggage)

p.s. the picture is of the tea the awesome jewelry guy got for us while we were hanging out in his shop. Yay Ahmed!!

Fayoum Thanksgiving


We got back from our two day trip to the Fayoum Governate last night. We left early Thursday morning. REALLY early. We caught the bus at 6:45, drove downtown to pick up the rest of the group and then we were off. The Fayoum is an area southwest of Cairo, the main reason people travel to this area is the lake, but there are also dozens of historic sites both Egyptian and Greco-Roman. Once we were outside the city, we had to hook up with our police escort. Before entering the Fayoum, tourists have to have a police escort. So, a truck full of officers accompanied us the rest of the way. Our first stop was at the ruins of an ancient city. We were able to see a temple and a few remaining structures in addition to some etchings. We then made our way to the Harawa Pyramid. I guess now would be a good time to tell you about the whole pyramid thing. So, how many people thought there were 3 pyramids in Egypt? The ones we see in all the pictures and all the movies? I don't know about you, but I'm raising my hand right now! It turns out there are about 180 pyramids in Egypt. And those are just the ones that have survived! So, back to the Harawa pyramid, it's not pointy like the Giza pyramids, it kind of looks more like a mound. There were also the remnants of a labyrinth and a Greco-Roman cemetery. From there we went to Lahun pyramid. This one was more impressive to me, it sat up high on a hill and could be seen for miles around. After excavating the tombs around the pyramid, there were jewels discovered which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and known as the "Princess Collection". We also literally drove over a vast 13th century wall that was part of an artificial reservoir that fed water into the Fayoum. We were totally exhausted after all of this and most of us fell asleep on the bus on the way to the hotel. The Panorama Hotel was right on the lake. It had amazing views of the lake and had basil growing all over the grounds which gave off a beautiful scent. The accommodations were less than thrilling, but we were luckier than most of our traveling companions. We heard stories of not so clean room and linens as well as LOTS of mosquitoes. I thought we were in the clear, but last night I discovered about a dozen bites on my leg. In the morning, we went for a short walk and had some breakfast. We boarded the buses and made our way to Wadi El-Hitan. We stopped right outside entrance to the Wadi and we waited for the police to tell us that we could proceed. We waited. And waited. Finally, Louise (one of our trip organizers) gave us the bad news that we weren't going to be able to see the Wadi, which included whale fossils (with feet!!), because the bus drivers were refusing to drive the 34 kilometers to get there. The good news is we got to get off the bus and play in the dessert a little bit. Which actually ended up being one of the best parts of the trip. After that, we went to Wadi El-Rayan which is a lake with 3 small waterfalls. It was very pretty and I went wading with Belle and Amy! From there we went to the Temple of Sobek. Very cool, lots of little rooms and crypts to explore. We also climbed to the top of the temple, the views were beautiful. We then made our way back to Cairo, tired and a little sunburned, but that's ok!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My TV habit

Before we moved I would say I watched about 8 hours of TV a week. I know it sounds crazy, but I was a purposeful TV watcher. I would only turn it on to watch something specific. I didn't have cable, so I wasn't a mindless channel flipper. TV was also a social event for me, Lauren and I would watch our favorite shows together whenever we could. I've also done my best to get Ira into the shows the I like, because let's face it, TV is more fun when you can say "I can't believe she just died!" or "Man, I love her lip gloss" When we first got here, I wasn't so sure about Egyptian TV, which isn't really Egyptian since most of it comes from somewhere else, like Dubai. I would say that 80% of the shows are American, they are reruns from at least a year ago. So what has ended up happening is I've gotten into shows that I never watched in the states, including Desperate Housewives. Ugh. it's like eating old Halloween candy. It seems like a good idea but the afterwards, you're like "did I just do that?!" Anyway, so far I've only talked about the actual TV set, I haven't talked about the TV that lives in my laptop.
As I mentioned in a previous post or two, Ira installed something in my computer that makes it think it's in the U.S. This is great because up until then, we would get some annoying message that said "Only viewers in the U.S. can watch full episodes" blah, blah. But now, we can! So how does this work? Well, I can't watch the shows live because they aren't broadcasted live and even if they were, the time difference would make it the middle of the night here. So I end up watching them the day after. It's great! I don't have to worry about missing shows because I have a life! Now some shows are up right away and other ones I have to wait for, and it's usually the ones that I'm most excited to see that take forever to stream. So what do I watch? Now before I tell you, I would like to say that we shouldn't judge people based on their pop culture addictions and I'm sure you all have some weird TV tastes (I know for a FACT some of you do!) So on Tuesday, I watch Monday night's "Dancing with the Stars"Although sometimes it's not up until Wednesday but that's ok, because then I have the instant gratification of watching it and then checking online to see who got kicked off! On Thursday I watch Wednesday night's "Private Practice". Friday, and or, Saturday is the mother load. I watch Grey's Anatomy, The Office, and ER (a classic example of a show I stopped watching years ago in the states, but now I can't miss). I guess this is what it's like for people with DVR or TiVo, being able to watch things whenever you want. I have to say that it makes me feel connected, like I haven't completely lost touch with all things American. Now if only I could get cupcakes through the computer...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Private

So, I got a call today from one of my yoga students and she asked me about teaching some private classes for a friend of hers! It seems like it's going to work well. They live in some big villa in Maadi, right around the corner. Now I just have to make it work with my schedule and theirs. I think it will be a good experience for me and I look forward to it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Random update

I know I haven't been writing about Egypt very much lately. Although, I like to think that all of my posts are about Egypt since I'm living in Egypt and all of my experiences are a direct result of me living here. It's like the other night when I told Lauren we were waiting for "Egyptian food" to be delivered and she said "isn't that just food? Isn't all the food you eat in Egypt Egyptian food?" I decided that was an annoying "If a tree falls in the forest..." kind of question and I told her to knock it off. I have no patience for those kinds of philosophical debates, especially when I'm hungry. Anyway, the point is I haven't been writing about Egypt because I've been doing the same sorts of things that you guys all do at home, or I'm doing the things that I've already been writing about for the last (almost) 4 months. Although, we did go to the ballet the other night and that was awesome. We fell in love with the Opera House and plan on going there more often. But rest assured, we are going on a trip to the Fayoum Governate in the coming weeks and I am planning on going to the Khan al-Khalili soon to do some holiday shopping. Hopefully that will satisfy every one's Egyptian wonder for now.
In other news...I am still nervous about going home. I know the TSA stuff is silly, but I have other issues as well. Shocking, I know! Not to be dramatic, but imagine trying to pack to go somewhere for 6 weeks. Now imagine trying to do all your holiday shopping for everyone you know and love by Dec. 10th and then packing all of that as well. It's a little easier than packing to come to Egypt, at least I'll be able to run to Target to pick up whatever I forgot. But it's still taking over my thoughts. Lately I've been picturing my suitcases and imagining how and where it's all going to fit. Little does Ira know, he's going to take on the overflow!
I also have this weird anxiety about the time that I'm going to spend at home. I have a lot of people that I love and want to spend as much time with them as possible. I feel this sort of pressure like every moment and every thing I do is going to have to be special because I'm not going to see everyone for another 4 months once I leave. In some ways I think it will enable me to live in the moment and appreciate each time I get to see my friends and family. But, I have to say, I really feel that's something I have always done. Even before I knew we were moving and I was eating every sushi roll like it was my last, I've always been aware of how I was lucky to surround myself with such special, fun, interesting, talented people. So what's the big lesson here?! Just keep doing that?! As if I didn't already know that going to the movies with my little brother was special? Now I have to appreciate it even MORE? I feel like I'm missing something here. If I already understood all of this, where do the people who DON'T understand it have to move in order to get perspective??!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who's Afraid of the TSA?

I leave for the States in 25 days. But who's counting? I never thought I would be nervous about going home, but I am. Why, you may ask? Well, I have to honest, the whole flying 12 hours on a plane and going through customs in the states without my trusty Ira (he's sticking around to finish up end of the semester stuff) is a little unnerving. He IS my entertainment/airport and customs navigator/International Man of Mystery! Plus, I feel like I'm guilty of something and I haven't even packed yet! As I mentioned in a previous post, I've seen too many bad movies. I'm going to be Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace and someone will put hash in my carry on when I'm not looking. I just know it. Or I'll go to the Khan (market) to buy some Christmas presents and find out that I purchased a relic that the Egyptian government has been looking for for centuries and I get put in the clink for that. I can't imagine that the holding cells at JFK are where I want to spend the holidays. Mostly I'm just afraid that I'm going to be the dumb novice traveler girl that, as she's having her bags searched, says "Nope, no drugs in here!" "No illegal purchases of any kind!" and then end up getting strip searched because I can't keep my mouth shut. Sigh. I'm sure that once that phase of the trip is over, and I figure out how to get on and off the LIRR and make it to Penn Station, I'll be fine. I'm super excited to have dinner with my ultra hip Brooklyn friends Shara and Dave (and maybe Moustafa?!) little do they know I have 3 huge suitcases that preclude us from eating anywhere but a hot dog stand.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Auntie Jenna


What a week! Well, I never thought that the election of Barack Obama would be trumped as the most exciting thing to happen last week. On friday at 8:16 pm, my best friend Kelly had her baby boy! 5 lbs. and 1oz., His name is John "Jack" Hendry Myers. He was 3 weeks early but seems to be doing just fine. I haven't really been able to talk to her yet, we had some phone issues last night and I got cut off about 90 seconds into our conversation. I'll try her again today. I am so excited for her and Andy. It's very hard for me to not be there. I always pictured being the first one to arrive at the hospital, well, maybe tied with her mom. It's killing me to look at the pictures of him and not be able to kiss him and tell him how wonderful his mommy is. But at least I'll be able to spend some time getting to know him when I'm home (A MONTH FROM TODAY!) until then, I have a baby blanket to finish!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

OOOOOOObama!

So here we are. 2 days before the biggest (not even a SLIGHT exaggeration) election of certainly my life and probably my parents and grandparents as well. Yesterday, Ira and I attended a conference on the U.S. Elections. The most enlightened observations came from Nabil Fahmy, Egypt's ambassador to the United States. He knows both candidates personally and has spoken to both of them about their foreign policy ideas and agendas. Here are some of the things that really stuck with me from the day:
*The "Age of Regan" (1981-2008) is over. This is a watershed/Realignment election. There will be major change.
*94 Million voted in 1996, 120 Million in 2000, 124 Million in 2004, this year 130 Million people are expected to vote. 13.5% of those voters are African American who will turn out at the level of between 95-98%, not other category of voter will turn out at that level. Research has shown that people vote 50% on the issues and 50% on the temperament of the candidate.
*Republicans were in power long enough to see the financial crisis coming. The "October Surprise" came a month early and the incumbent party is going to suffer.
*America is the only country that has a leader that "comes from somewhere else". There really aren't any other countries who have leaders that are not native to the country they lead. McCain and Obama may have been born in American territory, but their ancestors came from somewhere else.
*America will always have an interest in Egypt because 1/4 of the Mid-East population lives here.
*America is not a "Super Power" but a Global Power. Foreign policy must be presented to Americans as an American interest, as something that will better America, not as a War on Terror.
*"The War on Terror" is like the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Crime", it's not something that anyone can win.
*Obama's experience abroad is with his family and as a school boy. McCain's experience is as a soldier, fighting an enemy.Therefore, McCain bases his foreign policy on fighting an enemy (Vietnam, Cold War/Russia) he will always look for someone to fight. His vision of the future is to work together to fight a threat. Obama is more inclusive of both friends and adversaries. He doesn't have the Cold War mentality. McCain will always look to the past. Because Obama doesn't have that baggage, he will always look to the future.
So now we have to wait. I've already voted so the fun is over for me. However, after careful considerations of time zones and voting returns, I've decided that staying up all night is the only option for a news junkie like myself. I'm too afraid I'm going to miss something. Ira is undecided. He might stay up, but he might get up really early, we'll see. Some of our friends might even come over in their jammies! I'll be wearing blue.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tamatim



Or...tomato! All summer, we've had access to lots of tomatoes. They're starting to dwindle, but I'm still buying them while they're looking good. The only problem is that Ira is not a fan of uncooked tomatoes. Even if I saute them, I think they're still not mushy enough for him. So in an effort to make both of us happy, I bought about 10 romas the other day with the intention of roasting them. It's something I've always wanted to try. After doing some research online on my favorite food blogs, I came up with a plan. Today I prepped the firm red wonders and threw them in the oven. You can see the before and after pictures above. I haven't decided if I'm going to turn them into a sauce, or a soup. I'll let you know...
Roasted Tomatoes
about a dozen (or less) small tomatoes sliced lengthwise
olive oil
6 or 7 cloves of garlic
herbs of your choice (I used basil, but marjoram or oregano would be lovely)
salt and pepper
Grease the pan or shallow baking dish with some olive oil. After slicing the tomatoes, place them skin side down on the pan. Nestle the garlic in between the tomatoes and spread the herbs on top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can blend and add stock to make soup, or toss together with pasta, or something else even more exciting!

Harvest


When I think of harvest images of pumpkins, apples, and gourds come to mind. We can find those things here, but they are mostly imported and just not the same. What we DO have are dates. Brown ones, red ones, and yellow ones. And they're EVERYWHERE. All over the market. So, being a "eat with the season" kind of girl, I bought them up. But now what? You can only have so many date snacks. So, I came up with an idea today. It's not new, lots of people have stuffed dates before, but I think that this recipe is pretty good. Ira agrees...I haven't specified quantity because sometimes the goat cheese comes in small packages. Improvise, people! I think they would be great little party treats, we're just snacking on them...


Dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds

Slice dates lengthwise and remove pits (if necessary). Spoon a half teaspoon of goat cheese in each date. Place one almond on top. Refrigerate after assembling. Oh, and try not to eat them all beofre serving.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Up late...again...

I have never in my life had a hard time falling asleep. I can sleep anywhere, anytime. In college, I bought a special watch with an alarm so I could sleep between classes, in public! I didn't care. I have always been able to nod off as soon as my head hit the pillow, or my book bag, whatever the case may be. Now of course I've had the occasional too-late-espresso or first-day-at-a-new-job nerves that have kept me up, but something about Egypt...I just can't get to sleep before 2 or 3 am no matter how hard I try. I very rarely drink caffeine anymore, I exercise, the bed is increasingly comfortable (thanks to some purchases at & Co.) but I just can't sleep! We live on a fairly quiet street, but you can still hear strange noises like dogs barking at weird hours and airplanes (lots of flights land late at night here) not to mention the honking horns and occasional yelling. And although I've gotten used to the call to prayer throughout the day it never fails to jolt me from sleep. I should probably start going to bed earlier, but I don't get home from teaching yoga until after 9:00 and we try to have some semblance of a dinner and hang out for a little bit. Not to mention it's a good time to chat with friends and family in the States. So what's a girl to do??? No seriously, I'm asking. If ANYONE has an advice, please, I'd love to hear it. The silver lining in all of this? I won't have any trouble staying up to watch OBAMA make his victory speech a week from now!! The rest of the week will be a disaster, but that's ok, I'll lose sleep so my grandkids can have a good story.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Food

I promised some recipes a few days ago, so here it goes. The first one has been the staple snack in the Dworkin household for a few weeks now. The last time we went to Carrefour (Egyptian wal-mart, as you may recall), I bought some popcorn kernels. I could see the skepticism on Ira's face. "What are you going to do with those?" he was thinking. That night I made my first attempt at the spicy popcorn to which we are now addicted. It was pretty good, a little burnt and I overshot the spices a little bit. I made it again a few nights later and this time it was a little too salty. The night of my birthday party (or the morning after my birthday party, depending on how you look at it) I made some for the lingering guests. It was very popular. The next time Amanda came over for knitting night, I made some for her, and the Ira and I had some last night while we watched "Burn After Reading". It's so simple and it tastes so good, it really makes me wonder why we ever made popcorn in the microwave...
Cajun Popcorn
first, you need a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid
about 3 tbs. olive oil
about 1/2 cup kernels
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
salt
coat the bottom of the pan with the oil. Sprinkle the Old Bay on top. Dump the kernels in the pan. Over med-high heat, let them do their thing! It only takes about 3 or 4 minutes. I shake the pan every minute or so to make sure they're all getting a turn. You can experiment with different spices and herbs. This just happens to be the one that we like the best. After you hear the popping slow down, take it off the heat and place in a big bowl, salt to taste. However, a good movie or some bad reality TV are required to make this recipe taste its best.
And speaking of TV, one of good things about Egyptian TV is, well, European TV. I love watching all the British fashion shows and the BBC news, of course. But the cooking shows are by far the best. I know that the food network in the states has both Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, but over here they each have like 5 shows. So the other day I was watching Nigella and she was making something with glass noodles (rice noodles or vermicelli) and shrimp. I thought to myself "I know I can find both glass noodles AND shrimp at the market!" So off I went. Not only did I find those two ingredients, but I found basil for the first time. I bought two bunches because I couldn't resist. Cleaning the prawns was a huge (and smelly) pain, but the resulting meal was delicious, and there was a enough for leftovers which almost never happens around here. While at the market, there weren't any veggies that looked exciting to me, you could add some snap peas or green beans and I'm sure it would be great.
Super Fragrant Noodles with Shrimp
one package vermicelli noodles
1 lb. shrimp (preferably fresh)
big handful chopped basil
big handful chopped cilantro
for the sauce:
1 tbs. minced garlic
1 tbs. minced ginger
2 tbs. minced scallions
2 tbs. peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup sesame oil (plus a little more to saute the shrimp)
one sliced chili pepper for garnish
Because you have a few things going at once here, I would make the sauce first. Place the garlic, ginger, scallions, peanut butter, soy sauce, and oil in a bowl and whisk together. This is the ratio that tasted good to me, but you can adjust it if you need to. Set the sauce aside. Next, boil the water for the noodles. While that's heating up, clean the shrimp (or have the dude at the store do it, which is what I should have done!) Saute with the sesame oil over medium heat until pink. Remove from the heat. Once the water has come to a boil, turn off the heat and drop in the noodles. Only leave them in for a minute or two and then drain. Toss together the shrimp, noodles, basil, and cilantro. Place in bowls and top with sauce and chili peppers. It's also good cold the next day!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I missed you, too

Ok, I know have been the WORST blogger ever! I was extremely frustrated with not being able to post pictures. It was making me not want to be on the site at all! Ira and I disagree on this, but I think this crazy thing that he downloaded is to blame. Now, let me first say that I love him for downloading this thing that will make watching movies and tv shows easier, he's awesome. The resulting slowness and inability to upload pictures to my blog and to Facebook, not so awesome. Now, like I said, we disagree about whether this downloaded thing is to blame, but I just think it's too much of a coincidence that everything went wonky as soon as he did it. Ok, now that the annoying stuff is out of the way...the birthday was lovely. We went on a felluca ride down the Nile. The party a few days later was a lot of fun. Of course, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say how MUCH I missed my family and friends. It was sad at times to think about you guys, but all and all it was really nice. And I love Ira so much for making it special. Yoga is going well. My classes are getting bigger each week and I think my students are really catching on and learning the series. In other news...I got my ticket to come home!! I'll be back on December 11th, I'm very excited and it's just around the corner. Plans are already being made! I have to say though, ever since we bought the ticket, the days have been dragging. Figures. I've been making some fun dinners lately, so I'm going to post some recipes later today or tomorrow. I hope Fall is treating everyone well!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Post" Birthday

My birthday was on Monday and while it may be tempting for me to go on and on about how much my life has changed in a year, blah, blah, I will spare all of you. Ira gave me a lovely Egyptian birthday complete with a champagne cruise down the Nile. While we were on the magical ride, he gave me all of the cards that everyone had sent from the states. I tearfully read all of them (I know there are some that haven't arrived yet, and I'll be just as excited to read those!) and here are some highlights...
"Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you always know they're there!", "You need to find a Stallions-esque place to go wild dancing", "Scribble, Scribble, Scribble" (that was little Stuart), "You live your life so fully and everyone around you gets to enjoy!", "May flowers always bloom in your garden"
So now we're just getting the flat (and our livers) ready for the party tomorrow night! I have a new dress and there's a fridge full of beer and 2 bottles of Turkish gin. A recipe for disaster, or the best party ever?? You'll have to wait til Friday to find out...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

These are a few...

...of my favorite things. I was inspired to make a list of "Things I like" by my old college pal, Nicole. Her blog puts mine to shame, and in one of her latest posts she said that when she's feeling grumpy or "squinky" as I like to call it, she makes a list of the things she likes and that sort of sets her straight. I'm not feeling particularly squinky these days, but I DO have a birthday coming up in a few and I don't think it would hurt to jot down some of the things that make me want to turn 31 with a little grace and humor. Feel free to follow suit! What do you like???
yarn, smooth wooden knitting needles, when Ira laughs so hard that he doesn't make any sound but his whole body shakes, when Lauren and I laugh and then look at each other and laugh again because our laughs are the same, getting so deep in a yoga posture that I could stay there all day, watching one of my students get so deep in a yoga posture they could stay there all day, champagne, fresh basil, pedicures, One Good Woman, Phillies games, LuLu Mae, cupcakes, New York City when it's cold, my goofy embroidered Ugg boots, New England when it's hot, the beds at the Waldorf Astoria, Istanbul, quilts, when Heather sends me blogs I might like, Christmas movies, sparkly things, the way books smell both old and new, little dresses, dancing, Domani Star pasta, Domani Star anything, movie theater popcorn and a disgustingly syrupy coke slushie, putting my feet up, Kate Spade, the woods, campfire, crunchy snow, cold cheeks, clean sheets, when Ira does the dishes (which he always does), entertaining, reading, writing, cooking, tea, coffee, when Laurie and I plan craft projects, talking on the phone with my mom, dancing with my dad, endless shopping/eating trips with Kelly, Carmel apples, mac and cheese (homemade and from a box, for different reasons), driving north, putting the ipod on shuffle and all of my favorite songs come on right in a row, concerts with my friends, knitting/beer drinking night with Amanda, talking to little Stuart on Skype, when my little brother tells me he loves school, over sized wine glasses, over sized coffee mugs, the perfect pillow, the way I feel after being on the beach all day, the promise of a garden, jeans, And Co., Maadi House pool, red wine, thinking about our wedding day, our wedding pictures, Ira's friends, a girl who can sing, Obama on a roll, crying at a movie preview and knowing that Heather probably cried when she saw it even though she hates crying in public, Doylestown, taking the train, the way a yarn store smells, walking past stores in Maadi and wondering when I'll go inside, tea on the ferry in Turkey, when I sort of understand the Arabic on TV, watching Friends with Arabic subtitles, every single thing about Kauai, Ira in a suit, rain, Friday New York Times, my ceramic measuring spoons, flea markets, poolside with Lauren, organic facials, spicy candles, pictures of my grandparents, Cafe Fresco, Gaya, a nice big bag, the kittens in front of our building, the trees in Maadi with the pink flowers, the trees in Maadi with the orange flowers, jammie bottoms, clean feet, a new journal, sleeping in, waking up early to travel somewhere, playing cards, Dimitri Martin, finding long lost friends on facebook, Tina Fey, the perfect yoga playlist, fruit, farms, carnivals, muffin tops...

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Ira Photo Caption Contest





While we were in Turkey, I managed to somehow take two of the funniest pictures of Ira. I've decided to have a photo caption contest. If you win, you will have the disticintion of being the wittiest person who reads this blog. Now if that isn't motivating, I don't know what is! Here are some of the entries so far...
Picture One "Please. My hat is way cooler than his."- Lauren
" If you think he looks cranky now, wait until he realizes where my other hand is!"- Heather
"Ah Ha! Now I know what I want to be when I grow up!"-Laurie
Picture Two "So this is what I get for 40 Lira? Talk about inflation!"- Dad (Bob)
" I turned my head for only a second! These Turkish cats are out of control - and we thought the Egyptian felines were spoiled!"- Heather

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Turkey Trot


Boy, did we ever trot!! I'm going to warn you in advance that this is going to be a long one. 5 jam-packed days makes for one jam-packed blog entry! So I would get a snack or a drink or something and settle in (bathroom breaks are allowed)...
Night One We arrived late on Monday night. The flight was fine, just a little over 2 hours. And they still serve food on foreign flights, so we had a little early dinner, too. The customs process was very smooth, although I'm not a seasoned traveller (yet) I have to say that when we entered both Amsterdam and Istanbul the guys stamping our passports have been so nice and maybe even a little flirtatious! haha The hotel shuttle picked us up and got us to the Stone Hotel in one piece. We went up to our room, which was a little on the small side, but very nice and clean. We were very excited to go up on to the rooftop, as the "Garden Terrace" was one of the selling points for us in choosing this hotel. We were on the top floor, so we walked up one flight to find that the terrace was going to be closed for renovations all week! We were very disappointed. I think we both had images of relaxing up there and enjoying the view with a glass of Turkish wine or a book, or both! A little defeated and a little hungry, we went out to get a bite to eat. Just around the corner from the hotel was a quintessential Turkish restaurant called "ozgur hedef". We had a nice meal, the salad was really good. Almost all the salads we had there had purple cabbage on them and it was always kind of salty and vinegary and I really liked it. I just bought some cabbage at the store so i can try and replicate it. The tomato soup was good, also a Turkish staple. It's simple but with a little mild shredded cheese on top. The dessert was Turkish baklava, even better than Greek baklava in my opinion, it has more honey and less nuts (insert joke here). The hostess was very sweet and gave us a brochure when we left, even though we already had one. When we got back to the hotel we looked at it and this is what is says on the back. No, I have not made any typing or grammatical errors: "From the grandfather immature meat and roasted sausage and a fish and rich variety the our work. 46. The meat kinds which we made to reproduce in our year to cook enjoyment is to the you we are leaving." Whatever. It was good.
Day One Our first stop was downstairs in the garden of the hotel for breakfast. It was pretty simple and very European. Most days I ate some bread (which I swear to God tasted exactly like the Italian bread from Giant!) with a little jam, a couple of hard boiled egg whites (sorry mom, I hate those yokes and you weren't there to eat them for me), some really good honeydew and watermelon, and some half decent coffee. So after that we made our way to the Blue Mosque which was right up the hill from our hotel. It's pretty impressive even from the outside. The inside is beautiful, and mostly blue, duh. It is kind of funny to be in such a big crowd while everyone has their shoes off, you can always tell the people who didn't plan ahead for that! I know this is a cop-out but I'm just going to let you look at the slide show to see what is was like, in order to cut down on this already wordy entry! After we left the mosque, we walked around the courtyard between the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya. There were lots of food peddlers selling all sorts of yummy things. On the recommendation of one of Ira's friends from home, we tried this thing that sort of looked like a soft pretzel with sesame seeds. She said it was one of her favorite foods in Turkey. We must have gotten a bad one. It tasted like a stale bagel to me. Oh well. There were men all over the city selling roasted chestnuts and I couldn't resist. The smell reminded me of when my dad used to roast them around the holidays. So I bought a small green and white striped bag, and they were delicious! And they were hot which was perfect on the cool fall day. We walked around Ayasofya because it was closed for the first day of the Eid, as was the palace. It was fine, it gave us a chance to get our bearings a little bit and do some window shopping. We also stumbled upon an art gallery that had some wonderful pieces. But on our first day we weren't in much of a buying mood yet. After a walk through a lovely park and along the waterfront, we made our way back to Sultanhamet, which is the neighborhood where our hotel was located. We were in need of some lunch a this point, and as we were walking we were enticed by one cafe in particular that had very big white cushions on the chairs and bright gerbera daisies on the tables. We sat down and I had a glass of wine and bowl of lentil soup, another staple in Turkey. I think i tried the lentil soup at a half dozen places but this one was the best, It was lemony and had a lot of black pepper. This was also the cafe where we fell in love with apple tea. It's served in dainty glasses with ornate coasters and tiny silver spoons. It's pretty close to hot apple cider, but it's a little lighter and sweeter. We drank our weight in apple tea over the course of the week! We sat for quite a while until I noticed my dining companion was nodding off in the comfy chairs. So, we headed up the hill to the hotel for a little rest before taking on the Istanbul nightlife. Our evening was spent in Bayone. After walking around a bit, we decided on a little sidewalk cafe. It was cool because it was a white tablecloth kind of place, but there was graffiti on the walls. We ordered a bottle of wine, Turkish wine is really good. I am officially a fan. We shared a few mezes (small plates) we ordered things like green beans, yogurt dip with dill and mint, eggplant, and we also got a small fish platter with octopus, shrimp, prawns, and calamari. It was all to die for, especially the fish. We walked around a bit more and then took a cab back across the bridge.
Day Two I woke up with a cold on Wednesday. I guess my sinuses were not happy with the very sudden 25 degree shift in temperature. Although the rest of me loved it! We started the day at Ayasofya which I found far more impressive than the Blue Mosque. Even though we saw them in reverse order from when they were built, I'm glad we saw them in the order that we did. It was stunning. I was silenced as I stood there and looked up, slacked jawed, haha. They've been doing work on it for something like 50 years so there was scaffolding everywhere but it didn't really take any of the splendor away for me. I was thinking about my aunt Barb the whole time because of the era of the building and the mosaics, it would have been all very interesting for her. It also reminded me of being in all of those Paris churches with her, too. So, I tried to take lots of pictures to do her proud! My head cold was getting the better of me after we left Ayasofya so we went back to the hotel to get some rest. While we were there, we heard lots of banging and drilling over our heads. Remember the renovations?? Well, not only were we not enjoying the rooftop views, we were now having to endure the sound of crumbling plaster, wondering if someone or something was going to fall through the ceiling at any moment. So, Ira, being the best husband in the world that he is, went down to the front desk and politely asked when the demolition crew would be finished for the day. They assured him no more than 30 minutes. 45 minutes later...they assured him no more than 30 minutes. 30 minutes later... we were looking at switching hotels. After not having much luck with that, he went down one more time and told them that we were going to check out. He came back up and said "Pack up, they're moving us into a suite with a jacuzzi! Oh, and try to act really sick when you go down there, I've played up that angle a lot" I've never packed so fast in my life. I gave a few half-hearted coughs on my way past the desk, and then we were all smiles once we were in there! It was so nice. After that, we went to the world famous "Pudding Shop" the food was great and Ira had rice pudding and I had chocolate, both were heavenly.
Day Three We spent a good portion of the day at Topkapi Palace, the one that was closed on our first day. The grounds are huge, well, the palace is huge too. Anyway, we started in one of the many galleries. The lines were really long, the crowds were pushy, and it was hot in most of the rooms. It was hard because you basically had about 3 seconds to look at everything and then keep moving down the line. Not my idea of fun. The first few ones we went into were mostly the jewels of one sultan or another, honestly not that exciting. But we did see some more interesting things as we went along. Morbid as it was, we saw St. John the Baptist's skull and arm bone. And the beard and teeth of Mohammad. Who knew such things were still around?! Oh! And Moses' staff. The harem was pretty, all of the mosaics all over the palace were so cool. The views from every room were breathtaking. We ate lunch at a cafe right on the palace grounds, the view was perfect and the food was good too. We even met some people from Pa! Next came one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Istanbul Modern. It's a modern art museum right on the water in a very industrial part of town. I loved it, it was one of, if not the best museum I've even seen. The design and layout was perfect. It was not to big, not too small. And I loved virtually every piece of art I saw. The film installations were also wonderful. We had a drink on the terrace overlooking the water. It was very peaceful and I got some great pictures, too. That night we went up to Bayone again. This time we ate on a rooftop, overlooking the city and the sea. We had some not so typical Turkish food: pizza, fries, and tortellini! But it was good. We asked for the check and he looked at us and asked "one or two?" We thought it was odd that he was asking us about separate checks, but we said "one" and then to our surprise he brought out one cup of tea! We looked in our Turkey book and it turns out that the Turkish word for tea is "Cay" but it's pronounced with a "ch" sound. Haha! So we drank the tea and had a little laugh at our expense.
Day Four Friday we went on a ferry ride to the Prince's Islands which are right near Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara. The ferry was very crowded but we were pleasantly surprised to see them selling tea in glass cups right on the ferry. And they were only 50 YTL, about 50 cents. The first island was crowded, and we weren't that impressed. It was nice, and fairly quaint, but we were anxious to see the next one. It wasn't as crowded, and a little nicer, but still not what I was expecting. However, we did play cards and suck back the apple tea at a really sweet little tea place. Our waiter was amused by us for some reason and the view over the water was spectacular. Ira beat me at rummy though, as usual...We took the ferry back and headed to Bayone one more time for a "traditional Turkish meal" (according to our Turkish friend Aras) It's been in business since 1888. It was so good! I drank black grape juice! We had a pickle plate with beets, cucumbers. peppers, olives...yum. And an artichoke plate which had peas, potatoes, and carrots. It was also sort of pickled. My main course was a veggie saute' of sorts, it was seasoned perfectly and the eggplant was some of the best I've ever had. And then. Dessert. This place is known for its fruit desserts and we had a hard time deciding. I had a milk pudding with blackberry and Ira went with a mixed fruit compote. We've still debating the contents. We're pretty sure there were cherries, grapes, apricot, pear, and quince. On a sugar high, we walked for a little bit but the crowds were really overwhelming for me after being around so many people all week, so we got a cab home.
Day Five We slept in a little bit and then had our last breakfast out on the patio. Then, we made our way to the Grand Bazaar. It was a lot of fun and we came away with a few treasures like a handmade table runner, a tablecloth for the outside table, a tea set, a silk scarf, and a few other treasures that will have to wait for December to be revealed...The big "score" for me was stumbling upon a yarn shop. I was, at first, unimpressed because it wasn't very nice to touch and it all seemed a little...processed. But then. I found. The mother load. A pile, literally, a pile of hand-dyed yarn. The stuff that I covet in the states. And get this. You paid for it by weight. I got two arms full of hand-dyed yarn for about 4 dollars. One skein of it would have cost over 20 dollars at home. Amazing. I'm thinking about making a blanket, but I haven't decided yet. We also found our way to the Basilica Cistern which is this incredible underground structure with columns and about a foot of underground water, with fish in it! There were these 2 Medusa heads at the bottom of two of the columns that looked so strangely out of place but so interesting. When we walked down there, it was like there was a whole other world down there. Amazing. We relaxed a played some more cards for a while at the Green Cafe', it was very calming and I wanted to take a nap there on the comfy sofas! We walked a little more and then made our way to our last dinner in Istanbul. Pomegranate juice, salad, and tomato soup for me. Pomegranate juice, and Turkish ravioli for Ira. It was perfect. We had a wonderful time. I'm really starting to get a taste for international travel! We're talking about Germany and Greece in the spring...we'll see. For now, it's back to reality and making a life for ourselves here in Cairo.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Istanbul not Constantinople"

Sorry, that corny song has been going through my head all day! I have to admit, the only reason I know that song is because it's in the movie "Mona Lisa Smile". It's also referenced on a Gilmore Girls episode. Lauren? Heather? Who can tell me which one?? Anyway, we leave for Turkey in about an hour or so. So, I won't be blogging for about a week. Try to hold back the tears. Besides, it's Autumn, stop checking my blog and go for a walk! And have a good week...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Islamic Cairo


Today we went on a walking tour of Islamic Cairo. As my friend Ralph said "what do you mean? Isn't all of Cairo Islamic??" Well, sort of...the area where we were today refers more to "Old Cairo" in terms of architecture and culture. So there are many markets and street vendors. Our tour guide from the university is amazing. It's the same woman who took us to the pyramids and she is just so full of knowledge and information. She felt that in order for us to get a true sense of the different types of architecture, we should visit many different types of buildings. We went to a Al-Azhar Mosque, Madrassa and Mausoleum of Barquq (school), an old merchant hotel, a sabil-kuttab (public drinking fountian and Quranic school) , and Beit el-Suhayami which was a traditional family mansion. They were all lovely and everyone kept remarking how much the new campus has been modeled after this type of architecture. It was another hot day, and we were pooped by the end for sure, but it was a great outing. As usual, I think the pictures speak for themselves...

We're headed back out there tomorrow night since it's our last chance to experience Islamic Cairo at night during Ramadan. It ends on Tuesday and we'll be in Turkey!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Domestic Diva-wannabe


Before I tell you about my domestic divaness, I'll give you a recap of the past few days...We had a meeting for The Breathing Room to talk about the October schedule and also about what we are going to charge the students now that the "introductory" month is over. As I mentioned before, my schedule was really wiping me out. So I was hoping to get an all evening schedule and I did! I will now be teaching sun-wed night. I think it's going to be so much better for me as well as my students who are trying to learn Primary Series and need to do it as much as they can. Amanda and I had our usual "Knitting Knight", but it took a downward spiral and we ended up drinking beer and watching SNL videos on the NBC site. Oh! That's the other big news! Ira, in his infinite wisdom, spent an entire afternoon setting up some thing that makes our computer think that it's in the U.S. and lets us watch all our shows!! Yay!! Up until now, we would get a message saying that "this is only available to viewers in the U.S." or something dumb like that. So this morning I watched the season premiere of the Office and Grey's Anatomy! Which also means I'll be able to watch the debate. Well, that is, unless SOMEONE chickens out! haha So, anyway, after Amanda and I hung out, Ira and I went upstairs for a Sohour. This is the meal that is typically eaten before dawn during Ramadan, but most people now eat it before bed because it's less disruptive. So we went upstairs at 10:30 and probably didn't eat until about 11:30. It was so much fun! And there was SO much food! Everything was delicious and we got to chat with a lot of nice people. We didn't get to bed til about 2:30. So yesterday I slept in knowing that I had a busy day of domesticity ahead of me. I shopped, cleaned, and cooked my way to our first dinner party and happy hour here in Cairo. Actually, I think it was the first dinner party and happy hour we've ever hosted as a couple! Anyway, Ira was on campus all day yesterday so I went to Seoudi and picked up some last minute ingredients and then came home to sweep the patio. This may sound like a quick and easy task, but it took me an hour and the dust pan was FULL of a lovely black silt, which I can only assume is not only coating our patio but also our lungs and nasal passages. Sigh. It looks great out there now though! Anyway, I made these awesome lentil burgers http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/vegetarian-lentil-burgers-recipe.html topped with feta cheese and some orzo with tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. Ira also made his soon to be famous rice pudding with coconut, pistachios, and raisins. We had Amy and Aras over to tell us what to do in Turkey (Aras is Turkish) we got enough info to stay for at least a month! They brought a good Turkish wine (who knew such a thing existed?!) And now I'm excited to bring some back to Cairo, and home if I can wait to drink it til then. : ) After dinner, we had the Maadi crew come over for happy hour. We decided that we would all take turns hosting happy hour on Thursday nights and Ira and I volunteered to host first. It was so much fun! We had lots of good snacks and everyone brought beer and wine. It was great. I slept in late today and I've been doing laundry ever since, with our new washing machine! (See Ira's blog for a picture and more gushing) Ira is going to a concert tonight, but I'm going to pass because I'm wiped out from yesterday and we have a walking tour of Islamic Cairo in the morning. I'm also trying to get things in order before we leave for Turkey on Monday. I'll try to get another entry in before we leave because it'll be another week before I'm on again!

Monday, September 22, 2008

I can't sleep so it seems like a good time to do a blog entry. I've been having some random bouts of insomnia lately. I think my weird yoga schedule may have something to do with it. I think the fact that somedays I teach in the mornings and sometimes I teach at night is kind of screwing with my energy levels and my sleeping and eating patterns. Which, by the way, were not exactly firmed up before I started this whole yoga adventure! I think I had finally moved past the jet lag and the upset stomachs and now I'm all messed up again. Sigh. Hopefully I'm going to start teaching more in the evenings and maybe that will help...
I've made a decision to join the Maadi House. I've talked about it a little bit on here. It's a sort of country club that's somehow affiliated with the U.S. Embassy (although no one seems to know how or why exactly) It's open to U.S. citizens and you have to join for a year. It's quite lovely there. There are lots of trees and grass and although it's in the middle of Maadi, the air seems a little different and it's more quiet for sure. They have a pool, bar, resturant, playground, and lots of other activities. A lot of people go there when Cairo becomes a little overwhelming, as it can be from time to time. So far my experiences there have been at night for parties or BBQs, but today I went to the pool for the first time. That's right, the first day of Fall and I was sweating poolside. Actually, it was cute, there was a lifeguard who was Egyptian and probably about 19 who came over to Amanda and me and said in broken English "The seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter, and one more?" Amanda and I looked at each other, trying to figure out where he was going with this, and said "Fall?" He kind of looked at us funny. So we said it again "Fall?" And he said "A-U-T..." and we finished "U-M-N" he smiled and said "Right! First day!" and walked away. We laughed, it was very sweet. I am normally SO excited for the first day of Fall. I guess it kind of slips your mind here since the seasons don't change, at least not for a while. I did see some clouds today for the first time since I've been here, that was exciting!
Other than that, we're getting ready for our trip to Turkey on Monday. Which means everyone should be getting ready for another slide show!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shopping

I'm starting to get the hang of shopping here in Cairo. I know there are some of you who can't believe it took me this long. I should say that I haven't come CLOSE to getting the hang of haggling. So for those of you picturing me in a "Souk" (marketplace) talking some shopkeeper into giving me a pashmina for 10 LE instead of 20, think again. My shopping has, most often, taken place in stores with price tags. I wish I could say that the places I'm most fond of are truly Egyptian, but they're honestly more American with a little Egypt thrown in. There's "& Co.", which is a store that specializes in Egyptian cotton and handmade soaps and pottery. They have the most amazing sheets, towels, pajamas, and comfy clothes, as well as soaps, shampoo, jewelry...basically everything I like. I've been getting a few things for the flat to make it a little more homey. The prices are comparable to what we would pay in the States for those items. The sheets and towels are of especially good quality and would probably actually cost more at home. They have a store in Connecticut, I can only imagine what they charge for this stuff there! The other shop I like is a bookstore called Al Kotob Khan which means "bookstore", haha. It's very cool, it reminds me of a New York bookstore. They have a lot of English and Arabic titles and lots of very unique journals, cards, etc. My reading list is huge these days, thanks mostly to the "Visual Bookshelf" application on Facebook. My friends Shara and Kendra have been reading way to many interesting books! So I worked my way through the list just to see what they did have, I would say about half of the titles were available and I'm sure I could get the rest if I ordered them. They are A LOT more expensive though. I bought the "Omnivore's Dilema" and it was 112LE which is about $20.50. According to the back of the book it would have cost $16.00 in the States. Where as Ira bought a book on the History of Maadi that was only 55LE, about $10. But that book was published in Egypt. So unless it's printed here, I think I'll be stocking up on books while I'm at home, but the shop does have a lovely little cafe and the staff are very nice and welcoming. And the other items in the store will make great gifts!
http://www.kotobkhan.com/
http://www.andcompanyonline.com/

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Homesick

Well, it was bound to happen. I honestly can't believe this is only my first entry on the subject! it's been almost exactly 6 weeks since we've been here. Everything is still very new and exciting, we're making friends and finding our favorite places, but honestly, the excitment is starting to wear off a little. I really miss my friends and family. This picture above was taken at one of our "men suck" nights. After one of us would go through a bad break up, we would all go out for dinner and drinks and hope someone better was on the horizon. That's Heather, Kate, Me, Lauren, and Michelle. I know everyone thinks they have the best friends in the world, but I really do. These women are my rock. They are my cure for everything. Any mundane little outing would always turn into something fun and amazing. From giggle fits in dressing rooms, cupcake cravings, yoga class, camping, moving days, dancing, job drama, they've been there for it all.
And then there is my crazy, fun family. My dad who is always there with a joke or a little bit of wisdom. My mom, who is my medical counselor and my gossip buddy, we can chat for days! And my step dad Paul who not only puts my bed together every time I move, but is such a part of our family it feels like he's been around forever. This is my brother Connor, we are like a weird combination of sister-brother/mother-son/movie buddies/gross joke loving pair. He is the smartest, funniest, sweetest kid I know. I miss seeing him every week and watching him grow right before my eyes. I'm afraid I won't recognize him at Christmas!
Here are my "Best Women" at my wedding. Well, this was taken at the rehearsal dinner. That's Rachel, Lauren, and Kelly. Rachel and Kelly have been my friends since high school (Rachel even longer) We've truly grown up together, although I still think of us as kids going to concerts and having sleepovers. Lauren is my "grown up friend", meaning I met her as a grown up (not that we're grown up, because we're not! haha). "Of all the yoga classes in all of the world, she had to walk into mine... "

Here is a picture of us on a random summer day by her parent's pool. It's funny how days that you think are just simple and ordinary, turn into memories. That day turned into one of the few days that we spent together just the two of us this summer. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it, we just hung out by the pool, ate some food and maybe watched some Gilmore Girls. But now it's etched in my mind for some reason. I guess it exemplified so many other days that we've spent like that. I think that, to me, is the true marker of an amazing friendship, or a best friend. There are friends that you have to have "plans" there have to be tickets invloved, or reservations, or evites, and those are great friends. But when you have a best friend, it means they come and visit you in the hospital and it's fun for some reason, or you come over and hang out with them while they do laundry and you have the best time ever. Or even if you don't, you just love being around each other. That's what I have. That's what I miss.



Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures in Cooking in Two Acts


I have been wanting to write an entry about cooking but I've been putting it off because it's not as exciting as the Pyramids or anything. So if you're not into cooking, this might not be the blog for you today!

ACT I The Market As I have mentioned before, going to the market can be quite a circus. I seem to either be frustrated or excited every time I leave. The great thing is, it's really close. (Sorry to those non-central Pa people, but I'm going to use Camp Hill landmarks here to show you how close) It would be like me walking from my old apartment, out to Market St., and up to that gas station that sits there on the corner, maybe not even that far. The point is, it's easy for us to get there and grab a few things when we need to. Which is pretty much everyday. You know when you go to the store and you do a big trip, like a weeks worth of groceries and if you're really on top of it, maybe even some things that you haven't run out of, but you think you're going to soon? I love that kind of shopping trip. I love knowing that if I want to cook and make something fun, I have lots of ingredients on hand. I love knowing that there are lots of options for quick meals or snacks, and plenty of household supplies. I love the kind of trip where you know for a fact that you haven't forgotten anything. I have not had the pleasure of that experience here in Cairo. Here's a good example, Early last week I thought I would make a nice big pot of soup (you can take the girl away from Fall, but you can't take the Fall out of the girl) So I went to the store looking for things to make stock like carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves, parsley, garlic. I found onions. That's it. Ok, so no soup. So I rearranged things in my head and tried to get some things that would make a few meals, which worked out ok, but left me feeling like I hadn't accomplished my goal. I did however go to the market a few days later and found garlic, parsley, and carrots. Which brings me to my next point...just when you think you won't find something here in Cairo, it will (sometimes) magically appear on the shelf. In the states we take for granted that things will be in stock. It's pretty simple, you bought ginger ale at the store last week, you run out, you go back to the store the next week, they have the ginger ale. There may be the rare "out of stock" sign on something but you can just get some other kind of ginger ale, and it's fine. We were buying ginger ale here almost everyday for the first two weeks we were here. Cut to a month later and we haven't seen it since. And then, this week, there was some random "White Rock" ginger ale on the shelf and a week later I'm still seeing it! I don't get it. Ok, so I get some ingredients that I can make some semblence of a recipe out of...now what?

ACT II The Kitchen The second act is always shorter, right?? All I can think about is what my friends would do. Kelly and Heather would be fine, I think. Lauren, I'm sorry to say would probably have been able to write "the Cairo resturant Guide" by now. I'm starting to realize that you have to have some cooking backround before you get here, or it will be very difficult to figure out once you're here. Even following a recipie isn't enough, they might not have the indredients! (see above) All of that being said, I have managed to make some pretty good meals in the past week or so. The best was probably an Eggplant Caponata of sorts. A sort of rustic Italian stir fry. That's what the picture is by the way, in the early stages, anyway. I have discovered that Egyptian olive oil is some of the best olive oil I have ever had. I know this sounds strange, but it doesn't even taste like oil. It has so much flavor and it makes the food taste awesome. And the balsalmic vinegar is also outstanding. Ok, back to the caponata...so what I had on hand were eggplants, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. I thought about doing a pasta thing, but then I decided that the veggies could stand on their own. I put the recipie below...enjoy!

Cairo Caponata

2 small eggplant, peeled and cubed

2 small red onion, sliced

one container musrooms (whatever looks good), sliced

2 or 3 small tomatoes, diced hapazardly, the chunkier the better

Tbs. fresh rosemary (you could also try basil or oregano)

Olive Oil

Balsalmic Vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste


Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with olive oil. Place all the vegetable in the skillet. season with salt and a little bit of pepper. You may need to be generous with the salt in order to break down the eggplant. You really want them to cook down and get soft so give them a toss every few minutes, but for the most part just let them hang out together in there. When they start to look pretty mushy and the eggplant has softened, toss in the fresh herbs. Then, transfer to the serving bowl, toss with the vinegar. You can serve it with crusty bread, pasta, rice, or as a side dish, but it is delightful on its own...and even better the next day for lunch!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pyramids-Take 2!


Well, today was our second trip to the pyramids. It was a totally different experience this time. First of all, I have never been so beat upon by the sun in my entire life. How those guys managed to stack all those limestone boulders on top on one another in this heat is truly one of the greatest feats in history. It was a lot of fun. As you can see from my slide show (I'm sorry, but I continue to impress myself) Amanda, Ira, and I had a blast taking lots of silly pictures. The Solar Boat Museum was pretty amazing. I don't think I knew that such a thing even existed. There were lots of tourists of course, we were all wondering how much longer we have to be here in Egypt before we can start busting on the tourists. We were doing it already anyway. I'm sorry, but if you're going to wear a tube top to the pyramids, you're asking for it. That, and a sunburn. There's really not much else I can say, the pictures really say it all. When we were pulling out of Giza I said jokingly to the bus "you know we're going to have to come here with everyone who ever comes to visit us" and everyone kind of groaned. But then I started thinking, I'm going to get to come here with everyone who comes to visit us!! I can't wait!

Friday, September 12, 2008

On the Town
















Although that IS the title of my favorite Gene Kelly movie, that's not the subject of this post. ; ) Last night was the first AUC Happy Hour of the year. It was at a hotel in Zamalek called Longchamps (pronounced Long-Shaamps) They have a rooftop terrace type thing and we all had a few Stellas and some fun conversation. Then we all made our way to Tabasco's. South Mex?? Alas, no. More like random Egyptian food, pizza, and pasta, which is what a lot of places serve for some reason. And, like most places, you're never really sure what you're going to get. I ordered a lemon mint juice and what I got was some sort of toxic green color. And then I ordered a tomato and cheese sanwich off of the "sandwich" part of the menu. I was served a cheese dip of some sort with pita chips and topped with chopped tomato. Huh. Ok! It was good, don't get me wrong, it's just funny watching a table of 10 people gambling on the their food order. I did eat some of the best pickles ever off of Ira's and Amanda's plates. Yum! By far the funniest part of the night was when we were trying to figure out how to divide up the group by neighborhoods to get cabs back to Maadi. A station wagon cab pulled up and ALL NINE of us got in! I swear, that thing must have been dragging on the ground. Ira and I sat in the front seat next to the driver and I have a bruise from where the window-roll-down-thingy was jamming into my hip. There were 4 people in the backseat and then 3 in the seat in the waaay back. It was quite hilarious.





Today Amanda and I are going to get pedicures and then we have a BBQ at the Maadi House. Tomorrow is another trip to the Pyramids! This time we're going during the day and I don't think the Sphinx will be doing any narrating. I will do my best to get the pictures up in a timely manner!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Breathing Room







Here it is! As I mentioned in earlier posts, there are some women in Maadi who were eager to start a yoga space, or "co-op" as they've been calling it. It's been wonderful, everyone has different talents and interests and we each bring something to the space. Gordana has been so great about the admin. side of things. Everything from making sign-in sheets, to crunching the numbers, she's been working hard. We had our first meeting on Saturday and talked about things like keys and money and all the boring stuff, and then I gave everyone a class. From a teaching perspective, it was very easy because all of them had experience. Last night I taught the first "real" class. That was a lot of fun! Mark, Amanda, and Ira came out and then there were a couple of the women from Saturday as well as some new faces. I did a led primary class and it was great, a lot of work, but great. Everyone was VERY sweaty, which is the whole point! I was very impressed with the whole group, there was a lot of "I haven't done it forever...blah, blah" but they were wonderful, and followed the cues perfectly. This morning was a much smaller class (although, I think this time slot will grow to be one of my biggest classes) there were only 3. Belle, who is also a newbie to Maadi, Wendy, who I met on Saturday, and Alice, who was new to me but not new to the space from last year. This was more of a Mysore class. They didn't need me to cue very much so I focused on assisting and "encouragement", haha. It was a different feel. They were still sweaty (it is Cairo) but I felt that the energy was a little less exciting than it was the night before. That could just be because there were less people, it was early, etc. So it's been a great experience so far. I have another class tomorrow night, and then another on wed. morning.



Ira and I have been eating in a lot. I've been too tempted by the veggies at the market so I've been making some stir fry and some pasta dishes. Although tonight I'm a little pooped so I think we're going to get some yummy La Rosa pizza delivered!

Friday, September 5, 2008

a plug for ira...

Check out Ira's blog if you want to see pictures of the new campus!

Make new friends

So, last night Amanada and I were supposed to go get beers. I arrived at Hubbly Bubbly a little bit before she did. I noticed that the clientele was a little...young. Not in the "I'm 30 and these 21 year olds look so young" way, more in the "my 13 year old brother Connor would fit right in here" way. It was tween central. Then Amanda walked in and said "why is everyone 12?" Then she went up and asked if they serve beer (I'm sticking with this girl). And they said no. They probably could have been rude and said "look around, you American idiot!" So then we were stuck with what to do. We could go to Shanghai and have beer there, but it seems weird to go to a Chinese place and just have beer. So we decided to just go back to my place and sit out on the deck. It was so much fun! I miss my girls so much and it was really good for me to have some fun girl talk and relax. Amanda is great, she's funny and smart and reminds me a lot of home. We talked about Cairo, and boys, and what stores they are rumored to have at the big mall in Heliopolis (so far the word on the street is Banana Republic, H&M, and Sephora!) This was after we got done talking about politics, literature, and avant garde cinema, of course : ) I guess I knew I would make friends here, but that's really hard to think about when you're still saying good bye to your old ones. Not that you guys are old! But I didn't want to think about all the new people I would meet, or how cool they would be. I know that's bratty of me, but it's true. But now I see that this place isn't so bad, and there are lots of great strangers that could be friends.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One of the seven wonders of the world...or Epcot Center?


We went to the pyramid light show last night! It was a trip. We were warned that it was going to be cheesy, but I had no idea. Now, any of you who have been to Disney World or even a planitarium when you were a kid will have the general idea. First of all, the whole thing is narrated by the Sphinx! So he's like "I have seen so many walk through this desert!" and "I'm so tired after sitting in the sand all these years!" "Cleopatra was so pretty!" And it's Omar Sherrif's voice! I'm not making this up! And the best part was after the Sphinx said something dramatic, like someone died or something, the music would go "BUM BUM BUUUUUUM" really loud. It was a riot. Little Velimeir and Vojo loved it. Veli was sitting behind me and he kept going "oh wow!" it was cute. And it was another cool night, a great breeze, I could get used to this. Ok, now all that being said, the pyramids themselves are amazing of course. We were walking over towards them and I just caught a glimpse of one and it was just so exciting! And then you're sitting there and they're right there looking at you! I know I sound like a nut, but it's weird. You see them in books and movies your entire life and then you sit in front of them and you still think it's a movie set. They looked too real! We were on the Sphinx side so we weren't able to get up close to them, but since we live about 30 minutes away I'm pretty sure we can go back another time. Even lit up with the lasers they were awesome. As you can see by my other cool slide show!! haha This one only took me about 45 minutes instead of all day.
So, tonight I have plans with Amanda and we're going to the "Hubbly Bubbly", a neighborhood bar, although we like to call it the "Hobbly Wobbly". It looks like a bar at home! I'll take pictures!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

yoga playlists

I start teaching yoga next week! I'll be teaching four classes a week, Sunday and Tuesday night and then monday and wednesday morning. I am a big fan of playing music during yoga. I know feelings are mixed about this in the yoga community among teachers as well as students. I don't even know how my students here are going to feel about it, but I hope they'll keep an open mind. It's a challenge for me to make really good playlists. There's nothing worse than holding a pose that's not your favorite while listening to a song you can't stand. But there's also something to be said for being able to block things out while you practice. And it's a good tool for the teacher to see if she can hear your breathing over the music. If your not a yoga student, you might find my lists unconventional. But I would rather practice in silence than listen to "yoga music". All the chanting and bells really gets to me after a while! haha So instead I go for strong beats in the begining of class at least through standing poses, then I take it down a notch for seated poses and closing, finally, I play tracks that very little or no words for savasana (relaxation). I try to stay away from anything cheesy, or too lovey-dovey, or anything too obvious...like songs that talk about breathing and relaxing a lot. Anyway, if anyone is interested, here are the 2 lists that I've put together so far...Even if you're not into yoga, maybe you'll find something new to listen to!
Cairo Yoga Mix 1
15 Steps-Radiohead
7/4 (Shoreline)- Broken Social Scene
Bodysnatchers- Radiohead
By Your Side (Cottonbelly's Fola Mix)- Sade
Jigsaw Falling Into Place-Radiohead
Bend And Break- Keane
Move By Yourself- Donavon Frankenreiter
Like a Feather- Nikka Costa
Brighter Than Sunshine -Aqualung
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight- Amos Lee
Chasing Pavements- ADELE
I'm Yours-Jason Mraz
Island in the Sun- Weezer
Put Your Records On- Corinne Bailey Rae
Better Together- Jack Johnson
Half Acre- Hem
Say-John Mayer
Speak Into The Microphone- The Dining Rooms
M.Dupont-The Dining Rooms
Walnut- Moby
The Blue Terror of Lawns-Moby
Love Song for my Mom- Moby

Cairo Yoga Mix 2
Going On- Gnarls Barkley
Flight in Dub- Wax Poetic
I Feel It All-Feist
Maybe Tonight-Nicole Atkins
Somewhere Only We Know-Keane
My Little Corner Of The World- Yo La Tengo
Let Go- Frou Frou
Video-India.Arie
A Long Walk-Jill Scott
(Nice Dream)-Radiohead
Endless Song Of Hapiness- Yael Naïm
Idle (The Rabbit Song)- Hem
1234- Feist
Breakdown -Jack Johnson
Bottom Of The Barrel- Amos Lee
Blackbird- The Beatles
Love Like Laughter-Beth Orton
We Are One- Kelly Sweet
Breathe Me-Sia
Three Little Birds- Bob Marley & The Wailers
Dunia-Bliss
False Start- The Dining Rooms
Chorus Of Flames- The Dining Rooms
Cosi Ti Amo-The Dining Rooms
Verso Il Sole-The Dining Rooms
Namaste-Beastie Boys
Burying Song- Hem

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Garden Party


Hey, this will be a quick one I just wanted to put up a picture of the garden party from last night. It was incredible! We pulled up to the house and it looked like they were set up for a wedding or something in the backyard! There were at least a dozen tables set up with white tablecloths, waiters walking around with trays of food and drinks, and there was a big beautiful buffet set up in the corner of the garden. The property was amazing. The house was pretty, but the grounds! Maadi is a very green neighborhood, but this place made the rest of it seem barren! We sat with Behar, Villi, Amy, Leonard, Amy, Aras, and Katrina who we met last night. The food was awesome, and I even had some half decent wine, which I thought I would have to wait to have til we got back to the States. It was the coolest night that we've had so far, breezy and lovely. And being in that garden made the night seem almost magical. It was the perfect way to end our week of orientation.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Shipment is Here!!!!!


It's here! It's here! It came around 2:00 this afternoon. All 19 boxes arrived (relatively) safe and sound. The boxes were pretty messed up and couple of Ira's books were damaged, but other than that everything was fine. I have to say, it was a little less exciting than I thought it would be. I don't know what I thought I packed! haha I really should have packed more, oh well. So now that it's here, what am I most excited to have??? Here's the top 10 list...


10. shoes, the ones I have here are getting really dusty and gross
9. candles
8. clothes, I was really getting sick of the stuff I've been wearing for a month now
7. spices, especially chili powder
6. the wedding picture proofs
5. razors
4. Sex and the City DVDs
3. yoga books
2. My cookbooks, especially the Giada DeLaurentis ones
1. My quilt!
So now we have figure out where everything goes. Or agree on where everything goes! And then we have to figure out what we still need. We were kind of waiting for the shipment before we went on the Carrfour trip to get the iron, vacuum cleaner, etc. We have to take a break right now though because we have to get ready for the garden party at the Provost's house this evening. Pictures to follow!


Obama in Cairo

I know that most of you are reading Ira's blog too, but just in case you're not I'm going to re-tell a story he has on there about our trip back from Dahab...we were at the airport trying to get through security to get on our return flight, when a guard (with a big gun, they all have guns and supposedly they're not loaded but it still scares me) asks for our passports. This also still scares me a little because I've seen too many bad movies where innocent people are accused of crimes they did not commit in forigen countries. So, he looks at our passports and then back at us and says "America?" and we both nod "yes", and then as he's handing back the passports he smiles a little bit and asks hopefully "Obama?" And we both say yes with huge smiles on our faces. And then he says "Not Bush" and we just laugh and say "not Bush" back at him. So we walked away thinking that was one of the coolest interactions we've had with any Egyptian person since we've been here. Until, we had to hand over the passports again, and the same exact thing happened! Almost as if they are reading from a script! I swear, there are people here that get by with very little English, please, thank you, yes, no, but they can say "Obama"! Now, I guess he is on the news and all of that, but I just think that it's probably been a long time since someone just running for president has made it into the daily vernacular of the average Egyptian citizen. And I'm sure it's not just Egypt!
So, as many of you know, I've been pretty psyched about Obama since he came on the scene. I remember hearing his name when he won his first senate race and thinking "Well, that's a weird name to have in politics!" And I also remember the late Tim Russert saying at that time "this guy is going to be one to watch". And I did! And then when he stole the show at the 2004 convention, I was hooked. I wanted him to run so much, but in the back of my mind I thought it was too good to be true, but on the other side of the back of my mind (there's a lot of room back there) I also thought that it was exactly the time for him. So, cut to this convention, last thursday. I was frantic. I was watching CNN and BBC and Al Jezeera all day trying to figure out when they were going to broadcast his speech. I was also trying to figure out what the hell GMT is and what it had to do with me. Poor Ira was sick in bed all day but that didn't stop me from running back there every hour or so and loudly wispering things like "Psst! Hey! Do you think they're going to show his speech live here, or should I try and watch it online?!" So what I finally figured out was that it was going to be on here at 4:00am. So the plan was to set the alarm and watch it then. And it didn't help that we were setting the clocks back an hour that night so I was worried that we were going to miss it. So, I set the alarm, woke up instantly, and bounced down the hall to the TV. I turned it on just as he was coming onstage and I got goosebumps! I know this is all very corny, but it was like this crazy dream I had years ago had come true. And the speech was perfect. I loved all of it. I didn't want it to end. I wanted to stay up all night watching commentaries and replays but I figured I could do that tomorrow. Little did I know that Insane McCain was going to trot out his little gun toting PTA mom and ruin it for me...grr... Oh well. When you have nothing but an iffy war record to run on, strategically placed manuvers are all you have I guess.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am so very oriented...

This week brought the official orientation given by AUC. Whew! It wiped both of us out, and everyone else we know. It started on Monday, we met at the Midan Victoria and caught the bus out to the new campus. There were some familiar faces, Mark and Gordana, Brandon, Malek, Steve and Stephanie, Hanan. And then we met LOTS of new people! Getting to know them has probably been my favorite part of the week. There's Amanda from Atlanta, she's going to be a librarian. She's super fun and I can tell we're going to be buds. Ana is a Fullbright here from Miami, she writes for the Herald (as well as having written a couple of best sellers!) and is going to be in the Journalism dept. Amy and Leonard both do Middle East Studies, Amy is in Ira's dept, Leonard is in Philosophy. There lots of others, but I guess I ended up connecting with them the most. So we made our way to the new campus. I'm sad to say that my camera battery died, I guess after all those pics in Dahab! So I don't have anything to show, yet. But it is amazing, an architectual feat to say the least. All the way out in the desert, a beautiful, sprawling structure with shade and light, green and sand. Although, it's not finished! There were dudes in hard hats everywhere and I would say that the overall theme of the orientation was "patience". I don't know how many times someone would ask a question like "when will we have computers?" "when can we get into our offices?" "Where can I print out my syllabus?" and they were met with "We don't know" I really feel for all of the new faculty. I can't imagine starting a job and not knowing where you're going to have classes, or how you're going to prepare for them. But everyone is taking it in stride, for the most part. So, the first day we heard from the provost and the president of the university. They were very enthusiastic and hopeful for the new campus and the new faculty. Then, we all stood up and introduced ourselves. I normally don't have any issues with speaking in public, but I have to say I was nervous. Especially when everyone that went before me had these amazing resumes. Even the interns are from Stanford, Columbia, Hopkins, Harvard....! So I it was finally my turn and I said that I worked with autistic children in the states and that I was hoping to fill the yoga void in our neighborhood by teaching. Well. Who would have thought that would have illicited such a response! Afterwards, I had few women some up to me and asked me to keep them informed if I find a place to teach. THEN, a guy named Jonah came over and told me that his wife is starting a "yoga co-op". I talked to her that night and basically what she's doing is renting a space where she's not charging the students very much but the teachers would still make more than they would other places because there's no middle man! Perfect! We're having our first meeting on saturday and it looks like I'll be teaching up to 4 classes a week! And then the president's wife came over and asked me if I could help out in the daycare if they ever have any special needs children. Ira was like "Did you know that was the president's wife?!" haha I have to say it felt good to have people talk to me about something other than Egypt for the first time all summer! The rest of the day was filled with (rather boring for non-faculty) tours and talks. And there was a nice lunch on the president's terrace. Nice, but a little hot baking in the 105 degree heat! We were all so tired at the end of the day that I can't believe the bus home wasn't full of nappers!
Day 2 was a little better. The bus came later and we were at the old campus. Not as hot, and we had some really useful presentations on health and safety in Cairo, and we had an Arabic lesson! Not easy, let me tell you. I don't know if it's my music backround, but it bothers me that I can hear the instructor saying it one way and then it doesn't sound like that when I say it. I guess I'm being too perfectionist about it...Later that night a bunch of Maadi people met up for Chinese and we had a blast. More and more people kept coming and we took over the place eventually. At one point, Mark and Gordana's boys were playing under the table and all of the sudden they each plunked a full beer can down on the table! We have no idea where they came from! Under the table, obviously, but we have no idea how they got there! It was hilarious to say the least. It's really great to be able to laugh again. Not that Ira and I haven't had our moments, but to laugh really loud in group of people like that, it was awesome.
Day 3 was great for Gordana and me! We skipped out at 10:30 after Arabic lessons! We met up with Kathleen and baby Andy for lunch and did a little shopping. We even went to the 2.5 pounds store! Like the dollar store! Well, the 46 cent store...anyway, it was just like it is in the states. I even saw a gift bag with a veiled Barbie on it! Last night we babysat the Wetmoreland boys, and had our "Ramadan Beer" delivered. Since they don't sell booze during Ramadan (which starts monday) we thought we better stock up. And just like almost everything else, we had it delivered!
And today, the last day, we had our last "Survival Arabic" class (we're both signing up for tutoring in the coming weeks) and then we had a lunch where they also had tables set up with different leisure activities in and around Cairo. Ira is sick now, I think he might be dehydrated. The heat is really bad but he's been resting all day (sleeping actually) and drinking lots of water. Hopefully he feels better tomorrow because tomorrow night we have a ride on a felluca! AUC has chartered a bunch to float down the Nile while we have dinner! I can't wait. And then Saturday we have a garden party at the Provost's house. I promise I'll be better about posting...and I'll charge the camera batteries!