Monday, March 22, 2010

How Awesome are my Readers?

Totally Awesome and, obviously, people with excellent taste. Also, all of my readers are devastatingly beautiful. Studies have shown that reading otheroman makes you more beautiful.

So, get this, within 24 hours of posting my totally stuck-up sounding request for information about Texas in Genral, and Houston Specifically, I got 4 lengthy replies from nice Texans, or nice people who have lived in Texas and survived it.

For Real. Isn't that Amazing?

Thank you to Kristi, Brian, Michael and Alice! Your delightful, open minded, and honest advice is fantastic. I really cannot thank you enough, except to extend a personal invitation to come eat Arugula salad, mexican food, and drink Microbrews with us in Houston anytime. I promise not to wear my Barack Obama shirt, or act like a major twat. I'm really different in person, I swear.

I'm off to the UAE tonight for 12 days and 11 nights of fast cars, good friends, helicopters, crazy medics, 3,000 k of driving, sleep deprivation, sand dunes, one gala dinner, and a cowboys and Indians themed party.

I'll try and post intermittently, dependant upon having adequate satellite internet facilities this year.

Look after the place while I'm gone?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rollin, rollin, rollin, keep those doggies rollin'

* This started as a blog post and turned into a minor political diatribe. Sorry in advance*

Git along, little doggies.

We find out late next week where we are being sent next, if we are being sent anywhere at all. It looks a lot like Houston at the moment.

Houston, as you may be aware, is located in America. This is nice for me, having been raised in America and all. Houston is also in Texas, which if you are aware of the regional diversity of the United States, is like a different planet to where I was raised. We speak roughly the same language, and drive on the same side of the road, but the similarities peter out from there. If I may reveal to truly shallow depth of my character, Texas frightens me, a lot. One can only assume that Houston is full of Texans, and while I believe they are genuinely kind and welcoming people, THEY SCARE ME.

George Bush (s) came from there. They talk really really really slowly. Some of them have guns, like INSIDE their cars, all the time. The nighbourhoods I have looked at have neither front porches, nor sidewalks, and everyone's suburban back yard has an 8 foot privacy fence around it. They deep fry toast.

Texas is full of republicans, but I'm not sure they are the sort of fiscally conservative and secular republicans with whom I think I share much common ground. I am afraid that the streets will be awash in Zombiefied, Glen Beck Quoting, war-making, Anti-Choice, Anti contraception, racist Nut-bars. In Texas, I think everyone goes to Church, every Sunday. I think they will try to get all "Come to Jesus" and "You'll burn in hell because you don't think exactly like us" on me. I will be ostracized, lonely and friendless. Especially if I keep this attitude up.

I know, I am such a Asshole, unfairly maligning the good people of Texas, without ever having been there for more than a stopover. I'm sorry Texas, it's just that I don't understand you very well, and the media does not portray you in, shall we say, the kindest light.

I am looking forward to decent Mexican food, Ample parking, hardware stores, being able to speak Spanish again, vast grocery stores with everything I could ever dream of on the shelves, one hundred thousand awesome classic cars to choose from, Country music, classic rock radio stations, not being mocked for wearing cowboy boots, outrageous clothes, and for the first time in my entire life, a horse of my own.

I am thankful that Stone is employable in this labour market, and that he can have a real, corporate job with health benefits. I really don't want to raise my daughter without health coverage, and if it were up to me to go back to being a Chef to support the family, we would never in a million years be able to afford health insurance. Maybe that will change, with the health reform stateside, assuming it gets passed. I don't know if I want to live in a country full of people who won't help their fellow man receive the basic human right that is medical care.

I am happy that Stone is not a reluctant, Euro-centric prick who will hate everything about America on principle. Stone genuinely loves America and in his wonderful, flexible, chameleon style, he is delighted to embrace American culture and assimilate to whatever the norm is going to be in Texas. He already owns a few cowboy outfits, which he wears at any opportunity, he's practicing his drawl, and he's even talking about buying some guns.

So it's not like I'm suffering, but I think I am going to find a lonely planet guide book for Texas, because frankly, I know less about the place than I know about Saudi or Pakistan. My friends from the state I grew up in are far more apprehensive about the dangers of my moving to Texas, as they were about me moving here. But none of them are from Texas either.

So, are any of you guys from Texas or Houston? Can you help with some information? Can you correct my hideously ignorant perceptions of your fine state?
  • Is it nice?
  • Are the people nice?
  • Are they nice to Libertarian leaning Democrats like myself?
  • Does it rain in Houston? I heard it rains a lot, which is weird because I thought Texas was really dry, with like Cactus and tumbleweeds and stuff.
  • How do you meet people? Is it Ok to go over to your neighbor's house with like a pie or a six-pack of beer or something and introduce yourself? Or will they shoot at me?
  • Do Texans Drink?
  • Where is a good neighbourhood on the west side?
  • Is there anywhere artsy or creative or edgy out that way?
  • Can I grow Bananas in my garden?
  • Does everybody really have a pool in their backyard? Should I have a pool in my backyard?
  • Should we live in a House or a Condo or a Townhome?
  • What kind of car is appropriate in Houston?
  • Is it OK to let my three year old run around naked on the beach or in the yard, or will people get all freaked out about it?
  • Does Houston Have a beach nearby?
  • Are top-notch Mexican ingredients available in the Suburbs, or do I have to go to Mexicantown to get the good stuff?
  • Does everyone ride western or are there some good Hunter-Jumper Barns around?
  • Is my Daughter going to get picked on for her weird sounding foreign name?
  • Anything else you feel like sharing?
You can comment here, or drop me an email. Additionally, you may call me an arugula salad eating, microbrew drinking, northern democrat elitist, if you wish. Because that's only fair.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Summer in Muscat With Toddlers: The Survival Guide.

Does it seem unusually hot for March to anybody else? This isn't the hottest March I can remember, but it seems close. Thus, in the interests of public service, and the continued survival of my own child, I present the Muscat Summer survival guide.

Coping with the heat in the car
  • We have purchased about a billion giant Coleman freezer blocks from Lulu and Sultan Center. Before a trip in the car, we crab a couple of freezer blocks, wrap them in Dish towels, and pack them inside a cool-box. When we get out of the car, we place them in the car seats, and cover the seats with a towel. When we get back, the kids have an Icy Cool seat, free from scalding hot metal clips, and an Ice Block to cuddle while the A/C kicks in. It's totally worth the hassle.
  • Get your windows tinted with the darkest, most expensive mirrored film available. VCool and 3m film will set you back something insane like RO 200, which for that price should include a Blow Job, and application by leggy naked blondes, but does not. Despite the lack of a Blow Job or naked women, it's still worth the price. Also, it's mirrored film is great to stop pervy dudes from staring at you while you drive.
  • Don't buy a car with a sunroof, if you can avoid it.
  • We had a Tailor create a thick, quilted, reflective windscreen cover, which goes on the OUTSIDE of the car and is held in place with straps that I Affix and slam in the door. It makes an Enormous difference, especially if your windshield is really slanted.
  • leave your windows slightly open when you park.
  • And, (OBVIOUSLY) Never, Ever, Ever leave your kids in the car, even for a second, Even with the Engine running.
  • Pools are great. Slap on the sunblock and hide in the cooling confines of a local pool until summer is over. Watch your kids, alright? Don't be an asshole and just leave them there with a maid who can't swim. That's criminally stupid.
  • Air Conditioned Play groups: Buzzy Bees, in MQ, at the Back of Kargeen is a good indoor play area, and there is also a good indoor play area in Bareeq al Shatti. Admission is 2 - 4 rials, depending on the amount of time you'll spend there.
  • Tumble Tots group meets like two mornings a week at the Rugby Club, near the Egyptian and ABA schools in Al Khuwair.
  • Muscat City Center has a really noisy and expensive play area next to the food court, with video games, rides, and a giant climbing and sliding structure. We sometimes go and play there for a couple of hours, and then have lunch at the Noodle House.
  • The Children's Museum is fantastic. It's open in the mornings.
  • Bait AL Baranda art gallery and museum, near the fish R/A in Muttrah, and The Muscat Aquarium, next to the disgracefully unsafe and irresponsible Marina Bandar Rawdah are both good for killing an hour or so of daylight.
  • Sometimes, we just go and walk through the gorgeous hotel lobbies of the Chedi, the Grand Hyatt, the Al Bustan, and the intercontinental. We bring books to read together, have a glass of juice in the coffee shop, and then listen to the way our voices Echo when we yell and run around. The Concierge really hates that.
  • You can always go to the beach, but I find that in the depth of summer, the water is usually too hot to swim in during the day time, and thhere is rarely enough shade.
  • Most of the hotels offer excellent Residents deals during the summer. Use them to the fullest. We spent a week and a half at the Shangri-la last summer, and 6 nights at the Chedi.
Entertainment At Home
  • Last Year, We bought a giant inflatable waterslide from Toys R US at Markaz Al Bahja. It's great, we've literally got like 300 hours of entertainment out of it in under a year, but be advised that it gets really scuzzy in the humidity.
  • Sultan Center has begun stocking a really great variety of kids science experiments, and puzzles and educational board games. The prices seem quite reasonable, in light of my desperation to keep the kid amused.
  • Host a Kiddie Dinner party. Each week, the kid's two best friends, Ali and Hassan come over for dinner and two hours of evening playtime. Twice a week, she goes to their houses. They amuse each other, leaving me free to bask in the cool comfort of the lounge, without endless interruptions.
  • Stock up on Playdough, paints, crayons, facepaints, and stamp sets.
  • Aging US hipsters might be familiar with the Band "they might be giants". They are producing fantastic Kids music and DVD's these days, and we cannot recommend them highly enough. Here comes science is the best. Even Stone and I like the songs. Links Below.

Further Afield
  • Get out of town with a Long weekend in Lebanon, up in the hills. party down in Beirut, and then take advantage of some great off season deals at the Ski areas, a mere hour's drive away from Downtown Beirut. It's gorgeous Up there, fantastic food, and lots of good walks and hikes for the little ones. .
  • Head down to Salalah for the Khareef. Fly, don't drive. Salalah is lovely, despite the fact that it's crawling with really hideous examples of Saudi Males at that time of year.
  • Head up to Jabal Akhdar, and let the kids run around in the fantastic ruined village nearby. Altitude is everything.
  • If you are feeling flush, book a villa for a week or a Month in Bodrum, Turkey. It's astonishingly safe, friendly, and gorgeous, and the food and outdoor possibilities for kids are second to none.
Chapter two in the Summertime survival guide, coming soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Random

Some Random questions for today. This is a slightly boring post, but do watch the video, the interesting bit is at the end.

Answers, if you have any, in the comments section or direct to me at

  • Why is the kid not napping anymore?
  • As a follow up, how long do you think it will be before I loose my mind?
  • My tailor has had my favorite shirt for a month and a half now, and still has not copied it. Is she trying to tell me something?
  • Do we have Child protective services here? Do we have social workers who monitor children in At-Risk situations? Anything?
  • Why can I never remember to buy food for the cats when I go to the store?
  • Is it a subliminal expression of my desire to get rid of them?
  • Why won't anyone take a kitten? Please? They are very good with little kids.
  • Why was 10% of my blog traffic yesterday from the US Department of State in Reston Virginia?
  • Get a load of the video below. Why do people do this?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Children's Museum in Muscat

Today, a quick post about about the Children's Museum in Qurm, But first, one final piece of housekeeping regarding the Friday's Drowning at the Marina.

If there are any witnesses who were at the marina when the little girl drowned, and who would be willing to speak to a journalist, can you please email me your contact details so I can pass them on? Accuracy is key to good coverage, and good coverage will lead to changes, as well as hopefully, justice for the little girl. Thanks in advance.

The Children's Museum: I have been taking the kid to the children's museum once or twice a month for quite a while now. It costs like 300 Baiza for the two of us, and we generally have a blast. We usually have the place entirely to ourselves, although today there were two other families there.

The Exhibits are generally aimed at the 6-12 age group, however my 3 year old really enjoys the place. Although most of what we talk about goes over her head, some of it is sinking in already. Her favorite things are the shadow room, the hot air Balloon, and the awesome, hands-on diorama of the human body. She can name all the major organs now, and even explain what most of them do. Neat!

The children's museum is located in those two dome shaped thingies in Qurm, at the bottom of the hill where Mumtaz Mahal and Left Bank are located. It's open mornings, from like 08:30 to 13:30.

We usually follow up a trip to the Museum with lunch at either Pane Caldo, in Shatti (Excellent Children's Menu) or, if I feel the need to spend truly vast quantities of my husband's money, a trip to Cafe Ceramiqe in Al Araimi complex.

Andy In Oman did a really thorough blog post about what's on offer at the Museum, you can read his take on it here. He took a lot of pictures.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

General stuff from here

First off, regarding my last post about the little girl drowning at Marina Bandar Rawdah on Friday. My Blog got an unprecedented amount of traffic yesterday, by like a factor of ten. Either because we all like to watch a car crash, or because we are all amazed at how easy it is to accidently kill a kid in a pool, I don't know. I have received some feedback, in the form of polite emails that the woman in the Abaya who performed CPR on the girl was not Omani, but British, and that the kid's lips were not that blue when the paramedics scooped her up, and that I was remiss in not naming the nationality of the kid that drowned.

If there were omissions or mistakes in my account of what happened, I sincerely oppologise. In my defense, this is a Personal Weblog, not a medical journal, and I am not a professional journalist, I'm just a mom, who writes a blog. What I saw and observed were my observations alone, and different people, who were closer to the action, will have differing accounts of what happened.

None of this changes the fact that there is a kid in a Coma, who was repeatedly failed by the people who should have kept her safe, especially her Parents, but also the unprepared, un-equipped, untrained Marina management, and nearby adults, myself included.

Moving on to less interesting, but slightly more positive stuff, a few random thoughts regarding the Kids, and Stone.

Yesterday, the kid skipped her nap, and instead spent the afternoon playing outside on the water-slide with a visiting friend. How lovely that she is finally old enough to have friends, and even lovelier that unlike me at her age, she actually HAS friends. One can only assume she got her charm and confidence from Stone.

You may remember when I blogged about people who go over speed bumps like they are in a Lamborghini even though they drive a Honda accord? Well, in the interest of transparency, you should know that Stone is one of those guys who creeps over the really big speed bumps at 2kmh at a 45 degree angle. In his defense, although we do not own a Lamborghini (Yet?) he does drive a low slung sports car and the crappy Ruwi-Special exhaust scrapes if he doesn't. I need to buy him a proper exhaust system for his birthday. Or maybe a 2010 Camero.

On a Similar vein, you might be interested to know that should Stone and I ever divorce, or Murder one another in a fit of rage, the dispute will, without a doubt, have begun over the issue of where to park. Stone likes to park close in, even if it means that I have to climb out the window because of the skinny space he's wedged us into. It drives me crazy, the big kids and I even have a song we sing when stone is parking. To the tune of the Missing Persons smash hit "Walking in LA" we sing "Walking when you're Stone, Walking when you're Sto-one... No-Body Walks When you're Stone!" We think we are hilarious.

Our Son is returning from his overseas academic adventures in three week's time. I cannot begin to tell you how highly his return is being anticipated. His little sister is over the moon.

My Mom made Brazilian Black beans and rice with Farofa, and hearts of palm salad for dinner on friday. It was Wicked Good. Don't-Cha wish your Mommy could cook like mine? Don't Cha'?

And in news of Technology, I am the proud and happy owner of a brand New HTC Nexus 1 Phone, or Google phone to all you noobs out there. It is so pretty, and so expensive, and so complex, and does all this stuff I can't even dream of understanding, that I am afraid to turn it on. It's sitting in it's box, staring at me right now. Help.

That's it from here, more soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Parents, Watch your children

*Update: The little girl died a week later. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon (we belong to Allah and to Him we return)*

I watched a little girl drown today, in the Pool at Marina Bandar Rowdah. I think she was about 8 years old, with long brown hair, a cute smile, and creamy, light brown skin.

She drowned right in front of me, right beside my swimming, breathing, squealing daughter, there, in the shallow end of the pool, where she could have just stood up, in her little white panties. Eyes wide open, arms drifting restlessly, hair splayed around her head, and a flotilla of bubbles leaking from her nose and mouth.

The last I saw of her she was being carried away, with blue lips, and a blue face, in the blue clad arms of the responding Paramedics. I heard they managed to get her back in the Ambulance, but as she was not breathing for 15+ minutes, I suspect there is a chance of brain damage. Maybe she died, I don't know.

I, for my part, watched her drown, and didn't realise what was happening. Drowning in real life looks absolutely nothing like what you, or I might imagine it to. There was no screaming, no thrashing, no splashing. There was just this gorgeous little girl, swimming gracefully around under water, slowly drowning, there in the shallow end of the pool.

It's my fault as much as it is anyones. The little drowning girl swam over to my daughter, and grabbed her, trying to pull herself up, or as my daughter and I perceived it, pulling my daughter under. My daughter yelped, screamed, and then the kid let go, and rolled over in the water, facing me. She looked right at me, eyes wide as dinner plates, and face placid and calm.

I, dismissing what was going on as standard-issue pool roughhousing, looked at this placid faced, underwater, eyes wide open child, and she looked back at me, locked eyes with me, and I didn't see it. I, asshole that I am, wagged my finger at the drowning, dying kid, and said (in a scolding voice that I'm sure she couldn't hear, being under water, and fucking drowning) "don't do that!" It never even crossed my mind that she might be drowning.

Distracted, by my daughter's yelping about something or other, gathered my kid up, and took her over to our table to strip off her water wings and get her changed to go home. As I gathered her up, I looked into the pool, and there was the girl, floating about a foot beneath the surface, bend over sort of backwards in the water, eyes staring at the sky, and little bubbles rising from her nose and mouth. And I thought to myself, "kids are so universally weird. I used to do that!" and then, wait for it. I WALKED AWAY. I walked away.

About a minute later all hell broke loose, when a friend noticed that the little girl was no longer swimming around under water, but was laying motionless on the bottom of the pool, eyes wide open.

I don't know if her parents were even aware that she was in the pool. They were sitting at the next table over to Stone, facing the Marina, not the pool. I don't know if the kid could swim, or not. I don't know if something else happened to her that precipitated the drowning. I do know that the kid was in the pool splashing around, and then drowning, for 15 minutes or more and that there was not a parent nearby, directly supervising.

There were 5-8 Adults in the pool at the time, and about 20-30 kids of varying sizes swimming around, screaming, laughing, jumping, fighting over toys, and splashing. There were maybe another 12 parents / adults watching the pool and kids, or sitting nearby. Not one of us realized the kid was drowning.

The Marina Staff were beyond useless. Flailing around, continuing to take orders for food, and standing by staring, as this little girl lay on the deck, not breathing, and various customers attempted to take control. A couple of Expat Women started CPR, and rolled the girl over on her side when she vomited. A guest in an Abaya came over and took over CPR, while other guests and staff from the some of the dive boats ran for their medical kit stored on the boats.

The Resuscitation equipment, when it arrived, came not from the marina, but from one of the Diving outfits who have boats at the Marina. The Marina staff, while well meaning, were totally clueless as to what to do about it. I pulled one of the senior guys aside about five minutes after they dragged the girl out of the pool, and asked if anyone had called an ambulance. he said, "No Need, those people over there are doing CPR?" I think I swore at him, then we called the ambulance. they showed up in ten minutes or so, it was a pretty fast response.

The Marina has plenty of signage pointing pointing out that swimming is at your own risk, and that they are not responsible for supervising your actions in the pool. The Marina does not have a lifeguard on duty, and I don't really think it would have changed anything, as there were so many people in the pool and so many kiddies running around. I don't think having a life guard would save many lives as it would only enable parents to pay even less attention to their children.

That said, the Marina did not appear to have any life saving equipment on hand near the pool, nor did they have any staff who are competent and CPR trained nearby. The little girl is only alive (or dead?) thanks to the heroics of the customers and the staff from a local dive company. It is pretty Obvious that the Marina has not drilled their staff on how to respond to a drowning incident or any other medical emergency. While I suspect that they do indeed have staff trained in CPR and first response, they were nowhere near where they were needed during the critical 15-20 minutes of the crisis.

My daughter has marks on her butt and thighs where the little girl grabbed her. It's unsettling. She keeps asking what happened to the girl. I don't have answers that go beyond the strictly scientific explanations of CPR and how drowning happens. How do you explain that to a three year old? As for me, I have the picture of the kid looking right at me, eyes locked onto mine, while I scolded her for trying to save herself.

Parents, watch your children.

Regarding commenting: While I understand that it isn't my fault, I cannot begin to tell you what a total asshole I feel like. I really fucked this one up, I just totally missed it. I already know I am an Asshole, so i don't need to hear it from you, and likewise, don't need to have a bunch of sunshine blown up my ass by well meaning friends. Cool?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Menu Planning for the Aspiring Domestic Goddess

I didn't want to do this Blog post, but Stone said you guys would be interested. It's his fault if you find this intensely boring. OK?

So, I'm in Week 2 of planning out dinner menus for the upcoming week. I kid you not when I say it is going unbelievably well. We have already saved a fortune in wasted food, and about 14 trips to the store to acquire missing ingredients.

I thought I would share the menus for the first two weeks, and show you where I am getting the ideas from.

Since I know how to cook already, I really just need ideas, and maybe a picture to inspire me. My favorite recipe idea site is which aggregates all the recipes published in Sunset, Southern Living, Cooking Light, Coastal Living, and Real Simple magazines. The pictures are lovely, and I can browse about a million ideas and make my own menu plan for the week. I also like

Here are the first two week's worth of Menu plans.

Week 1:
  • Broiled salmon with a lemon and parsley sauce, fancy-ass potatoes, and grilled asparagus.
  • Lemon Chicken stir fry with red peppers, Bok-choi and whole wheat noodles
  • Chicken Parmesan with Orso, marinara, and broccoli
  • BBQ flank Steak with garlic roasted green beans, octopus salad, and garlic bread
  • Rare roasted Lamb and tomato sandwich on grilled chibatta with Blueberry crumble dessert.
  • Chicken and healthy summer veggie tostadas with salsa, guacamole and sour cream
Week 2:
  • Flank Steak and balsamic roasted cherry tomato sandwiches on grilled ciabatta with grilled potatoes
  • Seared Lamb chops with fresh mint and pea risotto
  • Creamy Beef stroganof with egg yolk pasta and steamed Asparagus
  • Chicken fried Steak with buttermilk biscuits, gravy, peas and corn
  • Brazilian Black beans and rice with fresh salsa and baked bananas
  • Garlic grilled prawns with Sauteed Broccoli and astonishingly expensive potatoes
Once I have decided on the Menu for the week, I make my shopping list based on that menu. I keep A lot of stuff on hand in the pantry and in the deep freeze, so my weekly shop does not always include staples or meat.

Here is my shopping list for last week, it includes everything I will need for the dinners, plus some of the staples we use for other meals and Snacks around here
  • Omani cherry tomatoes
  • Ciabatta or other sexy bread
  • Omani Mushrooms
  • Egg pasta
  • sour cream
  • Rocket
  • mint
  • corriander
  • Baby asparagus
  • watermelon
  • bananas
  • Extra fruit if it looks good
  • frozen peas and corn (Watties!)
  • fresh herbs if they are nice
  • lemons
  • OJ
  • Black beans (canned)
  • 1 cuke
  • red and yellow peppers
  • lamb chops
  • chicken broth
  • parmesan
  • Sibou Prawns
  • whole meal sliced bread
  • laban
  • eggs
  • fancy potatoes
  • broccoli
  • frozen blueberries
  • flank steak
  • Dates
  • cookies
  • Juice (Big and Small)
  • Whole meal flour (stone ground, extra strong)
  • olive oil for cooking ans XVO for dressings
  • Jam and Marmalade
I try to do a quick check of the pantry and the freezer to see if I am running low on any staples such as sugar, coffee, vinegar, anchovies, etc.. and add them to my list. I usually sop at Sultan Center, with occasional trips to Al Fair (hideously expensive potatoes, Popsicles) or Carrefour (Duck Confit, pretentious cheeses)

So far I'm really happy with how it's worked out. We are eating healthier, and I only have to face the grocery store once a week if I'm lucky. Stone is delighted, because he really loves a home cooked meal, and having a slightly less surly wife.