Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas week

We braved the wind and snow Monday to visit the Museum of Idaho's current exhibits (Olde Fashioned Christmas & Winter Festivals):

It was fun to see Nativity sets from around the world, a variety of gingerbread houses, and displays for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Winter Solstice.

On Christmas Eve we had some Middle Eastern food for dinner, and then dressed up for our own Nativity reading/reenactment.

It has been snowing all week until today! We received about a foot more snow after this picture was taken. The big kids are loving all the snow and have been sledding, digging tunnels, making snow angels and throwing snowballs. I'm loving the bright sunlight we have today, and I'm grateful for the time I get to spend with my husband and children right now.

Happy holidays and best wishes for the new year to one and all!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scenes from an eclectic tree

Garland I made from shells collected in Florida during B's internship several years ago. (All the shells had holes in them, so it made sense to us to put them on a string.)

A peasant girl from Russia.

A painted egg from Russia.

A Russian bird of happiness.

A souvenir from our Rhode Island days.

We picked up a few ornaments in Mystic, CT, not far from our home in RI.

From a lovely friend in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

A camel from Sohar, Oman.

Found in Nizwa, Oman.

A bell from the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong.

Our Christmas tree is so eclectic it's kind of ugly (to me), BUT these ornaments are part of our history and bring back good memories, so we like it. Sometime I might post pictures of a few of our stranger ornaments, like the shrunken styrofoam cup that B decorated and sent to the bottom of the ocean while on a November-December research cruise...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


We have a real advent calendar this year--traditional paper, made in West Germany (vintage!). It's been fun.

Our rowan berries are covered in snow, and still beautiful. I love these trees!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Elk farm

Photo from National Geographic

We went for a drive Sunday, to explore some of our area a little (because who knows, maybe we'll actually buy a house here eventually, and while we like living within walking distance of the university, we want to see what it's like outside of town too--it might be fun to live there). Anyway, we were driving around some of the rural parts of our community, not very far away, when we saw a huge corral with a big herd of elk. Right across the street from a new residential development. I guess elk farms are big in Idaho. This NY Times article says there are 78 of them in Idaho, while they are illegal in Montana and Wyoming for fear of contaminating wild elk populations. People will pay $6000 to hunt an elk on one of these ranches. Personally, I prefer seeing elk in the wild. It was awesome to watch a small herd running through a river in Yellowstone last summer. The herd in the corral we saw on Sunday just looked so out of place.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Arabic update

As part of my summer plans I had wanted to review/study a little Arabic with the kids. I was hoping they had retained at least something, since I had been too busy or too sick to work with them on it for most of the year since we arrived in Idaho.

We ended up with not much time for Arabic at all, but at least I was able to figure out where things currently stand. They've forgotten a lot, sadly. Before we moved overseas I assumed they would be able to learn a lot of Arabic. But in reality, the amount of Arabic we were exposed to was minimal, especially spoken/conversational Arabic. Even for the kids, who had native-Arabic-speaking teachers at school. (This article by Peter Hellyer expresses some of the frustrations with the realities of Arabic education for children in the UAE.) The only reason I learned some Arabic was because I went out of my way to learn it, and I was helped by a wonderful multilingual neighbor from Lebanon, who taught a group of us at her villa occasionally my first year.

It was nice to be able to use English there since that's my language--it made my life so easy, and I'm grateful English is widely used--but I would have liked to have had more opportunities to use and learn Arabic.

So, now I need to decide what to do... K has been learning a little Spanish this year at school. C enjoys doing Latin, although we've not been doing it consistently. I don't want to completely give up on Arabic, though. I want to remember what I've learned, and learn more if I can. Maybe it will be just another side hobby for me, and I'll involve the kids when/if I can? I love learning languages, but at this point, with kids at different schools and with different interests and schedules, learning any single language as a family may not work for us. And Arabic is not especially relevant for us anymore (although I'd be happy to move back to Al Ain someday, or maybe Muscat, Oman, for something a little different). I also have Russian to keep up (maybe), and other languages I've been wanting to learn (hoping to take some classes as soon as the baby is a little bigger). But regardless, I'm going to try to keep a few Arabic words and phrases in our family vocabulary. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The grass is always greener...

These pictures on the Moscow Daily Photo blog last week really caught my attention. For one thing, it's still so green there. For another thing, I have been to Alexandrovsky Garden many times, but for me it has always been either covered in snow or brown and lifeless.

I've been to Russia twice, living there as a student, and both times I went during Winter Semester. Why do I punish myself like this? Who in her right mind would choose to go to Russia when it is coldest, darkest, dreariest?

(And now I'm living in Idaho! At least I get to enjoy the summer here...)

Oh, how I would love to explore Russia without having to wear heavy layers and snow boots! If I ever go back to Russia, I need to make sure I'm there in the summer.

M & B on a cold January day in Moscow, 1996

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Animal Shelter

My kids love animals. As for me, I like them, but I'm not crazy about having pets. Anyway, we're renting right now and can't have a pet. So instead, we've agreed to volunteer at the local animal shelter occasionally to play with the animals there.

The shelter is close to the Nature Park, so we can take the dogs out to walk at the park when we go.

C needed to do an outdoor service project for cub scouts, so the kids also picked up trash around the park as they walked the dog.

They had a great time!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Straw Maze

Some entrepreneurial students teamed up with a local farmer to create a straw maze using huge bales of straw, and last night we decided to check it out...

Our kids loved it--I don't know what they were expecting, but when we got inside they happily exclaimed, "It's a real maze!"

It was especially nice because we had it almost to ourselves while we were there. It was challenging, but not too much. If we had gone when it was dark I imagine it would be much more difficult.

Our gingerbread baby was happy, too, as long as we kept moving.

Then we came home for homemade hot chocolate with Halloween marshmallows--yum!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Portuguese Soup

Last spring, C received a cabbage seedling at school, brought it home, and planted it in the backyard. A few weeks ago, it was ready to be picked, and although the outside leaves looked a little ragged, the head of cabbage down inside was beautiful!

B likes to cook on the weekends, especially now that the baby is here, to help me out. He decided to use the cabbage to make one of his Grandma G's recipes. Grandma G is no longer with us, but B has great memories of visiting her in Bristol, Rhode Island, and eating her delicious Portuguese home cooking.

We have a couple of different versions of this recipe from different family members, but this is the one we used, and it was delicious--K and C seemed to really like it too (S is not a very adventurous eater, so she wouldn't even give it a try).

Grandma G's Portuguese Soup

1 medium-sized onion, diced
3-4 tsp. salt
1 lb. linguiça (or chouriço, another Portuguese sausage)
2 lbs. or 1 head cabbage, heart removed
2 or 3 cans kidney beans (or 1 lb. dried kidney beans, cooked)
6 medium-sized potatoes, diced

Slice linguiça and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place linguiça, onion, and salt in large soup pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about half an hour. Dice cabbage. Add cabbage and kidney beans to the boiling broth. Add water as needed. Cook cabbage for a few minutes, then add the potatoes. Cook 20-30 minutes.

(B notes that sometimes kale is used with the cabbage or as a substitute.)

This makes a lot of soup, so we put about half in the freezer to save for later!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This week (and half of next week) is harvest vacation for the kids. B had been wanting to drive out to some of the potato fields and watch the harvest--after all, since we're in Idaho right now, we might as well witness something the state is world-famous for. We heard reports that it would snow today (it did--there is snow on the ground right now), so yesterday we decided we needed to go before it was too late, and as soon as B came home from work we drove out to experience a little bit of the harvest.

These machines dig up the potatoes and load them into big trucks as they move through the field.

Truck full of potatoes (the driver thought it was pretty funny that we were taking pictures).

There are lots of potatoes left behind in the fields after harvesting. Many farmers let people glean the leftovers apparently, but this field had been harvested earlier and the potatoes exposed to the frost, so I'm not sure they could still be used. And today we had snow, so is harvesting done for the year? I'm not sure, but it was fun to see some of it in action while we could.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Painted animals

In the UAE we had painted camels...

(Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi)

and falcons...


and more camels...

(Al Ain)

Here in the Wild West we have painted bison...

(West Yellowstone, Montana)

Yellowstone 2008

We finally made it to Yellowstone this year over Labor Day weekend. We only spent one day, but it was fun.

It was crowded, since it was a holiday weekend, and a lot hotter than we expected, and windy, but in spite of all that we enjoyed it. I got sunburned, though--why is it that I always forget sunscreen and hats here? They were a must-have in the UAE; I guess I should make them a must-have here too. (Luckily, I brought the baby's hat.)

I look forward to going back next year when N is a little older.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Early fall

(Photos taken by B.)

Monday, September 8, 2008


B was extremely lucky to have mostly sunny days while he was there--very rare!

I love the old-fashioned drinking fountain on this building.

Reykjavík doesn't get very warm in the summer, but their winters are milder than here in Eastern Idaho. The lack of sunlight in winter would be hard for me. Still, I'd love the chance to go someday...