Saturday, March 31, 2007

The grand nieces...




More foreign signs....

Germany takes their environmental issues very seriously. Everyone recycles and the ecosystem is maintained as much as possible. Old buildings are carefully preserved and new construction is monitored closely.

The little bridge past the overpass in the distance is the home of a special breed of frogs. The road is CLOSED between the hours of 7 pm until 4 am every night during the spring and summer so they can migrate from one side of the stream to another.

Before and After

I love Germany. It is a lovely, clean little country and the people are so cheerful and nice!

I arrived March this!

And I left March 29 and it looked like this!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What am I doing?

I'm in Germany, hanging with the bro and his family.

Been cooking, shopping and partying, too.

I arrived on Friday morning to SNOW! I'll post pictures later as I can't read German and the Paint program process of resizing pics is beyond my capabilities. All my luggage arrived with me this time! Yeah!

We've been having a lot of fun going out and about, the weather is so funny - our big question of the day is always 'longjohns...or not?' LOL

Friday night was a going away party at the sports bar - the DJ was great, he played a mixure of old American/British rock and roll, German rock and traditional drinking songs. And a little techno and modern stuff, too. Chuck wouldn't dance with me during Billy Idol's 'Mony,'Mony' but everyone got up and danced to 'Freak Out.' It was loud, fun and long...just the way a good party should be! We all came home and slept like rocks until the next day LOL.

The babies (Chuck's grandkids, ages 9, 7 and 4), are just as cute as can be, even though they don't speak English and I don't speak German. We get by with handsignals, drawing pictures, pointing and a lot of posturing and gestures. We all manage to have a good time...except they've all three soundly whomped me at the game MEMORY. My memory ain't what it used to be...LOL.

Sylvia is a great cook and has been showing me all kinds of recipes...she made a black forest cake...and today we're getting a buttercream cake...sigh.

We went to brunch at Jessie's place of work, LandGasthof HessenMuhle. It was divine...simply divine. We walked about the farm and ponds afterwards, just to work off all the good food. I had dinner there before, which was also fabulous. If you ever get a chance, GO.

I met old friends again from the first time I visited, we spent an afternoon with them, too.

Tomorrow, the chef from the Gasthof is coming over to teach me a few of the favorites I had at the brunch! I'm really excited, I actually love to cook but never really had the time before. With retirement, I hope I can do a lot of experimenting in my new kitchen! Once the house is built, of course!

I leave Thursday morning for home...wonder what the weather will be like there? LOL

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Out and about at eating establishments....

I want to say a quick HELLO to Blaize, Kayleigh and Jaden! I'm glad you're enjoying my blog. Give your Mom a big hug!

When eating out, there are two or even three sections in many restaurants. One is the Singles Section, for men only. Another is the Ladies Section, for women only. And last is the Family Section, for families only. If there is no Ladies Section, women go and eat in the Family Section.

In many restaurants, the Family Section has booths with curtains on them. Veiled women can go in the booth, close the curtain and take off their veils to eat. When they are finished, they put the veils back on and open the curtains.

This is me, in one of the curtained booths at McDonald's. In some restaurants, they only have a limited number of the curtained booths. At one restaurant, I wanted to sit in one just because of the novelty and the management asked if I would please choose another table as the Saudis got upset if there weren't any booths for their veiled women to sit at!

This is the McDonald's Condiment Table. See the wooden rack? Those are prayer rugs. If a man is caught out and about without his prayer rug and a call to prayer is sounded (over loudspeakers from every mosque in the city) he can grab a prayer rug, spread it out pointing towards Mecca, and say his prayers in public.

This tightly woven mat is used as a plate for communal eating. Traditionally, it is placed on the floor and the food, usually lots of rice and chicken or lamb, is heaped on it. The patriarch of the group breaks the chicken or lamb up with his hands and gives a portion to everyone in the circle. Everyone sits around the mat and eats using their right hand. No utensils are used. This style of eating is done as an honor for people who are trusted friends and guests. Richard has participated in sharing lunch in this manner with people at the University.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


It seems surreal today. For one thing, we've been having a mild sand storm. Visibility is a little hazy, and there's a fine layer of dust all over the house. Naturally, I dusted yesterday.

My bags are packed. Richard and I went out and bought a suitcase so I could return with the things we bought since I arrived. Four rugs. Some souvenirs. More clothes (My luggage was lost for over a month - I had to have something to wear). I shall be WAY over my weight limit but apparently if you pay extra, the airlines will take it anyway.

I am leaving here in less than a week. There's a condition upon which I may return, but we are waiting for a final decision before we decide if I shall.

One thing that I really liked about being here (besides being with Richard!)...I have made a LOT of progress on my book. When this book is done, it will be the 16th book I've completed. Amazing. Umm...10 of those books are unpubbed. Maybe someday. Or maybe not. My problem is that I never send them out. Note to self: start sending books out to publishers.

Did you know that Nutella doesn't get all soft and gooey if you zap it in the microwave? It kind of carmelizes. Oh well, it tasted good with my apple, anyway.

Okay, enough procrastination. Gotta go write.

Flint and Echo

This is Echo (black) and Flint - taken last month after the big Midwest snowstorm.

Echo looks pretty wolf-like. She loves the snow. Flint doesn't care for it, but he wants to be where his humans are, so he'll struggle through it to keep up.

Both dogs are my babies. Sigh. I miss them. They're back home while I am here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Homemade Dog Food...

The canned dog food recall didn't affect my dogs.

Since they've been puppies, I've fed them homemade dog food that is cheaper and healthier than canned dog food. Flint is allergic to wheat gluten and was sick for a year after we got him. I was constantly changing dog food, getting more and more expensive stuff, trying to help him, then I remembered a friend of ours feeding her dog homemade food due to allergies.

Most commercial dog foods are 40-60% WHEAT or ground corn. The rest is often meat by products - hooves, bone meal, and the parts of the animal most humans don't eat. There is controversy that some of the by products are actually good for carnivore animals as their feral cousins (wolves, coyotes) eat it. Vegetables such as carrots, peas and green beans are also added to dog food.

Since I don't know, I make my own. Flint and Echo have been healthy now for five years. They've had routine visits to the vet for their shots, and that's it. Their coats are glossy, and in fact, Flint tends to get overweight.

Here's the homemade dog food recipe.

1 package of hamburger (most are sold in 1 1/2 lbs packages)
1/2 - 1 cup of mixed frozen vegetables
3 cups rice
6 cups water

Microwave the rice and water for 20 minutes in HI. Or use a rice cooker or regular pan if you prefer.

Brown hamburger, then add veggies and cook until soft. Mixe hamburger/veggies and cooked rice together.

Divide and store food into FOUR (4) plastic sandwich containers (like Glad or Ziploc ones with lids). Food can be frozen, too. Microwave for 5 minutes to unfreeze, cool before serving.

Each container feeds TWO 50 lb. dogs. They get about 3/4 to one cup of food each.

Although I feed my dogs breakfast sometimes, they usually leave the food in the bowl and don't eat it. They prefer one meal a day, at evening.

Cost for 8 meals:

Hamburger $2 (I usually get it cheaper)
Mixed vegetables 25 cents ($1 bag divided into 4 recipes)
Rice (25 lb bag - $8) 25 cents

Total cost per meal 31 cents

Cheaper than any canned dog food I can find.

I don't feed my dogs dry dog food because most are 40-60% wheat or corn meal, too. The only ones which aren't, are too expensive in comparision to my own homemade dog food.

Flint and Echo do get snacks every day. They love cheese and I often give them tidbits of leftovers, too. Flint also likes crunchy dry bone snacks - I buy the rice/meat kind.

ADDENDUM: I'm posting this several hours later - I received a comment from an employee of an unnamed pet store about the recall - guess they're trolling the 'Net to find who is commenting on it - well get this! The email was an advertisement FOR A DIFFERENT TYPE OF CANNED DOG FOOD that the store carries!

The advertisement is now deleted. This is MY blog and its non-commercial except for advertisements for books and whatever *I* choose. If you want to advertise on my blog, please send an email and what price you are willing to pay. I'll decide if its worth my space and get back to you. Thank you.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Around the compound...

Richard and I live in an apartment in a compound. In fact, nearly everyone lives in a compound. Single family homes are always surrounded by high walls and gates. Apartment complexes are also surrounded by high walls and gates. Usually within the compounds women are allowed to dress as they please and can go about without the abaya.

Looking down the road towards our apartment. In front of the small black sedan is our doorway. In front of the car parked furthest away is our little prayer room. It is not considered a mosque unless it has the spires.

This is the doorway going to our second floor apartment. That's Fred, my cup, in my hand. Because I dehydrate easily, I have carried Fred for about 25 years. The cup is not the original Fred. Every couple years, I have to replace him because he gets cracked, his straw breaks or his diaper (the cool-wrap)wears out. The nice thing about this Fred is that wine-bottle bags fit over him. I dressed Fred up for Christmas in a sparkly gold and green velvet bag, much to the dismay of my family and friends. Hey, it beats gambling and boozing.

Behind our compound is an empty lot. To build up soil crews often use lots as landfills, then cover it over when they are ready to build. This lot is home to a pack of wild dogs. When I first got here, these dogs were roly-poly puppies. They have grown quite a bit in 3 months.

We live within walking distance of the Holiday Inn and often go over there for brunch and dinner.

Off to the Beach!

On the way to the beach to ride camels - just a few interesting photos.

The beach shop!

This gas station and mosque is out near the beach. It is the only structure for several miles. When the call to prayer sounds over the loudspeakers, the faithful will stop and go inside to pray.

1 Brief, Shining Moment, that was known as Camel Lot!

So Richard and I went out to do a little shopping and then we went to the beach to do a little camel riding. The camel owner saw "tourist" and charged us about $60 for the ride.

This is the good shot. When the camel was still rising, at one point, the soles of my shoes were pointed at the sky. I was extremely unnerved, but the rig stayed in place, so all was well.

So now we're all the way up and I can see a lot! However, riding a camel is NOT comfortable. Even when the beast is plodding along it is like riding in a car with no shocks on a road full of potholes.

Wow - this is fun! Not comfortable - but fun!

Well, I managed to get off the camel gracefully. A bit windy, so my abaya was blowing all over, but no one noticed or said anything.

This is the horse that was with the camel. I'm not sure why the owners do it, but every camel on the beach is with a horse. The owners sometimes have saddles on the horses so people can ride them, too. Richard rode the horse, but I didn't get any pictures because he had the camera.

In the Philippines, we called this cart a Calesa. I'm not sure what its called here in Saudi Arabia. They are all over the beach and kids take rides on them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The beauty of Mosques...

In Saudi Arabia, if a person wishes to build something, he must also build a mosque for the people to worship freely. So, every structure, including malls, gas stations, apartment complexes, family compounds and even the Corniche (beach boardwalk) has a mosque. Some are large, some are small, some are hidden in corners or different levels. The one in our compound is right next to our apartment. And many, many are architecturally stunning. Here are a few.

This mosque is actually in Bahrain on the main drag.

This is the mosque on the Corniche.

A mosque in Al-Khobar.

A mosque on the way to Richard's work.

Signs of the times...

One tends to think of the alphabet as universal and really, it is. But how different people write it is always fascinating. With Arabic, the words are read right to left. Here are a few signs with both languages.

Richard took this picture of an archaeological dig he visited. Never having seen a Royal Decree, I thought the last line of the sign was interesting. Most locals have little or no interest in their ancient past. Many ancient sites are destroyed or buried with no concern for their historical value. Artifacts are thrown away or lost and very little is maintained.

Going through Immigration and Customs, veiled women have the right to maintain their privacy. The women are allowed to leave their vehicles and go into a private building for women only with their passports. The woman can remove her veil, her photo is matched, and she is given a slip of paper to give to outside Security that agrees that she is who she says she is. Since I do not wear the veil, I can stay in the car with my husband and be waved through after our passports are checked.

By the way, I have been told the veil is not religious, but cultural. I have no idea if this is true.

My cousin owns a Harley Davidson dealership so I have fun finding them in other countries and taking photos to send back. The Harley Club here has a great emblem, it has a camel on it! I will post a photo of it once I get a decent picture.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 13, 2007

Today is my brother Mark's birthday.

There've been a lot of tears and fears this past year and half. Our family was devastated by a cataclysmic event that we never thought we'd face again. Mark is on the frontline of that event. I can only send thoughts of love, dignity and peace to him and his family. Someday, we'll be whole again, forever changed, but whole.

Peace be with you, Mark & Violeta. And oceans of love to Loralei and Orion, too. You are in my heart always.

Visiting the farm...

While visiting the farm, we discovered our host grew many other crops. One was this small fruit about the size of a golfball. It looked like an apple and tasted like a cross between an apple and a pear. He is currently doing experiments in hybrid breeding. My days of learning Booker T. Washington's and Thomas Jefferson's hybrid breeding of crops were long behind me, but the gist of it is our host grafted the fruit onto another kind of tree and what we were looking at was the result.

Here we are in the orchard. We weren't actually discussing fruit at the time. My sleeve got caught on the many thorns of the bush next to me and we had just managed to get me released without tearing up my brand-new shirt. Notice I am not wearing the abaya. Within the compounds and on private property, women do not have to be traditionally covered or veiled.

Our friend is one of the few people who have dogs and cats. Dogs are becoming very popular here, but the people do not have a lot of experience working with them. The little white Schipperke (pronounced Skipper-key) is named Ali Baba, but is called "Bob." The full-blooded German Shepherd is named "Bobby." One of Bobby's littermates now belongs to one of the Princes of Saudi Arabia. Our host gave the puppy to the Prince as a gift. Bobby was suspicious and barked at everyone. We were with a young lady who had no experience with animals and Bobby scared her. I walked up to him and showed her that the dogs were very friendly, but he had a very deep, resounding bark that was a little intimidating!

As a former dog-handler and with two dogs of my own, I enjoyed being around the dogs. If there'd been a way to do it, I would have enjoyed working with our friend's dogs to teach them basic commands and manners.

We got lost!

On the way to our friend's farm we got lost! The problem is that once on the outskirts of Al-Khobar, all the street signs gradually change completely to Arabic. Since we are shamelessly ignorant of the language of the country we are visiting...We ended up almost to Hafr and heading to Kuwait!

The highway signs that showed us we were lost. Cell phone reception was sporadic, but we finally raised our friend and he guided us back to the right turn-off.

The sandstorm was a little scary - like snow, it blanketed the horizon and visibility was sketchy. but then we saw the camels...Camels are protected in Saudi Arabia. They wander specific areas of the countryside. The Arabians have races with them, as well as use them for transport and tourist rides.

Past and Present come together...

100 years ago, Bedouins roamed the Arabian desert with camels, living in small nomadic tribes within palm frond houses and tents. Some still do. In today's society, the Arabs often go back to their roots, building the palm frond lean-tos and camping in the desert in large tents. The tents are very luxurious, a firepit in the middle for making tea, Persian carpets on the floor and low couches and chairs around the edges. People congregate in the tents to talk, eat, drink tea and discuss world events.

This hut is made from palm fronds. The gentleman whose farm we visited told us that as a young child his family lived in one similar only much larger. His date farm is one of many scattered about the countryside. There are many varieties of dates in Saudi Arabia. The government encourages the growth of dates because the crop has a huge impact on their culture. When visiting anywhere, even many locally run stores, guests are offered a date and small cup of tea.

Old and new come together in an ad for a Toyota Land Cruiser. Around Al-Khobar, there are many areas that are not developed. The locals take tents and families out to these areas and camp for a day or two. We often see people dressed traditionally sitting on Persian rugs in front of a tent and socializing.

Monday, March 12, 2007


So we went to the Corniche in Dammam to check out the local sights.

Richard took this incredible series of shots from a great distance with his digital camera. We were so far away we thought the birds were PELICANS. Only when we got home and downloaded, zoomed and cropped did we discover he took some lovely shots of FLAMINGOS in a mating dance.

"Kiss me, you fool!"

"I would be delighted, my dear!"

Wanna neck, too?"

"Neck? What? You have no romance in your soul!"

"Stop following me, you cad!"


And then we went down the road...

I guess because of his 21 years in the Navy, Richard has a fascination with boats. Yet another set of antique boats off the Corniche.

This is on the highway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia...there's one on the other side, too.

More fun stuff

Out and about Richard and I try to check things out that are different. We have a lot of fun experiencing things. Some things are a lot of fun...other things are distressing.

This is me withthe baby camel named Waatha. Waatha was a lovely young lass in ancient Bedouin literature. The camel Waatha was friendly and enjoyed kissing and any treats we handed out.

Women who prefer to remain veiled in public need places to eat in private. Most restaurants have a Ladies Only or Family Section for these women to eat alone, or only with their families. In these sections there are often booths with curtains so that a woman may eat in privacy.

The singles section is for MEN ONLY. Richard and I accidentally went through that door to order and we were kindly directed to the Family Section. It beats getting kicked out of Dunkin Donuts my second day here. Yes, they didnt' have a Ladies or Family Section to eat in so I was gravely informed that I was not allowed to eat there. They also wouldn't take my order because I simply approached the counter and didn't realize I was supposed to order behind a screen to the left that was set aside for women! Richard ended up ordering my glazed donut and then our group went off to eat at the Corniche (the beach).

Having fun...

Right after I arrived, we were invited to the home of a friend of Richard's. The gentleman had set up a traditional Bedouin tent for our after lunch enjoyment. We had a traditional lunch sitting on the floor and sharing the meal, then went outside for a tour of the date farm. Then we spent the afternoon and evening in the tent, with tea, chocolate, bahklava treats and dates.

Yes. This is Richard, my mysterious husband who takes all these photos of me and whom no one EVER sees. Isn't he cute?

Me, playing with the hookah. No, I didn't smoke it although everyone else tried a puff or two. Here the hookah is called a bubbly and many women get together in the privacy of their homes for a little bubbly.

As we drove out of our compound, there in the field next to the Holiday Inn was a herd of sheep and the shepherd! When we got home to download the photos and zoomed in to see the lambs, we discovered the sheep...were goats. LOL

More pictures

The local sport here is to take your car out to the sand dunes and rip up and down the dunes as fast as you can go. There are frequent accidents, rollovers and deaths.

People set up tents, bring their families and everyone hangs out watching the mayhem.

Further down from the dunes is Half Moon Beach. Out at this beach, you can ride quadrunners, horses and camels.