Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Goodbye 2009

It's that time of year. The end of the year when everyone is making out their new years resolutions and reminiscing about the year that's ending. I for one, have never really been into either of these things. I don't go out to celebrate the incoming year. I have made resolutions before, but not with serious intent to keep any of them. And I don't think that I have ever reminisced about the passing year. However, this year of 2009 has been a big one for me and I feel the need to write about it.

Our year started out with a wonderful blessing. In February our second child, first son, was born. He is an amazing addition to our family! He is just about 11 months old now and he is so much fun to watch grow. So very different than my daughter, whom we also love more than anything the world could give us. Omar is curious about his world, persistent about getting what he wants, stubborn when told no, adorable to no end, and full of laughter. I am certain that he will be fully walking by the end of the week. Again, persistent. He has been working on his walking skills without hesitation for 2 weeks now. Today, he is able to walk about the distance of half the room before skidding onto his face, followed by laughter and back onto his feet to try it again! He and his sister have become great friends; playing and laughing together most of the day...with a few arguments regarding who get to play with what toy.

The end of March, while on my maternity leave, we took a trip over to Jordan to visit my in laws and introduce them to our toddler and new baby. Little did we know at that time, we would be back in a few live.

In May, I quit my work at St. Francis Hospital in Milwaukee, WI when we found out we are moving. I worked there for 7 years and loved almost every moment of it...almost every moment...LOL! I had so many wonderful friends (nurses, doctors and staff) that I worked closely with. It was so hard to say was expecially hard because I didn't really get a chance to say all happened to quickly. I also didn't get to say goodbye to my friends outside work, just a phone call and back to packing. Too much happened too quickly.

Then, in June, there was the passing of my wonderful Grandmother. I don't know how to express how much she meant to me and to our family. She was so strong and her strength was the backbone that kept us all strong. She was an amazing woman, whom I respected and looked up to with great admiration. She has and always will be one the dearest people in my life. She has touched my life in so many ways. I am thankful for her life and grateful that she was alive until her last breath. So many people just linger in this world and she continued living until her last day. I miss her dearly, there are really no words to describe her and how much I loved her. I miss you Grandma.

July, we move to Jordan. Ugh. What a nightmare it has been to finally feel that we have settled here. It is now the last day in December and I can say that we are finally, pretty much, settled in. We found out about the move in May, I put in my two weeks notice at work, packed diligently, shipped our stuff to Jordan, went to visit family in the US over the next month, and then landed in Jordan in July. It took two months to find an apartment worth living in, followed by another month of fixing, painting and unpacking before we moved in. Once moved in we had to do too many things to make everything work....I don't know how many times and how many different electricians over to convert our appliances over to 220v before they were all working. We had so many issues with the appliances...FYI to anyone moving the appliances in the country you are moving to, unless they use the same electrical systems as your homeland!!! Then all the paperwork we have had to do in order to stay in country. How many times have we been down the same roads only to be told that we have to do another step before they can talk to us (why didn't you tell us that the first time!), or for paperwork not to have gone through yet, or the place was closed for the day. Nothing here is done electronically and no one gives you a pre-typed form that tells you that these are the steps you have to take to get from A to B...nope, you have to keep driving down to the places, wait in line, talk to some guy that doesn't have all the answers, hope he told you correctly, only to find out later that he forgot to mention 3 steps inbetween and you have just wasted an entire afternoon...again. Hmmm....I guess I better get off this subject...I'm rambling. Basically nothing is easy here and it has taken a loooong time to get where we are at. I am so grateful for my wonderful husband who has taken over everything and made our family comfortable. He is truly amazing!

We are now finishing up December and 2009. I want to say a few things to my friends and family back home. First off, I miss you. I am soooo looking forward to my parents coming to visit this spring! And soooo looking forward to seeing many of you this summer when we come to Minnesota (don't know when yet). Second, thank you all for your support during this difficult time in our lives. I couldn't have pulled threw it without your support. Lastly, I'm sorry for not being there for you this year like I wish I could have. I have been more than a little self-centered this year because of all the baby and moving in particular. I hope to be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend in 2010!

Stay safe, stay warm and Happy New Year! Love you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Clean House - Dirty House

Awe...the subject of a clean home vs. a dirty one...or should I say the subject of Mommy when the house is clean vs. when the house is a mess!

I hate a dirty, unorganized home! I can't think straight when the house looks like a tornado came through. I literally get anxious, moody and upset when the house is a mess. On the flipside, when the house is clean....ahhhh, there is no feeling like a clean home. I can relax and enjoy the day. I can say though that I have gotten better over the years.

Eleven years ago, when we were first married (and I was living on my own for the first time), I was the guy from the movie "Sleeping with the Enemy". Remember that movie from the early 1990's with Julia Roberts. Her husband was a freak about having the home organised, down to the soup cans facing the same way...YEP, I had my soup cans facing the same way and everything else put in its place.

When I was in nursing school about 7 years ago, it was always the same story minus the need for the soup cans in one direction! I'd sit down to study and then look across the room. If there was a mess, I would have to stop studying, pick up the mess before studying....I couldn't think with stuff everywhere or out of place. (Honestly, I probably thought it was a good way to get out of studying for a little while too...LOL).

When it comes to cooking, my kitchen has to be clean before I start. So often, I am cleaning before and after I cook or bake...sometimes I realise that it would just be easier if I simply cleaned after, and I've tried it...but I can't think straight with the mess in front of me!

Now days, I have 2 young kids around helping Yanal and I make a messes. My kids are 2.5 years and 11 months. I don't have much time for cleaning and the kids do a great job of keeping things messy. When I do have time to clean, they are literally right behind me making a mess of what I just put away. So I have learned to look the other way and over the messes....for a little while anyways....then I start freaking out. I haven't decided if I am freaking out these days because I can't think straight or if it's because I am so frustrated that I have to clean on top of everything else that needs to be done throughout the day. I use to love to clean...I would clean when I was upset because it would give me something productive to do as I burned off my frustrations...but nowdays, cleaning just makes me angry and frustrated. I am so lucky to have a helpful husband who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, because he likes a clean house too. My Mom always tells me to let the house slide more now that I have kids. Because I am busy raising and playing with them. And I do let a lot of things slide that I never would have before...but it's not because I want to, it's because I don't have the time.

That's the other thing I can't ever understand. How can I not have the time when I am a stay at home Mom?! I am home all day, my house should be spotless...but it's not....ha, not even close! I have looked into hiring someone to come clean once a week or so, but that feels weird. Like, can't I keep up with it myself?...again, I am home all day!

I tell you props to all the stay at home Mommies out there that can keep up with the mess. And please, please......share your daily schedule with me. Do you clean at the end of the day or as you go or a bit of both? How do you do do you raise kids, play with kids, feed them nutrious meals, get excercise in, take time for yourself and keep your home clean. Aren't these the things they tell us we should be doing?! Please let me know if you know and secrets on how to do all of this!! I wish there were more time in the day.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fun Things Not Mentioned Before

Throughout the passing days, different things come to mind regarding what to blog about. Many times these are just thoughts that pass from one side of my brain to the next. They are forgotten and never written down. Although, once in a while I have an idea that gets stuck in my mind and for whatever reason I still haven't blogged about them. So, here are a few of those things that have stuck in my mind and I have now, finally, written them down.

Golfing In the Desert
Who knew. Jordan has a golf course. Amidst the arid land and lack of water, someone decided to build a gold course. Honestly, I chuckled a bit when I learned more about the course itself. It was built in the 1990, meant to be the first of many...although currently there is only one golf course in Amman and two in Jordan. The Facts: it's a 9 hole course, 2754 yards, par 34. There is a driving range, club house, restaurant and bar. The Funnies: The putting greens are called "Browns". Why browns?! Well, they are brown in color. They are made from a mixture of oil and sand! There is not enough water to support grass, so this is the alternative! In addition, the fairway isn't full of lush beautiful green grass, so you have to carry a mat. A mat, what do you mean a mat?! Seriously, the player carries a mat around with them and uses it under their ball to give them a nice playing surface. LOL. If you don't believe's their website: We actually went to the golf course this summer and checked it out. To be honest, the club house is very nice. The course itself is not what I'm use to...looked pretty rugged and dry. However, Amman does have a golf course and there were lots of players on the course! Dad....bring your clubs! :-)

The Butt Washer
Huh? Well, it all started when I sent out pictures of our new place to my friends and family. I received many replies regarding the bathroom....what is that thing next to the toilet? Is that a urinal? It is another toilet? Is that a butt washer? Well...yes, it is a butt washer....but to be proper it is called a bidet. The bidet is widely used in Jordan and the Muslim world, some parts of Asia and Western Europe (let me know if it is used widely in your part of the world too). It is not widely used in the US; however, it is gaining popularity. The reason it is widely used in Jordan and the Muslim world is due to the strict cleanliness rules Muslims must abide by. Muslims must wash themselves with water after using the bathroom; therefore, there is the bidet. To learn more about Islam and cleanliness go to this great article: A bidet is a small plumbing fixture that stands separately next to the toilet. There are a few different variations of the bidet. In Jordan, many bathrooms are equipped with a spray hose next to the toilet instead of a full bidet. As mentioned, it is used to clean yourself after relieving yourself. Here is more info on the bidet:

The Weather
Okay, so if there is nothing else to talk about, people always ask about the weather. People are always asking me about the weather in Jordan...and this time, it's not because there is nothing else to talk's because they are interested. So, here's a snapshot of the weather in Jordan. We are in the Northern Hemisphere (just on the opposite side of the world). Being in the Northern Hemisphere means that we have winter when the US has winter and we have summer at the same time too. Therefore, we are currently in the winter season. However, as I mentioned in my previous entry, our winter season is not like the winters of Minnesota. Amman has a latitude of 31 degrees 57', whereas the latitude in Minneapolis is 44 degrees 59', and the closest latitude I found was El Paso, theoretically, we have similar weather to El Paso, TX...however, I have never been there to confirm this. This next week our weather forecast is as follows: Wed (Hi: 62, lo: 42); Thur (65, 43); Fri (67, 45), Sat (67, 45), Sun (71, 48), Mon (59, 50). I looked back at the weather last week because this seemed higher than it has been and sure enough, last week we averaged mid-50's. Coldest months are Jan and Feb. On contrast, hottest months are July and August. The average temperature during these months are in the mid-90's. One thing I will never complain about here is the weather! For those of you who know my husband Yanal.....I can now understand why he kept complaining all these years of the weather while living in the Midwest. Question for any of you...why do men from the desert move to Minnesota or Wisconsin?!

Lastly, every time I cook here I think to add this to my blog. The US does everything so backwards from the rest of the world and now I am confused! I learned the metric system in school and we use it quite a bit in the medical field....but I am still confused. Like, I have the whole conversion for kg to pounds, no problem, did this all the time at work. I have a button on my car that switches from Km to mile, so when I feel like I am flying at 80 Km, I can hit the button and realize that I am only driving at at the speed of 50 mph. I can sort of do the conversion from Celsius to Fahrenheit, good enough anyways, and my computer can switch it over for me instantly. But when my recipe calls for 8oz and the package I am looking at is in grams, what the heck am I suppose to do?! It's so confusing to be at the 'super market' and everything is in metric. And trying to read the nutritional labels on the back of the boxes...come on....seriously, I was great at them in the US....but here, I am totally lost. Help!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season in Jordan

It's interesting living here during this time of year. I feel so disconnected from that which has always been apart of my life, my culture, my being. Every so often I am jolted into thoughts and memories of what is that, which is everything back home right now.

First of all, I talked to my parents in Minnesota a few nights ago and they have plenty of snow and the temperature was negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit....did you catch that?....20 degrees BELOW zero! Well, here in 'sunny' Jordan the temperature is hanging around 55F. Do the math, that's 70 degrees higher than home (and I'll tell you a secret.....I am cold.....have I already forgotten what it was like to be whipped in the face with 20 below freezing wind and snow? Have I already forgotten what it's like to literally loose feeling in my fingers as I put the grocery bags in my car?).

Honestly, most days I forget that it is winter here. There is no snow here, although on occasion it will snow in Jordan. We have palm trees and the sun still shines most days. However, the days are short and the nights are cold. We do turn on the heat at different times of the day. I wish I could run the radiators more, but they are so incredibly expensive....In both November and in December we spent 150JD=$210 in diesel to run the radiators...ouch! (Yanal went out tonight to by a Soba (space heater that runs on propane) to help us keep warm without using the radiators).

Talking to my sister Sarah today, I remember the potential problems the car can have back home from the cold. Her heater is not working in her car....and it's only 7 below...brrrr! I can honestly say, without batting an eye that I am glad not to be shoveling my car out of the drive way, hoping not to get stuck or skid-out into the ditch on my way to work at 430am before the snow plows have gone threw our nighborhood!

Secondly, as you are all well aware, it's the Christmas season around the Christian world, but did you know that it's Christmas in Jordan too? Jordanian Christians make up 6% of Jordan population. They live together, Christians and Muslims side by side...yes, side by side...without conflict. Just to clear up the misconception out there that Christians and Muslims cannot live side by side without conflict. This is untrue today as it has been for centuries. Sure, there has been war between them from time to time, but really who hasn't been to war with each other? Most Christians and Muslims can and have lived side by side -in peace-.

Christians and churches are scattered though out Amman. They are decorating their homes and churches as in the US. It's fun to see the creative decor of lights they have around the trunks of palm trees and on their windows. My sister-in-law, Rasha, is from the town of Madaba, which has a large community of Christians (40% of the city). She was visiting her family last week and said the neighborhood is filled with lights and decorations. She told me stories of when she grew up in Madaba. Her and her family are Muslim and would visit their Christian neighbors and wish them a Merry Christmas during the Christmas holiday: just as her Christian neighbors would come visit her and her family to wish them Eid Mubarak during the two Eids. Sounds wonderful!
Honestly, I expected to see the lights and decorations on the occasional home around Amman, but I didn't expect to see all the decor around the stores. Nearly all the stores in the mall, the mall itself and the main street stores have Christmas trees, lights, decorations and sales to bring you into their store to shop. Even the billboards have been hit by the marketing of they were for the Islamic holidays...I am surprised by it all with only a 6% minority.

I haven't heard any Christmas music playing on the radio; however, they may be in Arabic and I may not be familiar with the music here. The TV tonight was play the Christmas cartoon staring Shrek, in Arabic.

So 'tis the season weather you are here in Amman, back home in Minnesota and elsewhere in the world. We hope you all stay warm and safe during this winter season and we wish you all a Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Olives and Olive Oil

Fun Facts
- The olive and the olive branch is a symbol of abundance, glory, peace, wisdom, fertility, power and pureness.
- Olive branches were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars of the past.
- The olive tree and olives are mentioned in the Bible over 30 times (old and new testaments).
- The olive is praised as a precious fruit in the Quran. The olive tree and olive oil are mentioned in the Quran 7 times.
- Olive oil has long been considered sacred.
- Olive oil was used by the ancient Greeks to anoint kings and athletes.
- Olive oil was burned in sacred lamps in temples
- Olive oil was the 'eternal flame' of the original Olympic Games.
- It is estimated that olive tree cultivation started 7000 years ago.

Health Benefits
The health benefits of olive oil is due to the high concentration of monosaturated fatty acids and its high content of antioxidative substances.
- Olive oil offers protection against heart disease by
controls LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.
reducing inflammation, antithrombolitic, antihypertensive as well as dilating the vessels.
- Olive oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones; lowering the incidence of gallstones.
- Lowers blood sugar and blood pressure.
- Reduces the oxidative damage to RNA and DNA, which may be a factor in reducing cancer.
- Olive oil offers benefits in preventing colon cancer.
- Mild laxative and ear wax softener.
- Olive oil is also used in skincare and hair beauty.

Green vs Black Olives
They are the same olive. The green olive has been picked before it is ripe whereas the black olive is picked when ripe.

Definitions of Olive Oil (Virgin, Extra Virgin, etc).
Well, this list is long and involved, so I refer you to this website:

Extraction of Olive Oil
First the fruit must be picked from the trees.
This is a time consuming-physical activity. The olives are picked by hand. There really is no other way of getting the olives off the trees. First the ground is thoroughly searched for any fruit that has already fallen (this takes the most time). Then a large tarp is laid on the ground around the tree. The person picking the olives starts near the trunk of the tree, places his hand around the branch, pinches the branch softly and rips his hand all the way down the branch as the olives fall onto the tarp. This is done over and over again until each branch is picked and each tree is empty. Just to give you an idea of how long this process takes: When my husband picked olives recently, on average he had four or five people helping him pick olives from 800am-430pm for 6 days. During this time they picked roughly 80 trees. These 80 trees gave him 44 large bags (about the size of the black garbage bags we use in the US) of olive fruit. This fruit was then processed into 20 containers (16 liters each) of olive oil). Each container sells for about 70JD, which is $100. At this time, we have 6 containers left to be sold.

Okay, so how did the fruit become olive oil?
-Olives are ground into a paste using large millstones.
-The olive paste is then placed onto fiber disks, which are stacked on top of each other into a column and then placed into the press.
-Then the oil is filtered to get out any remaining solid particles.
-Finally the olive oil is placed in large (16 liter) metal containers to be sold.

How to Cook With Olive Oil
In our home, we cook almost exclusively with olive oil. When recipes call for oil, most of the time I use olive oil although sometimes I will use half olive oil and half vegetable oil. We use olive oil when making our own salad dressings (olive oil, white vinegar, lemon, salt, pepper). We use olive oil to dip our bread in. I use olive oil when cooking noodles or rice. The only things I really don't use olive oil for is when frying vegetables or any other food; this destroys the composition of olive oil and it is no longer good for you. Here is another website that I found which may be interesting regarding cooking with olive oil.

We love olives and olive oil in this house. I hope if you are not using it currently, that you will start using it in your homes. It's delicious and great for your health! Hope you enjoyed my blog post about olives and olive oil!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Hello out there. I guess it's been quite a while since I last wrote. We have been quite busy around here. As I last wrote, we just celebrated Eid Al-Adha. It was pretty low key this year because Yanal's uncle passed away just before the holiday. However, Yanal's brother Yaser and his wife Lina were here visiting the past 10 days from Bahrain. We enjoyed spending time with them. Aisha fell in love with Yaser....didn't stop talking about him the entire time they were here!

So what's new around here?!

-Washer and dryer are both working!!
-Oven and stove top are both working!!
-Still need a new vacuum cleaner or converter big enough to handle my vacuum that seems to blow all converters.
-SKYPE is now working!! Saw my parents as we talked to the over the Internet! We LOVE IT!! I think Aisha loved it the mostest (she went absolutely crazy when she saw 'Grandma and Grandpa on the computer'!

-Looking for a cleaning lady to come help out with the cleaning once a week or so.
-Looking for a lady or daycare for the kids, need someone for when I return to work.
-Starting to think more about work, part-time work, but not thinking too seriously yet...I'm still adjusting.....give a girl some time!
-Getting antsy about sitting around all the time....need to get out, meet people, shop, drive around the city, get familiar.

-Finished picking olives and is selling the olive oil (I plan to blog about this some other day!).
-Working during the day and home with me and the kids nights and weekends.

-Talks.....ALL DAY....Mashallah (May God Bless Her), she never stops talking!
-Sings ABCs, Hokey Pokey, Rock-a-Bye Baby, 1-2 Buckle My Shoe, Wheels on the Bus, and many other fun kid songs.
-Thinks everything belongs to her (definitely a 'normal' 2 year old).
-Mom has to be in sight or next to her 24/7 (but is this 'normal' 2 year old behavior?!).
-Loves playing with her baby brother, unless he is taking her toys or Mom's attention.

-Figuring out how to walk behind those toys made to help the little ones learn to walk.
-Standing on his own for about 15 seconds.
-Talking. He can say: "Mamma", "Dad", "I-Ja" (Aisha), "Oh-O", and "Aah-Da" (All done).
-Sign Language. "More" and "All done"
-Playing Games. Peek-a-Boo is a fav, he also loves to chase his sister and then she chase him down the hallway, Hide and Seek with Aisha under the pillows or blankets, and anything that involves tickling him.
-Loves to snuggle with anything soft. Pillows and blankets are his fav!

Well, there you have it. An update from our side of the world. Hope things are going well on your side...whatever side that is!