wayfaringwordhack: (Egypt: Sphinx)
Sheesh. Almost let another Sunday slip past me.

These past two weeks were crazy busy with the pageant, making costumes and working on the painting that I have to do onstage, and with writing. It takes a lot of prep work to pull off something that is A) big and B) painted live.  Not something I really want to repeat in the near future.

We had a dress rehearsal yesterday, and all went well. This week, i have to adjust some costumes and tweak a few things for the painting. One more dress rehearsal on Saturday, followed by two shows, and then this will be finished.

And what comes next? Christmas. :P

NaNo will end in a couple of days, and I can ease up on the word goal. I don't, however, want to stop writing, unless of course I finish the story. I am writing towards the climax now. 
wayfaringwordhack: (Sprout: chocolate - animated)
[livejournal.com profile] asakiyume has some lovely painted cookies, and she shared the recipe with me in the comments of this post (do click through, even if you don't plan on making any cookies, to admire hers.  And here are some lovely example of stars and more angels).  I made a batch to take to a Christmas party today* (um, many cookies did not make it because we had to, um, well, eat them.  For research purposes, you understand. Oh, and I gave a few to my housekeeper in her Christmas gift bag).

I wanted to experiment with natural dye and a red-and-white color scheme so used lingonberry (similiar to cranberries but smaller) juice. I think two things went "wrong."

First off, I perhaps made the icing a bit too thin. Not from a taste standpoint because, being made from powdered sugar, the icing was already sweet enough, but maybe the icing would have held up better to the juice? I dunno know.

The second problem, then, was the juice was too acidic and ate through the icing, making it hard for me to do detail. Instead of painting smoothly *on* the icing, I found that the colors pooled a bit under the surface. You can't tell in the photos, but looking across the cookies, you can see where the glossy surface of the icing has been disolved. Maybe beet juice next time?

Still they are pretty, I think, and I had a lot of fun doing them.



Sprout helped, but she ate all of her creations (except the unfrosted tree you can barely glimpse with the brightest red touches). My favorite was when she painted big swatches of red across a hedgehog, adopted a squeaky voice, and said, "Oh, I'm bleeding!" before she gobbled it up. :P

_________
*It isn't late for Christmas parties because here in Egypt we get the fun of having celebrations from the Western-assigned 25 December Christmas day until the Coptic Christmas on January 7.
wayfaringwordhack: (art - pondering)
A bit of a mixed bag today. Lots of emotions, not all good.

This morning we all went to the store and bought food to give to those in need, then J went this afternoon and bought lots kids clothes, blankets, socks, and hats. We went to a roundabout where we know some families sleep and handed out the stuff. After everything but two bags of food had been given, another lady came running and tried to make someone share with her. The sharing did not happen, so I gave her the remaining two bags. She wanted us to give her more, but we had nothing else. Then two other men showed up, and J tried to explain that we had given everything out and they should divide it amongst themselves. We drove off with some still begging and others sitting on their goods. Don't know what they decided, how it was settled, but it left us feeling bad.* :(

Sprout was asking hard questions today, like: How do you make yourself die when your family dies so you don't have to live lonely? :-/

On a brighter side, I bought a new sketchbook to motivate me to finally get some work done on the kids book I started last year and to organize my thoughts/ideas better since my doodles were scattered all over the place in my other drawing pad. I did two studies this afternoon and hoped to do a third, but I feel a bit beat up and am carrying stress in my lower back. I think the wiser thing to do is to go to bed.

__________
* I've been repeating to myself that the giving is not about me and was never meant to make me feel good about myself or what-have-you. I believe one should give a gift without any kind of strings or expectations projected onto the receiver. But I do feel that we weren't responsible givers in that we didn't try to spread things out a bit make to make sure more people got help. Knowing that people live in such desperation that they will fight to get or keep anything makes me feel totally hopeless to help in a meaningful way.
wayfaringwordhack: (art: christmas quail)
This might be the case for a lot of people with artificial trees, but each year, my hands are black from dust after setting up the tree. Pre-move, I had decided that this year, I would rinse the tree in the bathtub before we decorated it.  But then we got a garden.

Because of the street-cat problem we have (they mark everything in our yard! ARGH!), I set up the tree on the front end of our bike before hosing it off.


This is my normal mode of transportation with the kids: They both sit up in the carrier frame where the tree is.  Let me tell you, this bike is heavy, and cycling around 30kgs of kids is not easy. :P I don't know how much longer I can do it.

If you look closely, you can see brakes along the handlebars. They don't work. The peddle in the up position in this photo is actually almost exactly in line with the footbrake.  Very tricky to get used to, especially since you have to hike your leg pretty high to use it.

Thankful

26 Nov 2015 09:50 pm
wayfaringwordhack: (heart)
We had a small family dinner tonight of skillet-roasted turkey breast on a bed of onion and sweet potato, cornbread dressing, fruit relish (because I couldn't find cranberries or even my usual sub, here in Egypt, of lingonberries), walnut and dried cherry sourdough loaf, and pumpkin pie.

And among numerous, numerous, numerous other things, I'm very grateful for the nice big oven I had to cook it all in.

Hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving are having a wonderful day full of scrumptious food, community, laughter, and gratitude.
wayfaringwordhack: (art journal)
I keep saying I'll take photos of what I'm doing so that I can make a decent snippet post, but we've taken other pictures of late, which I'll include under a cut.

On the creative front, I've been crocheting a sweater for Junebug.  Given the shortness and mildness of Egyptian winters, I'm making for 18-24 mo, but I don't know if it will be big enough next year. I've also been doing some sketches, working on a suitable style for a picture book idea I have. And baking: galettes, pizzas, bread. Baking counts, right?

So photos:
family time )
____________
* Sprout was 14 mo in the photos in the link; Junebug is 10 mo. :)
wayfaringwordhack: (Sprout: chocolate - animated)

For the second time, I've made a galette des rois (kings' cake) for Epiphany (which is also the Coptic Christmas Eve); acutally I made two.  Last year, my puff pastry puffed only moderately; this year, lots of puff--oh glorious flaky layers!*--but both of the galettes leaked, losing quite a bit of filling. Thankfully, I had put in a lot of frangipane. Another thing for me to be thankful for is that these galettes des rois can be cooked at very high temperatures, seeing as how my oven doesn't like to cook anything under 200 degrees C / 400 F.

galette des rois

Next year will be my year!  But, I just might make another one in a couple of days to see if I can get it right. I want to eat more! I want to make more pretty designs on the top.

We invited some French friends over to enjoy them with us, and their youngest daughter got la fève. I had made a crown for her but forgot to take a picture.  If you go to this Wikipedia page and scroll down to the section about the French king cake, it'll tell you about the tradition.

For this year or next, for my own record, here is a list of sites and videos I used to study the recipe and techniques:

Recette pour pate

Recette technique de la pâte feuilletée par Chef Philippe (video and recipe; butter trick since "beurre de tourage" is not readily availabe to lay bakers: Put softened butter on baking paper or plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin, flatten it into a 20X20 cm square, about 1.5 cm thick.  Put back in fridge to firm up a bit. Basically like this [video doesn't have sound])

Recette façon grand chef : la galette des rois (YouTube video about how to put the galette together and make the frangipane. This link writes out the recipe for the frangipane and provides slightly different instructions than the one I usually use for the puff pastry, adding 100 grams of melted butter to the detrempe. Might make it too rich for J. :P)

Recette Galette des Rois par Arnaud Delmontel (another YouTube video about how to put the galette together)

Pour chiqueter la galette

Some notes:
- Make sure to work the détrempe well so as not to have lumps in it that will cause the dough to crack upon rolling it out (yeah, learned that one the hard way).
- Re frangipane: Equal parts butter/sugar/almond powder didn't work for me. Way too sweet. Scale back on the sugar. Did not use a recipe that called for a thickener like cornstarch and the frangipane was fine. For two cakes, I did 250 each of b/s/ap and four eggs and had plenty left over.
- Do NOT crowd the border with filling; otherwise, a good seal will be impossible.
- Start the pastry the eve (at least) of baking day to save time and headaches. Dough keeps 2-3 days in fridge.
- By following the two-washes-with-egg procedure in the "grand chef" video, my galettes were shiny and did not need to be brushed with syrup. I brushed them anyhow, but maybe it would be better not to to cut back on sweetness

____________

* The angle doesn't do the cakes justice, making them look flatter than they were. :P

wayfaringwordhack: (art: christmas quail)

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. We got hit with crud over the holidays, and I haven't felt like doing much apart from the day to day getting by.  Poor Junebug spent his first Christmas sick and feverish and even went to the clinic on Christmas Day. He had either a throat infection or pharyngitis. I got some bit of it on Christmas and was so achy and wiped out that I was in bed by 7:30.  Sprout had lots of bronchial ick going on, and J got periodic bouts of sorethroat and headache but came through mostly unscathed.

Everyone is on the mend now, so we are planning a trip to Wadi el Hitan again (Valley of the Whales) with some friends. It will be much colder than during our last visit, but we are hoping it won't be as windy so that we can spend a bit longer exploring.

I don't have it in me to do a recap of the last year, but this year, I (and J) am striving to learn as much as I can about homesteading, growing a forest garden, and beekeeing. We are also working on being more self-disciplined in how we spend our time, i.e. lots of dreaming but even more doing.

And speaking of do, I have much to take care of before our trip (we'll be gone three days).

Blessed New Year to you all.

______

p.S.

Thanks for all the sweet comments on Junebug and his ornament.

wayfaringwordhack: (art: christmas quail)
Well, I don't know about the dollar, but I am late for my snippet.  'Tis the season for creativity chez moi, so there has been a lot going on.  I haven't had the camera out for most of it, but I did make a point of photographing the "first ornament" that I made for Junebug.

I liked the look of these, so I drafted my own copy, using, yes, a dromedary* instead of a fawn.  Needed something to remind the wee fellow he spent his first Christmas in Egypt:

IMG_5678

IMG_5682

____________
* It does look like a dromedary in real life...I think...and less like a Great Dane with a humpback. And it looks more circular, less lumply.  Ah, nothing like a photo to make something look fat and full of flaws. :P
wayfaringwordhack: (art: christmas quail)
'Tis Tuesday, I know, and I posted no snippet. It was not that I forgot, but I had a lot going on.  The week was mostly taken up with Christmas stuff, like making decorations and an advent calendar and wreath, and putting up and decorating the tree.

The subject line comes from an exchange between Sprout and her pops on the subject of holiday preparations:

Sprout, to her father, who was walking to the front door with the bagged tree in hand: What are you doing with the tree?

J: Putting it outside. We're going to throw away all the Christmas things; we don't want to celebrate anymore.

Sprout looked at me with an incredulous, yet half-believing look, before blurting: Pops, that's the meanest joke ever!

In addition to all the activities, I was hit with two nasties. The first was Internet-related, and I was attacked by some kind of p*rn pop-up thing that opened pages with horrible photos every time I tried to access LJ and a couple of other sites I frequent.  The second was crud brought to us by a family we invited to our church's Christmas pageant.  And we are all--well, not J for the moment--coming down with lovely coughs and clogged sinuses. /sarcasm

'Tis the season...

Speaking of seasons, I can't believe this will be our third Christmas here. One more to go.
wayfaringwordhack: (wayfaring wordhack)
To paraphrase from The Princess Bride, There is too much; I'll sum up...about our trip to Oklahoma, that is.

For three weeks:

We rested, following the sun's rhythms pretty closely, not bothered at all by the yapping of coyotes, which is so much more melodious as it rolls down hills and creeks, echoing off oaks than is the barking and snarling of the wild dogs that run the concrete labyrinth of this city.

sunrise

(the photos are clickable)

Rest of the trip, this way... )

_________________________

* Has anyone else been in proximity to an armadillo? There was one funky smell in its wake, and we don't know if it was the creature itself or something it had come in contact with. It smelled like skunk and wild garlic/onions.
wayfaringwordhack: (art: thé)
Given the lack of green space here in Cairo, we decided to return to Dahshour Pyramids (mentioned in this post) for a picnic and Easter egg hunt. We woke to a brown sky. Not a good sign any time but certainly not when you live in a city surrounded by a desert because it means, yes, you guessed it: sandstorm.

But a few minutes later, blue had returned to the sky and J chided Sprout and me for our pessimism. After a fairly uneventful drive out,  we arrived at the spot where we had such a nice walk during our last visit. This time we decided to drive a bit farther into the brush to see if we could find another equally picturesque spot. We happened across these ruins and would have liked to hide Sprout's eggs there. With the pyramids as a backdrop, she would have had some lovely, memorable photos to look through in coming years.

IMG_5321

Alas, as you can see, the brown sky was back, and sand does not rise without wind to carry it. It was downright unpleasant atop those exposed ruins, facing the desert, so we headed back to the caprinae-grazed plain and took shelter behind a small thicket of salt cedars. The spot was far from perfect, trash caught here and there in the dried stalks of reeds, sheep- and goat droppings studding the grass, but the splashing and laughter of children swimming in the canals and the lovely variety of birdlife made it all right. (We spotted our first European bee-eaters--they migrate through here--some egrets, swallows, a pied kingfisher, a hooppoe, and some type of quail.)

J hid the eggs while I nursed Junebug. Sprout hunted eggs, and then we picnicked. Sprout ate 3 eggs, this time without the shell, and wanted more (she did end up having another for supper, at her request, as well as one this morning). And here I thought I would have enough leftover to make egg salad...

IMG_5342IMG_5363

I didn't take any close up photos of the waistband portion, so this is a zoomed-in shot to show the chicken scratch embroidery that I decorated it with:
chicken scratch embroidery

You may remember the Easter bunny basket I crocheted for her last year:

IMG_5378
Before we had finished eating, word spread of our presence in the environs and two young men from the village came to "visit" us, carrying bouquets of roses. Roses for sale, but they gave one to J and one to Sprout. They made themselves at home on the grass, lit up their cigarettes and began conversing with J in his limited Arabic, conversing that is when they weren't receiving or making constant calls on their cell phones. Very much not the kind of outing/company we had in mind. We like visiting with natives, but these circumstances were not ideal. To make matters worse, the pollution (from the drive over) and sand were giving me a monster headache.

While our two visitors were making themselves even more comfortable (in other words, one of them taking Sprout's chair uninvited when she got up to hide her eggs again), a shepherdess and her father (?) drove their flock of goats and sheep over to graze.
IMG_5394

If you've ever seen How to Train Your Dragon, then you will recognize Sprout's pose here as mimicking Hiccup when he turns his head, closes his eyes, and holds out his hand in an attempt to touch Toothless:

IMG_5402

We had planned to set up J's slackline and have some fun on it, but what with the wind and my achy head, we decided to return home.  In true Murphy's Law fashion, we got stuck in a traffic jam caused by the typical Egyptian mode of driving*, and my headache escalated into full-blown migraine. We were thankfully out of the jam when the inevitable urge to vomit struck. Julien pulled over to the side of the road and I just had time to hang my head out the window before losing my lunch. A very nice Egyptian man, in front of whose shop/home, I had just threw up, kindly let me use his bathroom to clean myself up. While I was inside, another gentleman brought me some limes.  I don't know if I've said it before or not since I have never blogged much about our life here, but Egyptians are so hospitable and kind when you meet them on the street...as long as by "on the street" you are not talking about drivers. They have a real Jekyll and Hyde syndrome going in regards to their personality shifts when they get behind the wheel.

Back home, it was straight to shower and bed for me, and J valiantly took care of putting everything away and getting Sprout to bed. This morning I felt a lot better, praise be.

You might be wondering why there are no photos of Junebug. I did intend to take some, but the weather conditions were not conducive to a photo shoot with a newborn. Once again I say: forthcoming post for baby pictures.

_____________
* It is a dog-eat-dog free-for-all on the roads here. There might be rules, but no one follows them. Curses and snarling and hate-filled looks abound, and scrapes and fist fights are not rare. What are rare in the extreme are smiles and acts of politeness.
wayfaringwordhack: (new leaf)
We had a good but busy time for the past couple of days, so I haven't been here to wish people a Merry Christmas. So, a wee bit late, but not:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

As 2013 comes to a close, I've been thinking about 2014 and what I would like to accomplish. Then last night it occurred to me:  2014 should be the year of "Icing."

I am not going to make goals.
I'm not going to obsess over what I "need" to do.
I'm not going to apply unnecessary pressure to myself.

I'm having a baby at the beginning of the year, and taking care of a newborn is a lot of work. I don't need to add stress to that by feeling like a failure when I don't meet self-imposed goals.
Therefore, in 2014, I'm going to be the best mom I can be to my children, the best wife I can be to my husband, and the best friend I can be to myself...

Everything else, any accomplishments, projects finished, etc. beyond that are all going to be icing on the cake.

Bring on the New Year.

December

27 Dec 2013 01:24 pm
wayfaringwordhack: (art: christmas quail)
I had great plans and intentions for the month of December, including doing Advent activities with Sprout every day. Bronchitis laid me low, though, for the first two weeks (Sprout as well, and then J got the flu). The month did not go to plan and we did not do all of the activities, but I just decided to go with the flow and not worry over anything.

What Advent was supposed to look like )

A few photos. Unfortunately, I wasn't very inspired to have a camera in hand most days, what with the ick and all.

Pics this way )

If anyone is interested and to give credit to the pattern-maker, I crocheted that reindeer hat for Sprout using this tutorial.

Bothersome

2 Dec 2013 09:40 pm
wayfaringwordhack: (art: christmas quail)
LJ is being tedious (not letting me comment and not loading pages) and I don't feel like fighting it, so I'm going to do weekly "advent roundup" posts instead of the day-by-day ones that I was planning.  For now, I'll just say that we are off to a good start, and tomorrow is going to be a busy day: Ornament-making is on the agenda. :)
wayfaringwordhack: (art: thé)

J has to work on Thanksgiving Thursday, so I was not planning on doing anything this year. What with being sick* and not knowing many people here in Cairo for whom Thanksgiving is a big deal, I was all right with the idea of not making a fuss. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized I didn't have to do much in order to mark the occasion.

So, we had slow-roasted duck, homemade cranberry sauce (found frozen lingonberries), cornbread dressing, and pecan pie as traditional fare, with green beans, a green salad, and roasted potatoes and garlic with a homemade baguette.  And we watched Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving just before eating.  Not to be all bah-humbug or overly-critical of "must-see" holiday movies, but that cartoon is really blah. I never cared for Chuck and his friends while I was growing up, and I see the love has not grown with me into adulthood. :P

Wishing all who celebrate (and even those who don't) and thankfilled and blessed day tomorrow.  If you do "do Thanksgiving" what is your one (or 2) absolute must eat item for it to fill like Thanksgiving to you? I once knew a boy whose family had hamburgers every Thanksgiving because none of them liked turkey and the trimmings.

________
* Sprout is feeling so much better. She went to bed at 4:30 p.m. yesty and slept (a bit fitfully, it's true) until 6:45 this morning. She has been herself all day, without a hint of fever.  Also got my lab results, which declared that I have not "pathogenic bacteria" and do not need antibiotics. I sure am glad I asked for a throat swab because, had I not been adamant about not wanting to take antibiotics while pregnant, the doc might have prescribed them anyhow. My throat still feels irritated, but it is nothing I can't live with.

wayfaringwordhack: (wayfaring wordhack)
Sprout and I arrived safely in France on Friday, after a long delay in Paris due to suspect baggage (not on our flight) and baggage that needed to be unloaded because of no-show passengers (our flight).  Sprout was an angel and a joy to travel with, so no worries there.

We spent the first two days here eating well, catching up with family, and just enjoying nature. However, my health has been blah. First wonky sinuses, which could be due to air travel I suppose, then a headache on day two, and stiff and achy shoulders and back today. My theory is that my body is detoxing.  May be a total crock, but the French embassy hired a study done on the pollution level in Cairo: The results showed that the air is so filthy that it has the same effect on our lungs as smoking a pack a day of cigarettes.  So, yeah, maybe not so crazy after all.  I hope the ick passes soon.

In other news, I DID create this week, but I'll post about it tomorrow.

I hope everything and everyone is well in LJ-land.
wayfaringwordhack: (christmas - machu picchu)
Today is Christmas for Coptic Christians, so I thought I would share some of our decorations, which we've already taken down, by the way; but, wouldn't you know, I haven't uploaded them from the camera yet.  Sheesh.

I'm hopeless.  

It is too late to do it now, so I'll just post one of my little helper.

Christmas 1 in Cairo

Same hat from last year, but she can't fit into the suit any more. :P
wayfaringwordhack: (christmas - machu picchu)
Happy Holidays, LJ Friends.

We are in the middle of holidays with family from France, so I haven't been (and won't be) on LJ for a few days, but I wanted to pop on now that everyone here is in bed and wish you all a very merry and bright end to 2012 and a fantabulous start to 2013.

Catch up with you soon!
wayfaringwordhack: (art: shroom sweet shroom)

This morning, we all woke with the dawn, only to find the sky cloud-clogged and the air full of a heavy drizzle.  We doubted the garage sale was going to go forward, but my brother-in-law went gamely forth with a loaded car, just to make sure. The event organizer said that if it rained, the sale could happen inside, but there wouldn't be enough room for everyone. When she said it, she made it sound like the sale would be cancelled since not all those who paid for and reserved their places could fit into the community center.

Turns out, even though Mat was an hour early, he was too late. The inside was full of tables and our name was not on any of them. Meaning we were welcome to set up shop outside, in the rain, which was no longer a drizzle but a steady fall.

Since we had parasols but no waterproof awning/tent, we nixed the sale and spent the morning setting up my mil's Mother's Day present*, a weather station, ironically enough.  Instead of the picnic we prepared for the garage sale, we went out to eat and had a tasty, copious lunch.

There are worse ways to spend Mother's Day, but I just wish I hadn't spent the last week digging through boxes, washing dusty bric-a-brac, and laundering musty garments and sports material. I wish I wouldn't have slept so poorly in anticipatory dread of having to wake so early.

Wouldn't you know, tomorrow's weather, like that of the previous 8 days, is supposed to be fine and dandy with not a raindrop in sight. 

____________

* Mother's Day is the last Sunday of May in France or the first in June if the last one in May is Pentecost


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