We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Sipping tea in Ethiopia

I drink a lot of tea, usually black tea with milk, and Bug and Giggle always want sips. They often request and make their own versions, anything from warm water with honey to milk and sugar and probably a dozen other concoctions they have neglected to share with us.

When Bug and I were in Ethiopia in December, we’d eat breakfast each day at the hotel, usually sharing a meal. Each morning I’d order tea, which came with lots of sugar and rarely milk. Even with milk, it still needed some sugar. Not surprisingly, Bug really liked it. So he wanted his own. I eventually obliged. He enjoyed the ritual of adding the sugar and stirring the tea as much as actually drinking it: he’d usually stop after a few sips and I’d finish his tea and mine.

At lunch I’d often order a coke, and soon Bug decided he wanted a soda as well. I’m not a big fan of giving my kids soda, but it was a special trip, we were pretty active, and I didn’t want to keep fighting him… so I gave in. As parents, Mr. Four is usually a bit stricter than I am, but I tend to be more concerned about their nutrition, so I was a bit chagrined to think I’d get home with a kid demanding tea for breakfast and Fanta for lunch.

But you know what? It didn’t happen. At all. Bug hasn’t even asked. I suspect he returned to his regularly routines so quickly he forgot about the good life of tea and soda.

I haven’t blogged much about Ethiopia, but I will do more eventually. In the meantime, some photos.

A farmer at the market in Bahir Dar gathers his teff, the grain in injera.

Beans and grains for sale at the market in Bahir Dar.

24 March 2009 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, food, giggle, parenting, tourism | 7 Comments

The 22-pound turkey

Last week, our friends went to Carrefour and picked up a couple of turkeys, the smallest they could find, some 22-pound giants. Our turkey was delicious on Christmas. And for many days afterwards (this is what I get for missing leftovers at Thanksgiving).

We had a couple of meals that were mini versions of Christmas, plus a couple of turkey sandwiches. On Friday, I made a double recipe of creamed turkey, from the Joy of Cooking. We ate it over rice, which was delicious: the boys loved it as much as we did. I froze most of it.

On Saturday, I made turkey and creamed spinach enchiladas. They were great, though the leftovers a few days later tasted really heavy.

On Sunday, our housekeeper made some of her usual slightly spicy tomato sauce, but with turkey. So we had that with some pasta, and froze a ton. Good thing we liked it so much.

Mr. Four finished off the the last of the bits today for lunch.

All together, we’ll have something like 15 meals out of that one turkey.

2 January 2009 Posted by | food, holidays | 1 Comment

Best of 2008

My friend Jenni just wrote a nice post about her favorite moments from the past year, and I’m inspired to do the same.

Bug is napping, but I’m going to guess his favorite moment (the one that would come to mind, anyway) was opening the Batman motorcycle he asked about all fall and got from Santa for Christmas.

Giggle’s favorite moment from 2008:

  • Seeing Santa when he woke up on Christmas morning (he’s been talking about this for a week, and we haven’t questioned him further on the matter)

Mr. Four’s favorites:

  • Boating with the boys in the mountains this summer
  • Snorkeling with the boys in Dahab

My favorites (in chronological order):

Spring, in Egypt (mostly)

  • When we first joined our club last January, sitting outside in the evening, drinking tea or a beer, while the boys played on the playground, and feeling like I had a backyard again
  • Discovering Fagnoon
  • Our spring trip to Dahab, an amazing vacation that managed to include both lots of fun for the boys and lots of relaxation for Mr. Four and me
  • in dahab
    Bug and Giggle splash around in the kiddie pool at our favorite hotel in Dahab

  • My trip to gorgeous Croatia: walking the streets of old Dubrovnik and visiting with old friends
  • on the island of mljet
    Mljet, Croatia

  • A great visit from my cousin K in June
  • Sweet little Puppy Four
  • puppy four
    Puppy Four

In the US this summer

  • My first morning back in College Town in June, listening to NPR, reading the New York Times (in print!), and drinking tea while the boys played
  • Playing baseball with my dad, Bug, and Giggle in June
  • Swimming at the lake near College Town
  • The boys running hysterically into the house this summer to report “ghosts” outside, which were really fireflies
  • Later on, watching and catching fireflies with the boys, in College Town and the mountains
  • Eating my favorite cereal
  • Laughing hysterically while tubing with Mr. Four, Giggle, and Bug in July
  • My kids discovering the laundry chute at my mom’s house

Fall, back in Egypt (mostly)

  • The Africa Reading Challenge
  • Giggle’s school
  • A few hours at Hamley’s toy store in London
  • Spamalot (also in London)
  • Snorkeling with the boys in Dahab
  • Giggle deciding it was time to re-learn Amharic
  • Bug and Giggle talking to my dad and stepmom on Thanksgiving
  • Ethiopia: time with Bug, the rock hewn churches, hippos, and Bug learning how cool it is to be Ethiopian
  • A wonderful Christmas day, including a nice chat with my mom
  • Listening to my nephew play his new accordion via Skype

1 January 2009 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, expat scene, family, food, fun, giggle, holidays, home, pets, school | 5 Comments

Turkey and creamed spinach enchiladas

Happen to have a whole lot of leftover turkey? Eager to use up the remaining creamed spinach? Give these turkey and creamed spinach enchiladas a try! (They’re based on an easy recipe from myrecipe.)

3 cups shredded leftover turkey
2 cups leftover creamed spinach
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (divided into two 1-cup portions)
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
12 tortillas*
1 jar (16 oz.) of your favorite salsa

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. In a bowl, mix turkey, spinach, sour cream, one cup of shredded cheese, and the salt.

3. Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch frying pan over low heat. Dip the tortillas, one at a time, in the hot oil just until limp, about 5 seconds.

4. Spread a small amount of the salsa on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (just enough to lightly coat the bottom).

5. Fill tortillas equally with turkey mixture, roll up, and arrange side by side, seam down, in the baking dish. Pour salsa evenly over the top.**

6. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and evenly sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese over the enchiladas. Return to oven and bake another five minutes or so, until cheese is melted and enchiladas are warmed through.

*The original recipe calls for corn tortillas. I found small flour tortillas, and those worked well.
** I ended up with leftover turkey/spinach mix (which I froze for a later meal). You might not, if you stuff them more fully or use bigger tortillas.

If you have suggestions to make this less calorific or better in another way (perhaps more authentic), I’d love to hear them!

27 December 2008 Posted by | food, holidays | 2 Comments

This anvil called NaBloPoMo

We’ve got a lot going on this weekend. I’m trying to get Bug and me organized for our trip to Ethiopia–we leave Tuesday night–which involves making a few reservations, one of which requires me to schlep downtown tomorrow morning to the Ethiopian Air office; and packing, including for a two-night trek. It’s good busy.

We’re also organizing Giggle’s sixth birthday party tomorrow, which will include six of his buddies from school. Our small backyard means most activities will happen outside–as soon as we can figure out what they are. I’m thinking something soccer-related or perhaps an obstacle course. The all-important cake will feature Spiderman.

His birthday means I have to dig out of storage all the toys and presents I bought in London, presents for Christmas and birthdays for Bug and Giggle, from Mr. Four and me and from my dad and stepmom. I have been stalling on organizing that stuff. Ugh. At least we get all the fun of giving it, though.

The good news: only a couple more days of mandatory daily blog posts. Woot!

28 November 2008 Posted by | bug, food, giggle, holidays, our life in egypt | 4 Comments

Your advice on meals with kids (11/6)

In my earlier post about Halloween candy, my dear friend Annie (whom I’ve known for a shockingly long 20 years! oy!) asked a question about meals with two kids:

While we’re discussing eating – what do those of you with 2 working parents do about making dinner? Ms. Four – does your housekeeper cook every night? Now that we have 2 little ones, I find preparing dinner after getting home from work to be almost impossible. I read that I should prepare meals on the weekend, so yesterday I made 3 meals, but it really was a drag! Ideas?

First, the truth: yes, our housekeeper cooks most nights. When she doesn’t (as in the last two nights as she’s been sick), we usually pull together leftovers; order in from just about any restaurant because they all deliver here; or eat our expat-y club. This is partly why life is so easy for us here.

But, I know a lot of working moms who are married to working dads read my blog. So, what are your best strategies for getting healthy meals on the table at night?

6 November 2008 Posted by | family, food, our life in egypt | 6 Comments

Candy strategery (11/3)

As I blogged yesterday, my boys gathered up all their extra candy the day after Halloween and gave it to some Egyptian friends who didn’t trick-or-treat (in a family without much money).

What motivated them to perform this generous act of giving? Their pure hearts, perhaps, or a sense of love? Nope.

I told them if they gave away their candy, they could each pick out a new toy at the toy store. It did two good things: it got the candy out of our house (good for the boys, even better for Mr. Four and me), and it made it fun for them to give something of value away. They were thrilled.

But, yeah, I bought them, bribed them, what have you. It turns out so far to have worked beautifully for us. It’s a real treat for my boys to get a new toy from the toy store here (when it’s not a special occasion), and eating a bunch of candy first made them feel less-than-deprived. Plus they were very glad to see their old pals.

I’m always interested to hear what others parent do to deal with candy overload.

Some friends here let their kids eat whatever they want on Halloween night, and then that’s it. The rest of the candy disappears (into the trash or into mom and dad’s secret stash, I cannot say) after that.

Another mom told me she lets her kids eat the candy they want, because it’s their candy, as long as they eat (for example) breakfast first. I actually really like this approach and this style of parenting, but it wouldn’t work in our house. This would be very difficult for Mr. Four to let happen, and it might end up creating more candy conflict.

How about you? What’s your best idea for candy management?

3 November 2008 Posted by | bug, food, giggle, holidays | 12 Comments

Halloween, the aftermath (11/2)

Saturday morning the streets around my neighborhood were littered with broken eggs, empty egg cartons, and smashed tomatoes. Plus near our building there was a tall street light leaning quite precariously, with a stray power line draped over it. The eggs and fruit I get, the power line not so much.

We saw this as we walked around town on Saturday, to our old neighborhood, to visit some old friends. The boys and I were inspired by one of Giggle’s classmates, who had gathered up all her extra Halloween candy and was going to share it with some Egyptian kids who didn’t trick-or-treat. So we decided to do the same.

The boys chose five pieces of candy each, and the rest we put in a bag. When we arrived at our old neighborhood, we quickly found our old friends, the kids of a neighborhood bowab whom the boy used to play with when we’d go outside with Puppy Four. They were happy to see us, and quite thrilled with all the candy. (Egyptians love sweets too.)

Our visit was short, but it was great to see them. We really enjoy our new ground floor apartment, and our convenient location, but we do miss our old friends.

2 November 2008 Posted by | bug, food, giggle, holidays | 2 Comments

Happy Enkutatash!

Today is New Year’s Day in Ethiopia. According to the Ethiopian calendar, we’re now in 2001.

We celebrated with some good friends and some great food, courtesy of our wonderful housekeeper and nanny. She has the day off today and will spend much of it at her church.

Bug and Giggle had a great time dancing around the living room with Maya to our favorite Ethiopian-hip hop-fusion music.

Happy New Year!

11 September 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, food, fun, giggle, holidays | 2 Comments

Misr and other wots

One of the best parts of being in Egypt is the Ethiopian food. You wouldn’t expect that, would you? In fact, I don’t know of any Ethiopian restaurants in Cairo. (If someone reading this does, please let me know.)

Photo by eekim.

Our Ethiopian housekeeper/nanny/maid (some Cairenes use the term “servant” which just sounds all sorta wrong to me) cooks for us most week nights, and often she makes Ethiopian food. Dinner usually includes misr wot (red lentils), misr alicha (less spicy lentils), and a vegetable dish or two like gomen (greens), cabbage, potatoes, or green beans. Every other week or so we have doro wot, basically chicken stew, which is a bit more complicated because the recipe includes something like a dozen onions.

I love it all, and I love that it’s vegetarian and cheap and keeps the boys connected to their home country.

We don’t know of any teff available locally, so we substitute regular whole wheat bread or pita-like local bread for injera, the pancake-like flat bread served under the main dishes.

By the way, the word “misr” in Arabic means Egypt. So to an Egyptian, it might sound like we’re eating Spicy Egypt. Yum, what a dish.

Anyway, this month the foodie magazine Saveur is featuring Ethiopian food. I was excited for new recipes when I realized all but one of their recipes are a regular part of our diet.

25 March 2008 Posted by | ethiopia, food | 8 Comments