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Expat wanderer

Mayonnaise, Aioli and Rouille

Home Made Mayonnaise – The BEST!

You are in Concarneau, a beautiful fishing village in the Breton part of France, and you are waiting for your frites. But it is not the frites that are taking so much time – the frites vendor is out of mayonnaise, and he is whipping up a fresh batch.

He uses a wire whisk, and starts dropping just tiny tiny drops of olive oil into the egg yolks, adding a little more, a little more, until it becomes a thin stream, and then a thicker stream, but the whisk never stops. The end result? Pure magic. Not quite so solid, but nothing like the mayonnaise we know.

mayonnaise.jpg

We all know that mayonnaise substance that comes out of jars we buy at the grocery store. White to pale yellow, taste varying from fairly tasteless to a little vinegar-y. It’s best for helping wash sandwich meat down, but doesn’t really have a lot to recommend it.

French mayonnaise is totally different. It has TASTE! It’s hard to say which tastes better, the hot fresh French frites (fries) or the homemade mayonnaise, but as a combination – oh man, it is unbeatable. It’s fresh, it’s made with the best ingredients. And because it’s olive oil, well the fat calories aren’t quite so unhealthy. Right.

Here is the best news of all – you can have that same great tasting mayonnaise. With the advent of the blender, you don’t even have to separate the eggs from the yolks – the whipping motion of the blades emulsifies the oil and the eggs and acid (and flavorings)

Basic Mayonnaise

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (or vinegar, or balsamic vinegar)
1 Teaspoon prepared mustard (not powder)
1 Teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups olive oil

(The very most important ingredient is the olive oil; use a very good olive oil, one with lots of taste. In my heart, I think French mustard {not French’s} is the best, and Sel de mer – French salt. If you’re going to make good mayonnaise, go all the way. Do it right. And have fun.)

Break eggs into blender container, add the acid (lemon juice or vinegar), mustard and salt. Turn blender on low. Let the blender blend about 30 seconds before adding tiny drops of olive oil. Add drops very slowly, letting the blender do its thing.

Take your time. From tiny drops, let the olive oil stream into the blender container in a tiny thin stream, and then a slightly thicker stream. The secret to success here is always taking it slow and easy, letting the eggs and acid emulsify the oil. About 3/4 way through the process, the mixture will suddenly thicken. Keep adding the olive oil slowly, until it is all incorporated.

At this point the mixture may still be pourable. Homemade mayonnaise is a little runnier than the kind you buy in the store. Pour it into clean jars and store it in the refrigerator immediately – it will thicken up as it refrigerates.

Disaster: It happens, even if you’ve been making mayonnaise for years. The solution is SO simple. Pour the mixture – it will look like salad dressing with pieces in it – into another container and wash the blender container thoroughly, with soapy water. Break another egg into the container – that’s all. Nothing else. Start the blender, and this time, go a little slower. The secret to making this work is going very very slowly, especially at the beginning. Trust me, the process itself is so fast that you can afford to pour slowly. And oh! the results! You are going to be addicted to your own mayonnaise.

Advanced Mayonnaise

Before you go any further, I want you to successfully make mayonnaise three times. You can put it in pretty jars and give it away; people will love it.

Aioli
The French in Provence, particularly in Marseilles, have a dish that I think was created just to eat mayonnaise. It is called “Aioli”, the same name as the name of the mayonnaise sauce served with it. The entire meal is cooked salt cod, and a variety of cooked vegetables, all served with liberal dippings into the aioli sauce.

To make Aioli, you pop four or five (peeled!) cloves of garlic in with the eggs and acid before you start adding the oil. It’s that simple. (Some people add breadcrumbs. I don’t.) Aioli is also good – GREAT – with turkey, on sandwiches, as a dip for vegetables, oh any excuse will do . . . it is SOOOO good.

Most sources say aioli can be kept about two weeks, refrigerated. Mine never lasts that long.

Rouille
Rouille is served atop a big bowl of Bouillabaisse (French fish soup with whole fish pieces). It is a fiery spicy hot mayonnaise.

Start as if for aioli, then add two teaspoons cayenne pepper. If your family likes things hot hot hot, you can add some of the ground red pepper pieces like you find in the spice markets, or you put on pizza slices in Italian restaurants – it gives it a little more texture. You can also add a piece or two of roasted red peppers, for more intense color. Add the pepper BEFORE you start adding the oil.

Again, some people add breadcrumbs. I don’t.

Fixing a Mayonnaise Failure
A very humid day can make mayonnaise problematic. The heavy atmosphere of an impending thunderstorm can make good emulsification impossible. Accidentally adding too much oil or having the eggs too cold can make a mayonnaise curdle. It doesn’t happen often, but don’t despair. It’s fixable. Just start over, with one egg, and slowly, slowly adding that curdled mixture. You will be amazed at how easy this is.

Even your first time, when you are nervous, it won’t take an hour, start to finish. By the time you’ve done it a time or two, it won’t take half an hour, from getting out the blender to putting the jars of fresh, delicious homemade mayonnaise into the refrigerator. And you will be ridiculously proud of yourself.

There are no preservatives, no added chemicals. I don’t know how long it will last, kept refrigerated – it just doesn’t last long enough to become an issue. C’mon. I dare you. Give it a try.

(Ooops – I just remembered, there is danger to some people from the use of raw eggs. Making mayonnaise with raw eggs isn’t right for everyone. You could get really sick.)

January 22, 2007 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Experiment, Health Issues, Recipes | 9 Comments

Cosmetic Danger: Repeated Usage

Women are always looking for cosmetic magic – I call it “Hope in a Bottle”. We are promised wrinkle-free skin, wonderful large lucious lips that never lose their color, potions that will make blemishes disappear, and fragrances that will get our man. Right.

Just before leaving Seattle, I hit the Lancome center at the local Nordstroms and stocked up. The dear woman there always gives me some little sample sizes to use on my long flights. I was telling my good friend about picking up some “hope in a bottle” and she said “oh, that sounds like something I need to try! Where do you get it?” We had a good laugh about that.

In the AOL section on Money and Finance today is a report about chemicals in your cosmetics. What shocked me is that the US uses many chemicals that the European Union has banned in their cosmetics. The article tells about how loosely the US is monitoring chemical additives in cosmetics – nail polishes, skin cremes, deodorants – chemicals that we are putting on our bodies every day, and no one knows the consequences of long term usage.

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The report is from Consumer Reports.org, a highly regarded watchdog of American consumer products. Their magazine reports monthly on cars, appliances, drugs, children’s toys, and deceptive packaging.

What You Should Know About Chemicals in Your Cosmetics

You slather, spray, and paint them on and rub them in. Cosmetics are so much a part of your daily regimen that you probably never think twice about them. If they’re on store shelves, it seems reasonable to figure that they’re safe to use, despite those unpronounceable ingredient lists.

But at least some of what’s in your cosmetics might not be so good for you. One example is the family of chemicals known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates), which may be linked to developmental and reproductive health risks. The industry says phthalates are safe, but some companies have dropped them in response to public concern. Essie, OPI, and Sally Hansen, for example, are removing dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which is used to prevent chipping, from nail polishes. Other big-name brands that have reformulated products to remove some phthalates include Avon, Cover Girl, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Max Factor, Orly, and Revlon.

Take a Whiff of This

If you’re trying to cut back on phthalates, however, sticking with these brands may not make much of a difference. You’ll find phthalates in too many other personal-care products, including body lotions, hair sprays, perfumes, and deodorants. The chemicals are used to help fragrances linger and take the stiffness out of hair spray, among other reasons. They’re also in detergents, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, and plastic toys. And they have turned up in our bodies.

Although phthalates show up in so many places, they’re often absent from labels because disclosure is not always required. That’s the case with fragrances. We tested eight fragrances and although none of the products included phthalates in its ingredient list, they all contained the chemicals. Some were made by companies that specifically told us their products were free of phthalates, and two even say as much on their Web sites.

Getting your nails done or spritzing on your favorite perfume obviously isn’t going to kill you. But the health effects of regular long-term exposure, even to small amounts, are still unknown.

Makeup wakeup call

Phthalates, a family of chemicals used in cosmetics, may pose significant health risks but:

· They’re found in perfumes, nail polishes, and other products we use every day.

· Scientists say they’re found in our bodies as well.

· In many cases, they’re not listed on labels, so they can be difficult to avoid.

· Some manufacturers are removing them from their products, but the FDA has not restricted their use.

Companies that have eliminated phthalates are no doubt getting the message that people are paying more attention to ingredients. But public concern isn’t the only factor driving the reformulations. Another reason is a European ban. Although the U.S. has outlawed just eight cosmetic ingredients, the European Union has banned more than 1,000. (emphasis mine) For companies that make cosmetics, complying with E.U. rules makes good business sense. It’s more efficient to sell the same product worldwide. It’s also good PR. About 380 U.S. companies have publicly pledged their allegiance to cosmetic safety by signing the Compact for Global Production of Safe Health & Beauty Products, under which they voluntarily pledged to reformulate globally to meet E.U. standards.

The reformulation trend is likely to gain further momentum from the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005, which took effect only this year. Manufacturers that sell over $1 million a year in personal-care products in the state must report any products containing a chemical that is either a carcinogen or a reproductive or developmental toxic agent. Among those that must be disclosed are the phthalates DBP and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). California plans make this information public, possibly on the Web, so some companies may choose to remove rather than report the ingredients.

Guinea pig nation

Despite the laws, pacts, and reformulations, questions about safety remain. Cosmetic industry critics argue that the Food and Drug Administration has not told companies what “safe” means, leaving them to make their own decisions. In fact, with cosmetics, the government generally takes action only after safety issues crop up.

Take the case of Rio hair relaxers. In December 1994, the FDA warned against two products sold through infomercials after consumers complained about hair loss, scalp irritation, and hair turning green. Rio announced that it would stop sales but there were reports that it continued to take orders. The California Department of Health then stepped in to halt sales and in January 1995, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles filed a seizure action. By then, the FDA had received more than 3,000 complaints. Rio later reformulated and renamed its products.

The Rio case illustrates how holes in the government’s cosmetic regulatory system can hurt consumers. The industry essentially regulates itself. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, made up of physicians and toxicologists and funded by the industry’s leading trade group–the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA)–assesses ingredient safety. Another industry group reviews fragrances and helps create safety standards. But manufacturers aren’t obligated to do anything with this information.

“We’re working on the honor system when it comes to cosmetics safety,” says Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy group. “In the absence of federal standards, we have a huge range of safety in the products we buy every day.”

The FDA has made efforts to improve its ability to spot problems and issue warnings. The agency now has a computerized database, called CAERS, that collects reports of problems such as allergic reactions. Complaints can be sent via the FDA Web site or by calling a district office. But Amy Newburger, a dermatologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City and a former member of the FDA’s General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel, says her experiences make her wonder about the system’s effectiveness. In one case, she filed a report by phone and on the CAERS system after she and several of her patients got a rash with blisters after using an anti-aging treatment. It wasn’t until a year later, in November 2006, that the FDA sent an e-mail asking her to complete some forms, she says. The FDA responds that it doesn’t provide information or feedback to people who file complaints. It simply routes them to the appropriate office for evaluation. The FDA says it may also send reports to companies.

So what are the risks?

Scientists know very little about how repeated exposure to small amounts of phthalates in cosmetics may affect your health, if at all. But some studies suggest that the chemicals are present in our bodies.

In 2005, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that it had found breakdown chemicals from two of the most common cosmetic phthalates in almost every member of a group of 2,782 people it examined. A separate study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) in 2005 showed that men who used the most personal-care products, such as after-shave and cologne, had the highest urinary levels of a breakdown product of diethyl phthalate (DEP).

In rodent studies, phthalates have caused testicular injury, liver injury, and liver cancer. We found no such clear hazards in human research. But we did find studies suggesting that phthalates may be associated with other health issues, including the following four examples from one source alone, EHP, which is a leading journal published by the National Institutes of Health. In 2000, EHP published a small study that said elevated blood levels of phthalates were associated with premature breast development in young girls. Another report in 2003 found that men with higher concentrations of two phthalate breakdown products in their urine were more likely to have a low sperm count or low sperm motility. A study published in 2005 said women with higher levels of four phthalate compounds in their urine during pregnancy were likelier to give birth to boys with smaller scrotums. And a 2006 report cited low testosterone levels in male newborns exposed to higher levels of phthalates in breast milk.

Experts in the industry and the government are aware of such reports but say there is no cause for alarm. The FDA, for instance, concluded after a thorough review of the literature that “it’s not clear what effect, if any, phthalates have on health.” And the CTFA, the industry trade group, notes that government and scientific bodies in the U.S. and Canada have examined phthalates without restricting their use in cosmetics. After the 2005 report linking phthalate exposure to smaller scrotum size, in particular, the trade group said, “The sensational and alarming conclusions being drawn from this single study are completely speculative and scientifically unwarranted.”

Even companies that have dropped phthalates from products say they are safe. “This policy is driven by a wish to allay public concern and does not reflect concern with the safe use of the ingredients,” Avon said after announcing that it would cut DBP from its product line. John Bailey, the CTFA’s executive vice president for science, says ingredients like DBP in nail polish are simply not a hazard in such small amounts.

On the other side are some environmental and public-health advocates who say possible carcinogens and reproductive toxins do not belong in cosmetics, no matter how small the amount. “We take issue with the idea that a little bit of poison doesn’t matter, because safer alternatives are available,” says Stacy Malkan, communications director of Health Care Without Harm. “Companies should be making the safest products possible, instead of trying to convince us that a little bit of toxic chemicals are OK.” While the scientific jury is still out, we at ShopSmart believe it makes sense to reduce your exposure to phthalates, especially if you’re nursing, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant.

January 22, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Health Issues, Hygiene, Lies, News, Shopping, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 4 Comments

BBC: Dog Owners Lead Healthier Lives

(See Statistics: “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” below for perspective. Ask “who did the study? What was the purpose of the study? Who profits?”)

This article is from today’s BBC News online. You can read the whole report here.

Dogs can provide companionship
If you want to live a healthier life get a dog, research suggests.
The companionship offered by many pets is thought to be good for you, but the benefits of owning a dog outstrip those of cat owners, the study says.

A psychologist from Queen’s University, Belfast, said dog owners tended to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Writing in the British Journal of Health Psychology, she says that regular ‘walkies’ may partly explain the difference.

Dr Deborah Wells reviewed dozens of earlier research papers which looked at the health benefits of pet ownership.

In some cases, the social support offered by an animal is greater than the support than another human could offer
Dr June McNicholas
Health psychologist

She confirmed that pet owners tended in general to be healthier than the average member of the population.

However, her research suggested that dog ownership produced more positive influence than cat ownership.

As well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol, she said dog-owners suffered fewer minor ailments and serious medical problems.

There was also the suggestion that dogs could aid recovery from serious illnesses such as heart attacks, and act as ‘early warning’ to detect an approaching epileptic seizure.

Stress-busting

Dr Wells said the precise reason for the benefits was not totally clear.

“It is possible that dogs can directly promote our well-being by buffering us from stress, one of the major risk factors associated with ill-health.

read the rest here.

My comment: I hate a study that says dog owners are healthier than cat owners, but they say that the regular walking might be a factor. Have to admit, that is true. I have a leash for my cat. When I tried to put the body harness on him, some primitive switch deep inside switched on, and the Qatteri Cat went bat-crazy, clawing, biting, twisting, hissing . . . never tried it again.

We tried walking a cat once – we’ve been told it can be done. Our experience we called “taking the cat for a drag.” I’ve never met a cat who would happily take to a leash.

And I never met a dog who wouldn’t go for a walk with great enthusiasm. They wiggle with uncontrollable delight when they see the leash, wiggle so hard you can barely get the leash attached. They bolt out the door, sniff the air, and prance as you race to keep up.

You see life differently when you walk a dog. It’s all “go! go! go!” and then all of a sudden it’s “Hey! What’s this? Some dog peed here! Woooof!” You really do see the world in a blade of grass, when you are a dog, or a hedge, or a pile of cat poop. (“No! No! You can’t eat that!! No!”) Their love of life is infectious, and probably even the stop and go kind of walking you do with a dog is better than no walking at all.

January 21, 2007 Posted by | Family Issues, Health Issues, News, Pets, Random Musings, Relationships, Statistics | 3 Comments

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”

This week I got a survey from our real estate management firm, asking us how they are doing. As I filled it out, I had to smile. I have structured several surveys myself through the years. It is an art.

The first thing you need to know when you are putting a survey together is what you want the survey results to say. I’m a cynic. You can get a survey to show pretty much what you want it to show by choosing your questions carefully, limiting the ways a survey-taker can respond . . .thus the title. If you have an agenda, you can get the results you want.

Here is what our survey did not ask:

Do we communicate with you regularly and accurately? (Sometimes)

Do you understand what we are trying to communicate? (Sometimes we are laughing too hard to get it the first time)

Could our surveys use some work on grammar and spelling? (Oh YES)

When you submit a work request, do we respond and solve the problem in a timely manner? (Absolutely)

Given that the management, guards and maintenance team are all really nice people, are there ways in which we could improve our performance? (Yep)

If we could improve our performance in ONE way, what would you suggest? (Train the maintenance people well, supervise them closely, use checklists, and hold yourselves accountable for shortcomings.)

Hint: If you really want to structure an honest survey, have opened ended questions.

Before you ever take a survey, look through it and ask yourself “what end are they trying to achieve with this survey?” Many times, it is not the survey that matters at all (like online surveys) but getting your address and/or phone number so they can sell you something.

So I wanted to make sure I used the opening quote accurately, and Googled “damn lies and statistics.” Great results. Got the quote accurately, and got a fascinating article from BBC called How To Understand Statistics. Here is how the article opens:

The world is littered with statistics, and the average person is bombarded with five statistics a day.

1. Statistics can be misleading and sometimes deliberately distorting. There are three kinds of commonly recognised untruths:

Lies, damn lies and statistics.
– Mark Twain

This quote from Mark Twain is accurate; statistics are often used to lie to the public because most people do not understand how statistics work. The aim of this entry is to acquaint the reader with the basics of statistical analysis and to help them determine when someone is trying to pull a fast one.

Think about how stupid the average person is; now realise half of them are dumber than that.
– George Carlin

There are many books which teach statistics, but they are mostly big and heavy mathematical books, which cost a lot of money, and which may require a degree in the subject to understand anyway. For many years there has been a need for a

    Statistics for Dummies

book and in fact there is one, written by Deborah Rumsey. On the Internet information on how to understand statistics can be found, but the sites mostly cater for medical students who need to examine experimental drug studies, although a great online starting place is RobertNiles.com, which explains how to examine statistics for errors and how to create your own statistics correctly. . . . .

read more here.

January 20, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Communication, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Lies, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Statistics | 2 Comments

Taking “Normal” for Granted

Today a good friend sent a story about a guy driving a very expensive car and a kid hitting the car by throwing a brick. The guy stops his car, ready to kill, and the kid cries and says it was the only way he had to get his attention, he needs help getting his brother back into his wheelchair. The guy instantly goes from raging anger to compassion, and keeps the dent in the side of his car to remind himself that it shouldn’t take a brick to get his attention.

In the story, it says sometimes God uses a brick to get our attention.

I know, I know, you wonder where I am going with this.

It brings two very simple things to my mind. First, I have bored you more than once with my woes of jet lagging. Right now, I am sleeping great, although I am still falling asleep around nine at night, I am sleeping through the night. Thanks be to God! I wake up in the morning thankful for something so simple – a good night’s sleep.

Sleep isn’t so simple for those who suffer sleep deprivation – and their name is legion. My heart especially goes out to young mothers with their first baby . . . no one tells you how sleep deprivation can change your life. You think you can handle anything. Sleep deprivation is a big brick thrown into your life – it really gets your attention. Without adequate high quality sleep, life loses its lustre, and the simplest thing can be overwhelming.

Second, this is the time of year when many blogs feature colds and flu and lingering illnesses. I rarely get sick, but when I do – oh, I am such a baby. I don’t want concerned people around, I just want to be left alone to suffer. I just want the sickness to be OVER. And then, one day when it is gone – oh! how good it feels, just to be NOT sick! And I thank God for the every day blessing of good health!

We take so much for granted as we go through our daily lives. We forget how really good just being “normal” can be.

But maybe these are the bricks being thrown into our lives to get our attention, to help us to be thankful for our blessings?

Maybe slowing us down helps us to see things we might otherwise speed right by in the busy-ness of our active lives?

Maybe this is all a part of being thankful for the bad things that come into our lives, as well as the good? Alhamd’allah!

I think this is the first day of the Islamic New Year. If so, wishing my Moslem friends all the blessings of a new and, God willing, abundant and peaceful year.

January 20, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Random Musings, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Wierd Photo and Illustration Placement

Do you read the Kuwait Times? No, I am not their representative, but I read fairly closely. In Qatar, I used to find the real information in like the third paragraph from the end of the article.

One time, the Chief of Police gave out his phone number (!) and said “Call me when you see a bad driver.” We all had the phone number memorized, and died laughing when the most common complaint would go like this:

“I am calling to report a bad driver!”
“What is the license plate?”
“I can’t see it! It’s a white Toyota Land Cruiser on C-Ring, weaving in and out!”

The joke was, when we got to Qatar, all the cars were white, and more than half the cars on the road seemed to be Toyota Land Cruisers. Things have become more varied, now.

Meanwhile, reading the Kuwait Times here, I have seen something odd, time and time again. Photos or illustrations, placed in the middle of an article which is about something else totally. I have even looked at the page, trying to think where this was supposed to be – without success. Occasionally, I can find an article on a different page that MIGHT have been appropriate for the photo or diagram, but never even on the same page.

Yesterday (17 January 2007) Kuwait Times, page 17 – The article reads “UK inflation rate hits 3%, highest since 1997.

Inserted into the article is a box. In the box, there are two separate graphs showing exactly the same data – how US department of defense equipment is re-utilized, measured in billions of dollars.

This article has ZERO relevance to the article. This article has ZERO relevance to anything on the page, any article in the financial section.

I’m guessing it was the right size. It’s the only possibility I can imagine. ZERO relevance.

January 18, 2007 Posted by | Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, News, Qatar, Random Musings | Leave a comment

12 Rules to Help you Enjoy Life in Kuwait

By Meshary Alruwaih, Staff writer, Kuwait Times with his permission.

(Actually, even better than with his permission – because it never showed up on the online KT, I had to ask him to send it. And because my computer doesn’t read the file he sent, my husband had to run it off, and I am having to enter the whole thing the old fashioned way, by typing. So any garble, any mis-spellings or wierd grammar is mine, not his.

If you haven’t seen this article, I would love to hear your impressions. I found it very matter of fact. What do you think? Is his experience your experience?)

Life in Kuwait can sometimes be pretty boring. No matter how biased one can be in favor of one’s homeland, it’s always beneficial to acknowledge the limitations and deficiencies of it. Such acknowledgements serve as a gate to self-criticism, which is a necesary prerequisite to making recommandations and offering solutions as to how to improve the experience of living here.

This article provides basic recommendations on how to enjoy your life in Kuwait. The lack of development in all aspects of life in Kuwait has meant that people here – Kuwaitis and expats alike – have a harder time and less options for enjoying life than their fellows in other neighboring countries like Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. I mean, as Kuwaitis, we are stuck here, but for the expats, why would you come here if you could be in Dubai or Doha instead?

Returning from the US, I’d been hoping for a myore dynamic government attitude towards turning Kuwait into an open society, business hub, financial centre, and all the other meanlingless promises we have been hearing for so long. Going by their words, Kuwait is supposedly always on the brink of turning into a vibrant, go-ahead society, where different types and varieties of activities and exciting new venues are always just about to evolve.

Having pretty much given up on all those governmental promises, I’ve formulated some suggestions and rules of my own for helping to enjoy life in static Kuwait, apparently frozen in it’s very own time warp, so here they are:

1. Follow Politics. Do not miss political intercourse in Kuwait. All political actors here have their special sense of humour, whether comical lies and promises by ministers, or stupid proposals by MPs. It gets even funnier when people take to the street to protest, you get women dancing, swearing at ministers, and all kinds of amusing slogans.

2. Don’t get involved in the Kuwait stock market. Do not let your life become dependent on colors, today green, tomorrow red. Rational economic and political order is missing in this country, which is reflected in the market. But let’s face it, it’s always fun to watch how people react to instantly making or losing moeny when it’s not your money.

3. You NEED (Wasta) connections. You cannot enjoy your life in Kuwait without having Wasta. You will certainly need to renew your driving license, get a job for your visiting younger brother, extend his visit if he cannot find a job; these simple procedures will turn into pure suffering if you do not know someone who can help facilitate the process.

4. When June comes, get out as fast as possible. It’s oven-hot, and there is neither water nor electricity, do not come back before September.

5. If you do follow rule number four, do NOT use Kuwait Airways. Truly a horrible experience!! (My note – see previous article on Kuwait Airways here.)

6. Friendships? If you are a Kuwaiti, make friends with expats; if you are an expat, make friends with Kuwaitis. The interaction and exchange of views and insights are fun.

7. Visit a diwaniya. At least once a week even if you don’t like it, it’s important. It’s where you achieve Rule #3.

8. Do not watch Kuwaiti football. Do not watch Kuwaiti football league as it is extremely weak and very boring. And definitely do not support Kuwait National team, as you will end up suffering all the ills in the world. The Gulf Football Championship is coming up soon; don’t say I didn’t warn you.

9. Join one of those health clubs or spas. Well, if you can afford them, of course. They are nice and you will enjoy your time there, but they are ridiculously expensive.

10. Movies: forget about cinema in Kuwait. The Kuwait Cinema Company is months behind its counterparts in the west and even those in the region. Get smuggled DVDs from one of those places in Hawally or Salmiya. Sorry, IPR guys!

11. Starbucks: Make peace with Starbucks, you have to like it, they are everywhere, and chances are you will end up in one of them, so accept the fact that Starbucks is a part of your life.

12. Read Kuwait Times – every day! It will keep you up to date on local politics, provide funny stories about not-so-smart criminals, give you material to discuss with your Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti friends, and it can easily be found in any Starbucks. Oh, and you get to read my column twice a week!
(Meshary@kuwaittimes.net)

My comment: There’s a fine line between tongue-in-cheek and telling it like it is, and I think the column writers at the Kuwait Times are very brave in their reporting life here as they see it. I disagree with number 4 – when everyone else leaves, it is so much easier to drive here! I haven’t had any major electrical outages. And honestly, there is some major infrastructure work – and planning – that needs to take place here yesterday.

Having said that, I usually do leave for a while in August! It can get HUMID!

January 18, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, Communication, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, News, Political Issues, Qatar, Social Issues, Weather | 17 Comments

Qatteri Cat’s Babies

Last night, we had just gotten to sleep, when we could hear the Qatteri Cat crying. We know that cry. It’s his “rounding up the babies” cry. He got a new baby yesterday, a small white bear, and now he is responsible for four babies. This is what we found on our bed this morning:

00qcbabies.JPG

He has had a very busy week, helping me with my projects, and keeping track of all the goings-ons in the neighborhood.

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January 17, 2007 Posted by | ExPat Life, Family Issues, Lumix, Pets, Photos | 7 Comments

Clicks: Newest Coolest WordPress Feature

Too Totally COOOOOOLLLLL. If you are on WordPress, and you look on your Blog Stats page, you will see a new feature. Now, you can see all the clicks people have made from your blog to get to other referenced blogs/web pages, etc. Too too cool, and it just happened, without any great fanfare.

WordPress, I adore you.

I am also grateful for all the trash your Akismet feature keeps from showing up in the comment section. Infinite gratitude for that feature.

January 17, 2007 Posted by | Blogging, News | 2 Comments

Winter Comfort Food: Cornbread and Chili

The recipe for cornbread is right on the cornmeal bag. I bring back medium grind cornmeal (I like Bob’s Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Grain cornmeal, found in the Health Food section of the stores that tend to carry it) when I travel, but I have also found cornmeal in a variety of grinds in Kuwait from time to time. You want to buy cornmeal in a store with high turnover, because it gets bugs if it has sat too long in a warm environment. I store mine in the freezer, and pull it out when I need it.

The secret to truly excellent cornbread is using a cast iron skillet. As the oven is heating, you stick the skillet in. When the oven has reached 425 F/220 C, you pull the skillet out and pop 2 Tbs butter in. Let it melt, and pour in the batter.

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As my Southern husband reminds me “it isn’t Southern unless you start with a stick of butter.” You can try it with a stick of butter (1/2 cup) if you want, but I want to live a long HEALTHY life, so the 2 TBS are enough for me.

Cornbread
2 TBS butter (melted in skillet)
1 Cup Cornmeal
1 Cup Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk

Measure the cornmeal and flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl, add egg and milk and mix until smooth, but don’t mix too much. Bake in a buttered skillet at 425 F / 220 C for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown on top.

I also put some butter on top when it comes out of the oven, and spread it as it melts.

Chili
500 grams / 1 lb ground beef
1 chopped onion
2 cans red kidney beans, drained
2 small containers tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp masa harina (this makes it real, but I don’t know if you can find it in Kuwait)
2 – 5 TBSP chili powder
4 cups water

Brown ground beef in medium large pot, drain beef in colandar. While draining beef, brown the onions. Add beef back into pot, add tomato paste, salt, cumin, masa harina, chili powder to taste, and water. Stir well, bring to a boil and then turn to lowest heat and let simmer 2 – 4 hours. Add more water if it gets too think or it starts burning on the bottom. The long slow cooking makes everything tender, and blends all the flavors.

Cornbread and chili

Break cornbread into small pieces in bowl.

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Cover with hot chili. Beans and corn are a complementary protein, so you can feel very virtuous eating this – besides, it just smells SOOOO good after those hours of simmering. To add even more healthiness, add some grated cheddar cheese over the top of the hot chili. YuMMMMMMM.

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In the South, people break up their cornbread into a glass, and fill the glass with milk. My husband assures me it is delicious. I believe him, but because I didn’t grow up that way, it looks gross and I can’t even watch him eat it that way. But comfort food is comfort food, and if it works for him, I don’t have to watch!

January 17, 2007 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Kuwait, Lumix, Marriage, Photos, Recipes, Relationships | 1 Comment