Monday, January 31, 2011

The Show Must Go On

This Christmas found Oldest Daughter on tour in Asia with Oberlin's Orchestra. We missed her dearly but were glad for the opportunity she had to visit China and Singapore with fellow musicians and friends as they shared their music to full halls wherever they played.

When we caught up with Oldest Daughter in early January, as she made her way to Jordan, arriving just a couple days after we did, the first and most memorable story with which she regaled us was of their concert in Wuhan.

The short video below mostly tells the story, and features sleep-deprived Oldest Daughter and her friend, Holly, as they play in their traveling jeans for a sold-out crowd of 1300, while waiting for their luggage and the rest of the orchestra to arrive. (They are playing Sarasate's Navarra, which they performed together in their junior recital in November. They didn't have their music with them but were able to download it from a borrowed computer.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Amman Recital~Violin and Piano

Friday, January 28 · 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Union Bank, Main Auditorium (downstairs), Shmeisani

Lauren Manning, violin
Rania Ejeilat, piano

Come hear Schumann Sonata in A minor, Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, and a few little surprises...
Admission is free

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Hegemony of American Slang

Whenever my kids visit the dentist in Jordan they come back with funny stories about the conversations which the all-woman staff have while they are working on the kids teeth. Here is a guest post from Tayta recounting such a conversation:

Overheard in the Dentist Chair

We went to the dentist yesterday to get our teeth checked, and I was chosen to go first. The dentist, walking into the room with her assistant following, warmly greeted me. They began chatting, and I don’t think they stopped chatting for more than a second or two the entire time they were working on my teeth. As the dentist began the examination/cleaning of my teeth she said delightedly, “Your teeth, they are beautiful! Fantastic!” In the beginning, the conversation was directed towards me in English, but very quickly the dentist and her assistant switched to Arabic, and since I am a foreigner, I was not expected to know any Arabic. Little did they know that I understood the entirety of their amusing conversation.

Dental assistant: "Aw, she seems like such a nice girl, and she has such beautiful teeth! We should have her come some time just so we can spoil her, although, she doesn’t seem like the spoiled type.”

The dentist agreed, and then, changing the subject, she asked her assistant. “So what is this word ‘duh’?”

The dental assistant replied, “’Duh’? Well, it means: ‘Why are you asking? It is so, so obvious!’”

The dentist replied, “Hmm, that’s what I thought. You know, my daughter is saying it all the time now! She says it after every single sentence. Do you know what I told her? I told her,” Mama, why do you keep saying duh? It is not nice! If you keep saying it I’m going to…” (Relatives here have the custom of saying their name before the sentence when they are talking to kids.) After the nurse showed her amusement, the dentist went on,” You know what happened in the car the other day?”

The assistant asked, “What happened?”.

“I was in the car with my daughter and my son--and can you believe it?-- my son does not want to study for his exams! The exams are on the 20th and he thinks that if he just studies on the 19th he will have studied plenty. But I told him, “Mama, what will you do when you get older if you don’t get good grades on your exams? He innocently replied that he would have a car business and sell Mercedes and Rangers, but I told him, 'Who do you expect to buy the cars from you if you don’t get good grades on your exams?' And then my daughter said in English,” You guys. Duh!”

The assistant laughed and said with a little bit of surprise in her voice, “She said ‘guys’ too, along with ‘duh’!”

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Big Pot of Comfort~Beef, Barley, and Mushroom Soup

I don't bring many food items from the States to Jordan anymore as more things are available here now and the baggage allowance has been reduced. Two carefully chosen items for transport, barley and dried porcini mushrooms, are needed for this favorite soup recipe and it was one of the first things I made upon our return to Jordan. If you need a good, inexpensive source for dried mushrooms (not to mention lots of dried fruit, nuts, etc.), check out Nuts Online. They offer the best price--by far--that I have found on porcini mushrooms.

This recipe can easily be halved. I like to have lots of leftover soup--we make a dinner of it one or two nights and still have leftovers for lunches.

Beef, Barley, and Mushroom Soup
  • 1 1/2 cups dried porcini mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes in 3 cups hot water.
  • oil
  • 1 1/2-2 lbs beef, cut into small pieces (I used topside which was already sliced thinly.)
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 12-16 oz mushrooms, finely chopped (that is how we like them but you could slice them if you'd like)
  • 1 1/2 cups barley
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, leaves chopped
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
In a large pot brown the beef in a bit of oil. Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook until just softened. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and continue cooking until softened. Blend the dried mushroom mixture in the blender and add to the pot. Add approximately 16 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the barley and seasonings. Cover and let simmer 45-60 minutes. (This soup thickens quite a bit so you may have to add more water as it cooks.--as always with soup, adjust liquid and seasonings.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 21st Day of Christmas...(and a great recipe)

Now that I've unpacked the camera and had time to upload pictures, we are enjoying some Christmas memories:

After writing my post about a tree-less Christmas, a dear and thoughtful friend called to ask if she could bring us a live Christmas tree. Sure! Dear husband had to trim off a few branches so that it would fit a borrowed stand and the needles were everywhere, but oh, the scent of fresh pine was lovely! (When making our bed one day I found a tiny bough from the tree, brought to bed by Dear Husband as he was so enjoying the fresh, outdoor scent!) We improvised on decorations: a few of my childhood ornaments we had with us, a package of candy canes, and a Jordanian headscarf.

We gathered as a small extended family on December 26, waiting until our young niece could join us. Mom set a beautiful table and made a delicious dinner. My contribution: the recipe, received from my cyber-friend, Teri. This dish is Delicious and I plan to make it just as soon as I can find some prunes for less than $10 a pound! (who would have that they'd be so expensive here?)

~Mediterranean-Style Chicken with Capers, Plums, and Olives~

(serves 4-6)


  • 15 small garlic cloves, whole
  • 2T dried oregano
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 leek white & light green parts only, chopped fine
  • ½ cup dried whole pitted apricots
  • ¾ cup dried whole pitted plums
  • 1/3 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup capers with some brine

  • 2 3 to 3.5 pound chickens, cut into pieces
  • 2T packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup dry red wine such as zinfandel or syrah
  • 2 T fresh parsley or cilantro, garnish


1. Make marinade in bowl, stir well & place in bag w/ chicken pieces. Turn
and coat evenly. Seal and refrigerate 2-4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 425. Place chicken in baking pans in single layer. Arrange
marinade ingredients around chicken. In small bowl, blend brown sugar and
wine and pour over chicken.

3. Roast, basting once or twice, 40-45 minutes, til nicely browned and
cooked through.

4. To serve, arrange chicken on platter w/fruit and olives and juices
around. Garnish and serve immediately.

After lunch, we broke into the gingerbread house. The yogurt and chocolate covered pretzel fence went first.

Next came the gift opening. Here is Aunt A. sporting one of Tayta's handknit hats, a popular gift-item this season.

On the day-after-the-day-after Christmas we headed up the mountain for some tube sledding.

Flying into the New Year...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Long and Winding Road...

...that leads to our (your) door
will never disappear
I've seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to our (your) door

~Paul McCartney

The equilibrium tilt began last Thursday or so, as we packed our suitcases and boxes and prepared, after six plus months in the US, to return home to Jordan. In an ironic twist we said good-bye to Active Son, leaving him in a "foreign" country to continue his studies as we returned home to Jordan, a country where we will always be considered foreigners no matter how long we live here. Such a strange life it seems, particularly during these times of transition between two worlds.

Our journey home began dubiously when our very first flight out of Boise was delayed for six hours due to mechanical difficulties, causing us to miss all our subsequent connections. So much physical and emotional energy had been spent just getting this far that we decided to wait the six hours in the airport. After a couple of hours had passed, Tayta remarked, "You know, it doesn't seem like we are in Boise anymore." Indeed, we had passed into the travel twilight zone. The other delayed passengers became our new friends. Particularly memorable was the young violinist, very reminiscent of our own Oldest Daughter, trying to get to an audition on time. We chuckled at the overheard conversation she was having with her father regarding busking in the airport-- nearly identical to conversations that Dear Husband has had with Oldest Daughter!

It took a whole day of travel energy to make the one hour flight to Salt Lake City, where Delta put us up in the very comfortable Radisson Hotel. The next morning it was onward to Boston where we had our tightest connection: just one hour to deplane, stand in line for new boarding passes for the Air France flight, and have all our bags make it onto the Air France plane. We were the very last people to receive seats on this flight; we headed for security for the third of four times. Served us right as we had our carry-ons over packed. I had even stashed a small book in my coat pocket.

We arrived in Paris to a most pleasant surprise: we had been told we would have to collect our bags, go through customs, and then re-check them onto the Royal Jordanian flight. When our bags didn't show-up on the baggage carousel we assumed that they hadn't made it onto our Air France flight. We went to inquire and were told that they had, in fact, been checked all the way through to Amman via Royal Jordanian! We walked at least a mile in the Charles de Gaulle airport and I can hardly imagine how hard it would have been to negotiate that journey with our nine pieces of checked baggage--even with carts! When we arrived in Amman we expected at least a couple of our bags to be delayed but instead we found them, all nine, collected and piled on carts, ready for us to roll through customs and out of the airport. Amazing!

We had a wonderful first night of sleep in our own beds and enjoyed a full day of energy before jet lag settled in on the second night. Day two and we are forcing ourselves to say awake until 9pm. And even though I was too tired to finish putting away the groceries, I enjoyed making dinner in my own kitchen, for the first time in months. It is good to be home.

Airport/Airline Notables

Kudos to all the airline representatives from Delta, Air France, and Royal Jordanian, who helped us on our journey. Our revised itinerary was fraught was possibilities of missed flights and lost luggage, but all went smoothly thanks their competent assistance.

Most thorough security check: Boise airport. Two of our carry-ons were unpacked and I was subjected to a pat-down search due to a quarter and a tissue I had forgotten in my pants pocket.

Most relaxed security check: Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Got to leave our shoes and belts on for this one.

Most comical security check: balls of yarn flowing from a 6 quart stainless steel cooking pot when Tayta's overstuffed carry-on was opened.

Best airport bathrooms: O'Hare airport in Chicago (from our November travels). One pushed button activated an automatic toilet seat cover change and an automatic toilet flush. Pretty spiffy.

Best Cuisine: Air France. Couscous, dried tomato, and smoked salmon salad, anyone? And, the coffee--no comparison.

Most Egalitarian Boarding Proceedures: European airports. No priorty boarding, just open the gate and everyone lines up and gets on the plane. I like it, course, because I am always a second class, economy passenger in the US.