Monday, September 15, 2014

Do you like apples? Sure, we all do.


I read THE most interesting article about apples yesterday. Really: The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious.

Things I never knew. UNTIL NOW:

- Red Delicious apples are generally thought to be disgusting. All these years, I assumed I was the only one! How else to account for the fact that,

- through the 1980s, Red Delicious apples made up 75% of Washington's apple crop. Seventy-five percent!

- the Red Delicious started out as Hawkeye, and wasn't a deep red color at all. The name was changed to Stark Delicious, and finally Red Delicious (to pair with Golden Delicious) in 1914.

- it only became that crimson red color when a mutated branch of apples appeared in 1923.

- a wide variety of apples such as Fuji and Gala were not readily available to American consumers until the 1990s. All this time, I thought it was my growing awareness as I grew up that explained why I only started eating those superior kinds of apples more recently. But they just weren't available.

- there was an apple industry bailout (in the 1990s, under President Clinton). An apple. industry. bailout.

- since the 1990s, the Red Delicious harvest has decreased 40 percent. Furthermore, 60 to 65 percent of that reduced number will be shipped overseas for consumption, instead of bothering you guys in the US.

Read the article. Isn't this the truest/most beautiful thing you've ever read about Red Delicious apples?

[This is] the paradox of the Red Delicious: alluring yet undesirable, the most produced and arguably the least popular apple in the United States. It lurks in desolation. Bumped around the bottom of lunch bags as schoolchildren rummage for chips or shrink-wrapped Rice Krispies treats. Waiting by the last bruised banana in a roadside gas station, the only produce for miles. Left untouched on hospital trays, forlorn in the fruit bowl at hotel breakfast buffets, bereft in nests of gift-basket raffia.

Also:

As genes for beauty were favored over those for taste, the skins grew tough and bitter around mushy, sugar-soaked flesh.
In conclusion, here are my favorite apples, in order of preference, based on what is available to me here (we had lots more varieties in Ithaca that I've not seen elsewhere, since).

Jazz. Do you have these in the US?
Ambrosia. Same question as above.
Fuji. This used to be my very favorite, but sometimes they're overlarge and watery.
Pink Lady.
Braeburn. These are hit-and-miss, here, though.
Honeycrisp. But they're overpriced and sometimes not good all the way through.
Gala. But only if they're crisp, and they often are a little mealy for my taste. It's too bad because these are cheap and easily available here.
Granny Smith. Good for cooking or making apple salsa.

What are your favorite apples?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Power struggles

Last night as Jeremy and I were tucking in to bed to go to sleep, I got up one last time to check the thermostat - it felt a little warm. To my great dismay, the AC wasn't working. In some climates, that might be a deal-with-in-the-morning problem, but in this one, it's a deal-with-NOW problem.

Lucky us, though, "deal with" means "call a dude." So we did. Then we hunkered down downstairs, which has a separate AC system that was still working. (Also, the downstairs AC runs on Celsius, while the upstairs runs on Fahrenheit. Kind of weird, right?) We each took a couch and tried to stay awake while the AC guy did his thing. After an hour or two, I went up to doze in the girls' room so I could a) doze, and b) keep an eye on how the temperature was feeling up there. (It was warm and getting warmer.)

As I dozed, I recalled something I had almost completely forgotten about in the post-baby haze that has obscured much of the last year. One of the first nights that Sterling and I were home from the hospital, the power went out in the middle of the night for a few hours. The broken...whatever it is that breaks when the power goes out, was very near our house. It was 2am and I could see guys with flashlights in the alley outside my bedroom window. I was desperately tired, but it was too warm to sleep and I was worried about my precious tiny sleeping baby overheating. We pulled out our rechargeable fan and pointed it at Sterling, but the hours dragged on and the charge ran out and the power stayed off.

When he woke up, I changed his diaper and fed him by the glow of my laptop screen. He slept again, but I could not. I drifted in and out of rest, listening to the men banging around with their flashlights and tools in the alley. I hoped and prayed with all the energy I could muster that they would get it fixed soon.

The power came back on after almost four hours and that was the end of it.

Those first nights that you're home with a new baby are so disorienting anyway; the lack of AC, light, and water (because when our power goes out, so does the water) took that up a notch. I'm glad it was just the AC last night (and in many ways, that Sterling is no longer a newborn).

The AC was fixed after a couple of hours last night, and we got a good block of sleep in before morning.

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 12th, outsourced

Jeremy and I competed at Guess the Accent, but we both got 12/12. So fun!

I have been watching this all week: Stuff YA readers say. "But wouldn't it be MORE romantic if...?"

I know you want to see Marvel Superheroes decked out in Hello Kitty. Not gonna lie, it's super cute. [HT Jeremy]

I am fascinated by this project to make a documentary about the sexual harassment women face in Egypt. They did a hidden-camera video of men looking at a woman walking down the street and it brought back sooo many awful memories. The guy at 1:04...shudder. [HT Anna]

Syria's generation in waiting.

What every introvert needs to know to be happy and successful. [HT Sarah]

Finally, a Simpsons database! Other than the one in my brain.

Here is a beautiful time-lapse video of Sharjah.

Bad lip-reading, NFL style. This may be my favorite one yet. [HT Jeremy]

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Reichstag, Berlin, 2002 and 2014

In 2002, Jeremy and I visited the Reichstag in Berlin. My parents took this candid photo of us that turned out really well. I've lost track of the exact provenance, but this is something like scan of a picture of a copy of a picture of the original, which we should really track down one of these days.

When we were in Berlin again this summer, twelve years later, we wanted to try to duplicate that exact photo. Unfortunately, we were only in Berlin for two days, and you have to make advance reservations now to visit the inside/roof of the Reichstag. So we settled for a snap in front of the building, taken near the end of our bike tour of the city.

This reminds me of when Jeremy took a picture of the same Bedouin girl in Petra, Jordan, in 2004 and then 2007. Except it's ourselves. Still, photos are a time capsule of sorts. It's fun to think about where we were in life in 2002 - married for eight months, living in Moscow - and now (three kids and a few degrees later, living in the UAE). We'll have to check in with the Reichstag in another 12 years!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hot Weather Protocol


It's still regularly above 100 degrees here. Over the years, we've developed our own Hot Weather Protocol for conducting everyday activities in a very hot environment. Most of these are just common sense, once you get used to living in extreme heat 4-5 months out of the year.

Hot Weather Protocol (HWP) includes the following:

- conducting as much errand preparation as possible inside the AC'd house/store/whatever. Gather everything you need, put on all your shoes/hats/sunglasses/whatever, and only THEN exit into the sun. The other day we went shopping. I grabbed the stroller out of the car, Jeremy grabbed Sterling, but we did not stop in the heat to buckle him in until we were inside the store's AC.

- teaching your kids a slightly different way to get help if they're lost. We have taught our kids that if they ever get lost (separated from us) outside, they need to get inside first, and then find someone to help them. It is amazing how fast you can get dangerously overheated and disoriented in high temperatures and direct sunlight.

- walking in the shade, if it's available. Always.

- possibly leaving the car running during quick errands, so the AC keeps things cool in preparation for your return. We actually don't do this one, but a lot of people around here do. Including students, while they're in class.

- if you haven't left the AC running, then that's the first thing that you do when you get back in. You start the car, and you blast the AC. This is the hardest for me when I'm grocery shopping with Sterling. I get back to the car and I have a cart full of groceries and my arms full of baby and the angle to get the keys in the ignition is juuuust out of my reach.

- playing outside at dusk/night. This seems so unwholesome in more temperate climates, but here, it is a necessity. Once the sun goes down, the kids come out.

- sitting outside and sweating like it's no big deal. Your kids are playing, you're out talking with the neighbors, and nobody feels like bringing up the fact that there are rivulets of sweat dripping down their back right this very moment.

- crayons and chocolate are not allowed in the car. Ever.

My favoritest, quirkiest HWP is that we put an ice pack in Sterling's carseat during the three hours the car is parked at church. It's the only regular long block of time that the car is parked outside in an uncovered space, and when you get back in - WOW. It is HOT. The buckles, straps, and cover of his carseat would burn him badly if we didn't cool everything down with one of those re-freezable blue ice packs. We do this every week for him, and every week I can't believe this is something that is normal for us.

This time of year is hot, but at least we're in cooling-down mode. Each day is a little less hot than the one before. Soon, we won't even have to follow Hot Weather Protocol.

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