Friday, August 31, 2012

August 31st, outsourced

A lot of travel this week. Not so much internet surfing.

We may never know if Lance Armstrong doped.

Liz Taylor wrote a diet book, and this lady tried it. Hilarious.

An Emirati father of three rescued a newborn baby from a stolen car. Awesome story.

I'm not sure which weird feature of this story to highlight. That its tone and accompanying photo are oddly joyous for what seems to be a severely premature baby? That it doesn't elaborate on the fact that the stewardess "found" the baby in the toilet? That the parents are seriously naming the boy "EK"? Or just that it's a neat baby-born-on-an-airplane story? Take your pick.

If only the parents of little Isabella and Jayden had known about Baby Name Voyager. [HT Jessie]

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Saying goodbye

When was the last time you said goodbye to someone with the expectation of not seeing them again for months, a year, or even longer? I feel like this is something I do all the time, and it's the reason why I am now on the record as hating saying epic goodbyes. I prefer a hug and a "see you later," even if there is a good chance that I will never see that person again. Perhaps this is my way of insulating myself from the emotional upheaval of constantly saying goodbye to friends and family.

I only wish I could do the same for my kids - insulate them, I mean. When they were younger it wasn't so bad, but by the time we moved away from Ithaca I could tell that I was breaking up some treasured friendships. It's hard to watch. It's hard to know that we parents are the ones responsible for doing it. And it's hard to know that it's going to happen again. Transient friendships are one of the major features of a life abroad - even if you stick around for years and years, not everyone else does.

Most recently, we said goodbye to my family in Oregon. I don't know why it was so hard this time, but it actually made me cry to leave them. I've never been one of those people who needs to live close to family (um, obviously), but that doesn't mean that I love them any less, or that I don't miss them when I leave.

We looked forward to our American summer for so long, and then enjoyed it every single day while we were there. It was hard to see it come to an end. I should take my own children's advice: when I asked Miriam if she was sad to say goodbye to her cousins and grandparents, she told me, "not really, mama, because we're just going to see them again next time we come." Well said, and I'll try to remember that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Deception, Scorpio, Bread and butter, Flavia, and a self-severed arm

I'm probably on a plane right now, or else at home with no idea what time or day it is. So enjoy some book reviews from August!

I already told you about A Safeway in Arizona.

Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage TodayDeception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today by Edward Lucas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As my husband noted when he read it, this book is really three mini-books in one. There is a really interesting section about the state of Russia today and how such a place gave rise to spies like Anna Chapman. Then there is a section about some random stories of espionage from WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. Then there is a section about another specific spy, Herman Simm from Estonia. These three mini-books are not woven together very well, which means that no matter how interesting they are on their own, this makes for a very puzzling and disorienting read. An editor should have had the author reorganize it and tighten it up and it would have been fine.

Jeremy and I talked as much about this book's odd sequence of chapters as much as we did about the content of those chapters. Fortunately, I think we solved the mystery. I was almost done with the book when I chanced upon an endnote (well, I flipped to the back of the book to read an endnote, which I don't do for every single one) that I think hints at the genesis of this book. Mr. Lucas apparently planned to write a book all about Herman Simm, but must have decided that it wasn't enough material for more than two chapters (which is the treatment it gets in this final product). So then he added in a bunch of stuff about espionage in the Baltics and Russia in general. Then maybe his editor thought he should throw in some stuff about Anna Chapman et al because that's tangentially related and could bring in a lot of readers. Then they LED with the Anna Chapman stuff since it was the most exciting section of the book. So we have here a book about espionage in the Baltics, focusing on Herman Simm, that only gets at its subject 2/3 of the way through because of a lengthy detour through Anna Chapman-ville.

ANYWAY. An uneven but worthy read.


I Am Half Sick Of Shadows (Flavia De Luce, #4)I Am Half Sick Of Shadows by Alan Bradley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I liked hanging out with Flavia some more, but the Very Special Christmas Episode story was sub-par.




The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not one of those "horse girls" who loves horses and wants to own a horse and will read any book about a horse. And yet: I LOVED this book, and it's all about horses. It was such a joy to read this book - very beautiful and touching. The author spent so long (probably 9/10 of the book) spinning a detailed web of characters and motivations and obstacles and settings that by the time the end came, all she needed to do was tug a few strings and the story turned into a lovely complete picture, with the reader caught in the middle, enchanted.

By the way, if you asked me when and where this story took place, I could hardly tell you, though it obviously could exist in the real world. The fact that the story was not moored to a particular place or time made it all the more lovely.


Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceBetween a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The whole time I had this book I wanted to wear a sign that said,

"EVERYONE PLEASE STOP TALKING TO ME SO I CAN FINISH THIS BOOK."

So good.


Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade FoodsMake the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch -- Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm sure this wasn't the author's intention, but this is the perfect cookbook for an American living overseas. Since we moved to the UAE I've been learning how to make a lot of food items from scratch because they're unavailable or prohibitively expensive. So while the author's cost comparisons don't always pan out the same way for me, the principle behind the recipes is the same. I am so glad to have all of these recipes and tips in one place so I don't have to run back and forth from the kitchen to Google with flour-covered hands.

A downside of reading this book is that now my "buy in the US and take back to the UAE with me" list is longer than it was before...and Jeremy gave me a nice, long, you-are-crazy look when I said I wanted to make cheese.

A final note: I wondered as I read if this is the book Barbara Kingsolver thought she was writing with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Jennifer Reese quotes AVM a few times and it seems like she might share my opinion of that book, at least to some degree. In many ways, Make the Bread is the antidote to AVM's shrill sanctimoniousness (I said that about What to Eat, too, but I think it's even more true here). Where Kingsolver was inflexible and condescending, Reese is cost-conscious and self-effacing. Read AVM's account of raising a turkey. Then read Reese's version. I prefer the latter. As Reese says: "It seems a tragic waste to shape one's life around doctrinaire rejection of industrial food. Which means, I suppose, both insisting on high standards most of the time and then, sometimes, relaxing them." This is my kind of cookbook.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stuff about America that I never quite got used to

We leave the US tomorrow to head back to the UAE. Six weeks in America was not long enough to get used to:

Ethnic people speaking in flawless American accents. In the UAE, for the most part, black people are actually from Africa and Indians are actually from India and Chinese people are actually from China. You know what I mean? It's amazing to me that an American can look like anyone, from anywhere.

Expensive gas. I have to say, I'm glad to leave this behind. Of course we don't drive around in the UAE burning gas for the fun of it because it's so cheap, but here in the US you really have to watch your errands habits because gas is freaking $4/gallon. I was also overwhelmed by the idea that you have to spend brain energy maintaining awareness of which stations are cheaper, and which loyalty cards you have, and blah blah blah.

Public libraries. Really! The public library as an institution has to be one of my favorite things about the United States, and one of the things I miss the most when we're living abroad. Our whole visit here, I could not get over the fact that there was a nice building with lots of books in it that were free for the borrowing. Sigh.

Cheap and accessible and plentiful and fresh root beer and bacon and non-UHT milk and cheeses of all kinds and ice cream and breakfast cereal and Fuji apples and seedless grapes and random ingredients I can never find in the UAE, like ground cloves or cream of tartar. You guys, they sell that stuff right on the shelf here. It's amazing.

Temperate and varying weather. Wait, so there's a thing called a weather forecast that you can consult to aid in planning outdoor excursions? Because sometimes the weather changes from day to day? Weird. And REFRESHING.

Calm drivers. I think Portland has especially calm drivers, but no matter where we were, I kept checking the rearview mirror to keep a clear eye out for manic drivers in huge SUVs flashing their brights at me from right on my tail to get me to move out of the left lane so they could zoom by. Never happened. Not once.

It's been a long visit, but a great one. I think the grandparents put a lot of effort into helping us have a really fun time so they could convince us to visit next summer instead of two years from now. It's been non-stop fun around here, that's for sure, and I'm sad to see it come to an end.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

August 24th, outsourced

Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl, on the Daily Show!

Still MORE awesome Olympics GIFs! [HT Jen]

Enjoy reminiscing about The Baby-Sitters Club with The Atlantic.

Here are some tips for combating jet lag. I have always noticed how much harder it is to adjust to the new time zone when traveling east, and so it was interesting to read that here.

Have you seen The Bourne Legacy? Then maybe you have these questions, too.

Bilingualism in airports in Canada.

This guy wrote about travel guides pandering to extreme regimes, and then Lonely Planet responded. Interesting reading.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The haircut that changed my life

Almost three years ago, I got a haircut that changed my life. It was my first "real" haircut, the first time my hair was anything but all one length. At the time, I was 28 years old. It was a watershed moment for me because it was only after that haircut that I felt like a grown-up, like a real person. Weird, I know. But I guess I was ready to feel that way at the age of 28, fresh out of grad-school wife-dom, and just needed a catalyst. That haircut was it. From there, it was a slippery slope into wearing makeup. I KNOW. At the age of 29, I achieved the milestone of having used up an entire tube of mascara for the first time in my life. I still don't know how to put on eye shadow, though. Maybe I'll figure that out in my late 30s.

Anyway, possibly because that haircut was such a big deal to me, I never felt comfortable letting anyone except that original stylist cut my hair after that. So the only time I ever get my hair cut (in that same conservative, face-framing layers style) is when we are visiting my parents here in Oregon. Why yes, that does mean that I recently went two years without getting my hair cut or trimmed or anything! This is what it looked like this morning, pre-haircut, in the slight breeze, after two years of complete haircut neglect:

What were once face-framing layers were now elbow-framing layers. My hair was so long it was ridiculous. My arms hurt every time I braided it up, and I had to do that all the time because when your hair is this long you can't just throw it in a ponytail. I enjoyed doing hairstyles like a crown braid, but at this length, my hair was even too long to do that (I had a bunch of braid left over at the end and nowhere to pin it). If I wound my hair up in a bun, I sometimes got a headache from the weight of it tugging at my head, and my precious spin pins were no longer substantial enough to keep the bun in place.

So it was a happy day today to go in to my lovely Finnish hair stylist BFF and have her re-give me the MomChop 2.0. Hooray! I just realized I didn't take an "after" picture, though, sorry. It's the exact same haircut as the original, I promise. Sorry for the anti-climactic ending to this post!!!

Edited to add: PICTURE.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

YANNI

Earlier this month, I went to Yanni in concert in Portland with my dad.
You see, I love Yanni's music beyond all reason. If I had to choose one artist to compose the soundtrack of my life, it would probably be Yanni because I practically grew up with his music on in the background at all times anyway. My dad is a big fan and as I grew older, I must have missed any social cues that would have hinted that it was kind of strange for a young girl/young woman to be into Yanni. Or else I willfully ignored them. I have watched the Yanni - Live at the Acropolis DVD many times. I own a lot of Yanni music and listen to it a lot. I own a few Yanni piano books. Are you convinced yet? I, Bridget Palmer, unironically enjoy Yanni music.

So you can imagine how heartbroken I was last fall when I found out that Yanni was performing in Dubai at the base of the Burj Khalifah, after the fact. Actually, I found out during the concert (10.30 at night, through a fb post from a friend who was at the concert) and considered changing out of my pajamas and into clothes and driving to the Burj Khalifah right then and there in hopes of catching a smidgen of the music. Jeremy talked me out of it. I was so, so crushed. It is a fact that as we've traveled around the ruins of the Middle East over the past eight years, any time I see a derelict old amphitheatre (they are everywhere) I imagine that someday Yanni would come there and perform, and I would get to see it. The base of the Burj Khalifah isn't exactly a derelict old amphitheatre but when it came down to it, I didn't care about the setting so much, I guess.

I never imagined I'd get a second chance to see him live in concert, so I was thrilled to hear that Yanni would be performing in Oregon while we were here. The concert was on August 3rd and it was glorious. It took a few songs to get into the concert vibe, to absorb the fact that I was listening to everything live and not watching it on a DVD, but once I was in I was IN. When the end came (after 2.5 hours), I was not ready. I could have sat through another 3.5 hours, easily.

Any other Yanni fans out there among my demographic? At the concert, I was definitely on the younger side of the clientele, but I saw a few other 20/30something groupies there. It's about time we came out in the open and proclaimed our love for some truly great music!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

IRL

Over the years, I've "met" quite a few people through blogging. However, it has almost never been feasible to consider a real-life meeting with any of them because of distance or schedules or the fact that who even does that, getting together with someone you met on the internet??

Well, as of yesterday, I am the person who does that. But I had more than just a blog connection to induce me. First, Kathy is the mother of the wife of the brother of some old friends of ours. So, we're practically related. Second, I somehow finagled my way into being a reader for Kathy's MA thesis, aka her memoir featuring six tumultuous months of her life. I read bits and pieces over the past year and just recently got to read the (almost) final product. I devoured it in one sitting.

My point is that I kind of know this lady, even if I had never met her in real life before yesterday. We made plans to meet up at the beautiful grounds of the Mormon temple in Lake Oswego (it was a convenient meeting place since she lives south of there and I live north of there). My parents came along with Jeremy and the girls and me, because it was a nice afternoon and maybe also because they'd heard me blather on about this lady's thesis and they just wanted to meet her already. I felt a little weird bringing a huge posse with me to meet Kathy for the first time but I also knew enough about her to suspect she wouldn't mind.

I recognized her (and by assumption, her husband Mark) immediately in the parking lot of the temple Visitor Center and from that point on it was like we were old friends. Seriously. It was at once surreal to be talking to someone I've "known" only online for a couple of years and yet somehow totally natural to be catching up on what's new.
After our meeting, I found myself aglow in the joy of meeting a kindred spirit in person and enjoying a good chat. It turns out there's nothing to be afraid of - getting together with people you meet on the internet is totally awesome!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

America in a shopping cart

Yesterday, Jeremy and I went to WinCo (a grocery store) to begin the task of choosing some food items to bring home to Sharjah. It's a daunting task, as anyone who has ever organized a consumables shipment could tell you. Since we don't have an official shipment - just the spare room/weight in our 8 allotted suitcases - we're not being too systematic. There are a few things like powdered buttermilk and vanilla flavoring that I need to be sure to stock up on, but I think there is plenty of room in our luggage for novelties, things that we can pull out from a corner of the pantry on a dark (well, sunny) day in the UAE and eat and think, AMERICA. By the end of our shopping trip, we had $80 worth of edible Americana in our shopping cart. Withhold judgment for just a moment after looking at this representative sample of our purchases, would you mind?
Do I like Pop-Tarts? Not really. I never ate them as a kid (my mom never bought them) but I did enjoy them sometimes...a lot of times...as a college student. Do they remind me of America? Absolutely. I didn't buy a crate full of them, just a couple to enjoy of an evening at home. I also bought a sampling of bizarre Goldfish flavors. I picked up a box of those Peanut Butter Cheerios I kept hearing about. You can't get baking chocolate in the UAE so I got a few bars of that as well. As for different varieties of baking chips - well, I can't even believe there ARE different varieties of baking chips in America. In Dubai, it's chocolate chips and THAT'S IT, you American weirdo wishing for white chocolate and butterscotch and peanut butter.

A few of these items are instructive, for the benefit of our children. Some day soon in Sharjah we will take out the pink and white frosted animal crackers - possibly on a road trip, as in my childhood - and talk to our kids about how we ate those same treats when we were young. The candy corn is to make our Halloween a little more culturally rich.

I will brook no disdain from you re: Gushers. I have an irrational love for those things and I will not apologize for it. I think it's because I pined after them for great swaths of my childhood but never once had the chance to eat them. So now, as an adult, I'm making up for lost time.

The boring stuff like Bean with Bacon soup and ranch dressing seasoning packets and onion soup mix are for recipes, not casual eating.

OK, now you may judge. Just know that there's more where this comes from! We haven't even stocked up at Costco yet. Uncooked tortillas and Tillamook cheese bricks are up next.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 17th, outsourced

It is never a bad time to remind you to watch this video (from SIX years ago) about Al Jazeera English. Still one of my all-time favorites, and since I've been around my family we've been quoting it A LOT.

I swear the 90s didn't look like this when I was living through them. And yet, they must have. [HT Scotty]


I really really wish I could be in Portland for this zombie road race. But I also kind of know I would be too scared to do it. I don't run well when I'm being chased. [HT Blair]

I cannot get enough of these Olympics GIFs!!!! [HT Andrew]

I had totally forgotten about those American missionaries who were kidnapped for a few days in Russia, so this article was an interesting refresher.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sunriver

Can you believe I grew up in Oregon and never once spent a vacation (or even went to) Sunriver? Maybe. I don't actually know how common Sunriver vacations are in the general Oregonian population. I only know that as a youth, it seemed like all my friends spent a week there during summers. Our family never did. We tended to go on vacation to visit both sets of grandparents in California, or just go camping near the coast. Central Oregon was not in my vacation vocabulary.

But guess what? This summer, for the first time ever, the Walkers went on vacation to Sunriver. We just got back today. I feel like a real person now. But I also feel a little strange. Like going to Sunriver was this language I was supposed to learn growing up and it's kind of difficult to pick up now, at the age of 30. I think we figured out the routine well enough in our week there, and we enjoyed it so much that I hope we'll have a chance to put our Sunriver skills to use in a future trip there.

On offer:
Hiking to the top of nearby Mt. Tumalo, a plan which was downgraded from climbing South Sister, and then downgraded again from climbing Mt. Bachelor. Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations to fit the reality of limited time and small children.

Swimming at the SHARC pools. I say pools, because there are several.

Hiking through some lava tubes. Didn't get a picture of that, sorry. Possibly because it was pitch black? Also possibly because the entire hike back I had to talk Miriam down from the ledge of having to pee SO BAD. It was like a hostage negotiation. Don't worry, we made it out without any accidents.

Lots of bike riding, both within the Sunriver community and without. There was one particularly epic bike ride whose distance and difficulty was increased tenfold because of a few key wrong turns right off the bat, both outbound and inbound. And I now have a testimony of ride-along bikes (pictured above, without Miriam, which speaks to my constant fear that I was going to someday take off riding without making sure she was on her part of the bike).

Playing at Elk Lake. The fun began once Jeremy, my brother Blair, and my SIL Emily showed up with a canoe, a kayak, and a stand-up paddleboard.

The most amazing part was that the entire Walker family was there. The last time we were all together was possibly as "recently" as Christmas 2009, but we're not sure.

Hooray for Sunriver!

Book Review: A Safeway in Arizona

A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in AmericaA Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America by Tom Zoellner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First: thanks to Jeremy for introducing me to this book.

In the spring of 2009, Jeremy and I met author Tom Zoellner at the Tucson Festival of Books. We discussed his The Heartless Stone, as well as Arizona, Mormonism, and, briefly, Under the Banner of Heaven. We talked about that book's slant on Mormonism and how Krakauer argued a relationship between a religion and a horrific crime.

Now we have A Safeway in Arizona, about the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, and I find that it reminds me quite a bit of Under the Banner of Heaven - a little bit memoir, a little bit history, and at the core, an exposition of a terrible tragedy. But everything Banner did wrong, this book does beautifully right. Zoellner is a Tucson native and a longtime friend of Giffords, so he is in a good position to write about the events of January 2011. He is also a meticulous historian and story teller. There were so many missteps he could have made in crafting this controversial work - it could have overhyped Giffords, or simplified the Arizona political landscape too much, or caricatured Loughner, or been too sympathetic to one side or the other. Instead, A Safeway in Arizona is at once realistic, nuanced, thorough, thought-provoking, and ultimately very moving. As I read, I alternated between wanting to talk to everyone around me about each page, and wanting to just sit and think for a while, alone, to digest the ideas I was taking in.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2012 Olympics favorites

So sad the Olympics are over. Day-to-day living hardly has purpose anymore. My favorite moments, unenriched by video since the nbcolympics website is a mess:

1. Becoming an expert on swimming strokes and distances, which information I will probably promptly forget. I loved it when Adrian won his gold medal because I was tired of Phelps and Lochte. I also had to suppress my laughter every time they interviewed that one female swimmer who gave her interviews in a voice that sounded like it was still underwater. It wasn't cruel laughter, I promise.

2. Gymnastics. I eat that stuff up. I loved the total emotional breakdown of the Russians during the team competition - obviously some countries don't media-coach their athletes to not cry and pout in front of the camera. They were just so honest about their disappointment. As I mentioned before, I also enjoyed Maroney's perfect vault and that guy from the Netherlands who did a perfect bar routine. Could we maybe, just maybe, have the girls do tumbling passes instead of floor routines with music, though? The guys get to do tumbling passes and it's so much more dignified. If you pay attention, the girls aren't really dancing to the music, anyway.

3. The awesome insanity that is BMX racing. We watched a whole bunch of races in quick succession and I swear to you there was one race where all the bikers except one crashed in a big heap. So that guy cruised on to victory (I think it was a prelim).

4. Track. And. Field. I love it all. Even the events that are really weird to me, like high jump (no matter how much I watch it, I can't figure out how they do that with their bodies) and pole vault. My favorite moment was probably when Galen Rupp (above) got silver in the 10,000m run. If you follow distance running at all, you know what a big deal that is. And of course, the relays are always fun! Too bad there was no dramatic baton-dropping this time around.

What were your favorites??

Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10th, outsourced

In my review of Nothing to Envy, I mentioned the disappearance of my friend and former co-worker, David Sneddon. Fortunately, there is some tentative good news to report these days.

I loved this analysis of why "actually" is the worst word on the planet.

Thanks to Ariana, I enjoyed reading through this list of impressions of America from foreigners.

You will probably watch this a few times. And then call your kids over to see it. And then take a look at the long jump and swimming videos as well. [HT Jen]

I will miss these GIF guides: how Aly Raisman won.

Jeremy went crazy on buzzfeed the other night and forwarded me a bunch of gems that had me annoying my family with my attempts to laugh discreetly (I failed). First, some fun stuff about Nicolas Cage.

Then, 50 people you wish you knew in real life. You've probably seen some of these pictures elsewhere but it's a lovely commentary on the human race that someone has put them all together. And WOW, 10, 43, and 44.

DID YOU SEE THIS? It's only the most amazing men's gymnastics routine EVER.

You know, as much as I love McKayla Maroney and her perfect perfect vault...I kind of love Aliya Mustafina more. Because she's just a little bit evil.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Olympics mystery man

I brought this up on fb, but I'm doing it again here because a) we never reached a satisfactory answer, and b) more people will see it here and maybe the mystery will be solved. I can't believe more people aren't talking about THIS:
A closer look:

Still closer:

The context: my family and I watched pretty much every Olympic swimming race there was. We never, ever spotted this guy in a box under the water. Then came the women's 4x200 relay. And there he was.

Who is he? Why is he there? Why do we get to hear the answers about why divers go in hot tubs, or why the USA women's gymnastics team wore their hair in slicked-back ponytails, but not why the heck there is a guy in a box under the pool during the women's 4x200 relay?

Some possible explanations:

1. He is a turn judge. BUT NO: from this vantage point, he can't really see the swimmers when they turn.

2. He is some kind of photographer. BUT NO: he can't even maneuver himself into a comfortable shooting position in that cramped space. Also, he doesn't appear to have a camera.

3. He is there to alert the medics in case one of the swimmers starts to drown.

4. He is there to operate the underwater cameras.

5. He is some kind of stroke judge. I don't know enough about this to know if that's feasible.

I think explanation #4 is the most likely. But it's still weird, because it's such a cramped space, and he wasn't there for every race, just the women's 4x200 relay.

WHO IS THIS GUY??

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Fred Meyer tourist

On Monday, Jeremy and I went to Fred Meyer. Jeremy quickly became immersed in the camping/outdoor/hardware section, so I passed the time on my own by walking up and down each aisle, without a shopping cart or basket, just to see what's new in American grocery stores these days.

Greek yogurt is a new thing. I mean, it existed two years ago but there was maybe only one brand of it in the dairy case. Now there are several, in all flavors.

Coconut water - what is this new craze? I had never heard of it before and now I see it everywhere. Is it kind of like the aloe water that was so popular in Japan ten years ago?

So...goldfish crackers come in S'mores flavor now??? What fresh madness is this??

I see that there has been a lot of innovation in the hair ties industry over the last two years. I went ahead and bought me some fancy, new-fangled rubber-y hair elastics that hold my hair really well...even if they kind of tear it out when I remove them. I think I'll take the trade-off - regular elastics don't do the job for me.

My sister tells me there is such a thing as peanut butter Cheerios, but I haven't seen them in any stores yet. I did spend a good long while in the cereal aisle at Fred Meyer, though. Ah, so many memories. I keep putting off the pleasure of digging into a box of Cracklin' Oat Bran or Corn Chex because I'm afraid it won't live up to my expectations, which have been inflated by a long absence from those cereals.

Sippy cups look different now than they did when I bought them for my own kids. The cup itself seems to be surrounded by a clear plastic insulation layer. Maybe that keeps the milk/water colder?

You can buy alcohol in stores here. I felt like a sinner just walking down the beer aisle.

I have a Google Doc list of things to bring back to Sharjah, so it was good to get a feel for what's out there. And I even bought a bag of S'mores Goldfish to see if they're any good.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

American Mormon

For two straight years, we were absent from the world of American Mormonism. In the western United States, when Mormons go to church, we are immersed in more than just the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a Mormon culture that exists alongside the religion. Stuff like huge hair bows, and streaked-dyed blonde hair, and clothes from DownEast, and handouts in Relief Society class, and words/phrases like "had the opportunity to" and "refreshments," and the lady visiting in Sunday School introduces herself to the class as coming from a place called "Payson" and everyone just kind of knows that's in Utah. Not all of us subscribe to this culture, though, even if we all believe in the religion.

In Sharjah, of course, church is a very different experience. There is much more of the religion and far less of the culture - because really, whose culture would it be? The congregation is mostly Filipino with lots of Africans and other miscellaneous nationalities tossed in there for good measure. As a whole, we Mormons in Sharjah are blissfully free of the American brand of our church - can you tell I don't care for huge hair bows? I love that a version of Mormonism exists that is so entirely non-Utah-centric. If you introduced yourself at church in Sharjah and said you were from Payson, you'd have to add "Utah" and probably "the United States" for anyone to understand where you meant. One time I asked a visitor from Utah to help me teach the children's class at church, and it happened to be July, near the time of Pioneer Day. Bless her heart, that woman chose to give a lesson to the kids about that holiday, and it was a great lesson, but it was totally over their heads. They were most fascinated by the drawings of pioneers she showed them - bonnets and aprons and overalls and boots and wagons with billowy white covers. They'd never seen such a thing, because of course, they weren't raised in the shadow of American Manifest Destiny.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Dubai weather vs. Portland weather

Being in Portland during the summer has vaulted us back (or forward) in time to winter in the UAE. The nights here in July and August may even be chillier than they ever get in Sharjah in January.

However, Portland has been going through a major heat wave for the last few days. It got up above 100 degrees on Saturday which was a Big Deal here. For us, it felt more like April. On that record-setting day of heat in Portland, I happened to log in to my computer and notice that the temperature in Dubai and the temperature in Portland were the same at that moment.

You see? Ninety-nine degrees in both places. The thing is, it was 3am in Dubai at the time (and 4pm in Portland).

Still, I think it's kind of neat.

Friday, August 03, 2012

August 3rd, outsourced

Can't remember who sent me this link, sorry, but truer crappy pictures have never been drawn. It is so hard taking little girls to go potty in public bathrooms

These aren't baby names, exactly, but here are the 28 most awesome names of the Olympics.

Here's what Olympic divers' faces look like while they're diving. [HT Jeremy, via Andrew, maybe?]

I loved this good-natured fun-poking at Olympics commentators.

Find your Olympic body-match! I'm a female sprinter from Palau. How about you?

This truly is ridiculous: Olympic badminton teams deliberately losing. [HT Jeremy]

Photos of the largest blackout in history. It's so hard to imagine that many people being without power all at once.

"If it was a pure switch, there are going to be some rather confused Mormon families next spring during family movie time."

For another viewpoint on the "having it all" debate, see here.

I was riveted, RIVETED by this article from the woman who wrote the ill-fated profile of Asma al Assad in Vogue. It at once chilled me, inspired sympathy in me, and made me roll my eyes. On the latter point, what if all journalists got a chance to give context to every controversial interview they'd ever done? Hindsight puts everything in a different light. Really, though, this is a great article...and maybe I kind of do wish that journalists got to tell these kinds of stories more often.

More weird stuff in my house

Once again, it's been a few years since I spent a good length of time in my childhood home. And once again, I'm noticing a few weird things here.

Liquid-hand-soap-dispenser-in-soap-dish is still around, but the soap dispenser is at least classier.

The diarrhea box is still here, too, but it has also undergone a classiness upgrade to a basket instead of an old shoe box.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Olympics olympics olympics

How much am I enjoying watching the Olympics for a few hours each night? SO MUCH. A few points of discussion:

1. Spoilers, ugh, WHY? I can hardly get on the computer without seeing a headline or a fb status update or something else that completely ruins the results of an event that I won't be watching until the evening. So frustrating.

2. The men's gymnastics team final was amazing. I love how NBC perfunctorily showed us the routines of each American gymnast and then tossed them to the wayside in favor of the total drama that was Great Britain's bronze/silver/bronze tug-of-war. So awesome.

3. Also awesome: what The Atlantic called Subtle British Game Face:


4. Maybe I am a sucker, but I loved watching Missy Franklin win a gold medal. She seems like such a nice young lady.

5. Did you see McKayla Maroney's vault in the women's gymnastics team competition? I have never seen such a fabulous vault. Look it up somewhere and watch it (like here, until it's removed).

6. I am developing body image issues because I spend a few hours a day watching perfect specimens in action and when I catch a glance of myself in the mirror...well, it's just not the same.

What are your Olympic impressions so far?

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