Author Archives: Erin

About Erin

Hi, My name is Erin. Thanks for coming around. Read a story, grab a recipe, and let’s cook!

Feels Like Home

Sunset

They say “A kiss is just a kiss”, that is until you almost kiss your new friend, husband’s co-worker, or their spouse right on the mouth.

Every culture has a different way of saying hello and goodbye. Being surrounded by all different cultures here, the learning curve for me on greetings and partings has been high.

Before I moved here I read that as a woman I should never extend my hand for an Arab man to shake. What I didn’t read was that the second time on I would see someone I had met who was European, there would be a kiss on the cheek. Or two. Or even three.

This is where it gets totally confusing for me.

I am used to a hug, or an occasional cheek kiss back home, so when someone naturally goes in for the second cheek-kiss and I have forgotten that it would happen, it makes for this awkward second where I am face to face with someone and they probably think I am going to kiss them on the lips.

Then the next time they see me they decide, “I’ll only give her one kiss, since that’s what Americans do.”

“And I am thinking, “I’m ready! Two kisses. I got it down this time.”

And we are right back to where we are started.

Times like this I wish I could just Houdini into and out of social greetings.

What else has been weird for me is learning a new form of English. People are constantly telling me that I speak “American” English. Not the English the rest of the world speaks. There are days where I don’t feel like I don’t speak English at all.

I crack a joke sometimes, and no one laughs. I am convinced it’s because they don’t understand my “American” English, and not because my humor is not funny.

Aside from these awkward moments, I am having a blast here! There is not really a lot to complain about.

Every evening it seems there is a beautiful clear night sky.

It’s sunny almost every day.

The sunsets here are what I have only seen in pictures. And they happen every day.

The weather here is near perfect right now.

I have met the most wonderful people, who I am so lucky to have as friends.

I’m learning golf. With it, I’m learning patience, but having a blast doing it.

I still get to playing tennis. Outside. In the winter.

I get to paddle board in the ocean whenever I want.

The city is always bustling and ready to provide a good time. If you know me, you know I love a good time.

I’m getting visitors in a few weeks!!!!!!!

I got a care package!!!!! With Triscuits in it!!

Sure is starting to feel like home here.

FAQ’S and a Sundried Tomato Wrap

I thought when I moved here that I would have all kinds of time to blog. I wouldn’t know a soul, I would be at home a lot. Being sad. Eating my weight in hummus and pita.
I am very pleased to report that it is quite the opposite, (minus the hummus & pita part.) We have met wonderful people and been super busy exploring the area. We are happy. We are settling in nicely. We miss our friends and family like crazy, but instead of wanting to be back home we wish we could bring them all here.
Anyone? Anyone?
With all of that said, I have been my usual self and remained inconsistent with my blogging.
My sincere apologies.

Here we go…

When we were back in Ohio, I would get similar reactions from people when I would share the news that we were moving to Dubai; an immediate look of surprise or confusion. Then one of two things would happen. They would get a look of fear and ask a list of questions OR they would smile and ask a list of questions and tell me about how they knew somebody who had been there or lived there or lived somewhere in the middle east. Or Asia.
I am not dogging on these people. I truly appreciated their interest and willingness to share their knowledge. I really had nothing to share at that point because I hadn’t really been to Dubai aside from a 3-day trip.
Now that I have been here a little bit longer, I am happy to answer some of these questions with the confidence of experience, (six weeks of experience, but experience all the same.)

Q: I had a friend who moved to India too. Are you excited?
I didn’t move to Mumbai. I moved to Dubai. Dubai is located on the Arabian Gulf.

Q: Will you have to wear a burqa?
A: No. A burqa from what I understand is head to toe covering, with a sheer piece over the face. I have seen some women here wearing that. What I have seen more of here in Dubai is an Abaya. This is more of a robe. Their head is also covered, but not their face. The Abaya can have beautiful embelishments on them and even a touch of color. Both symbolize modesty and morality.
I do not have to wear either. I wear shorts around my neighborhood, pants or a skirt out to the mall. Basically, if one dresses respectfully out in public, one will be okay.

Q: Can you eat pork there? I mean, bacon. What will you do without bacon?<br />
A: Yes. However it is not served at most restaurants. Beef bacon is offered. Nope, not the same. AT ALL. But for those who have never had pork, it may be wonderful. If you are in a hotel and eating at a buffet, you may find a little table in the corner with pork bacon. It will always be separated from everything else, like a child being bad.
In some grocery stores you can find pork. It is in a back room.
Seriously.
The first time I discovered the back room I saw the sign that said, “For Non-Muslims Only”. I walked through the door and I felt like I was walking next to Veruca Salt as we entered Willy Wonka’s magic candy room. I could hear the song, “We’ll begin. With a spin. Through the world of your imagination.”
A large beautiful room full of pork products. A butcher with pork roasts, sausages, BACON, & pepperoni. Shelves of pork and beans. And jello. And pop tarts.

Q: Is alcohol allowed in Dubai?
Yes. But not everywhere. And it is very controlled. Alcohol is only served within hotels, which is why hotels here have a number of restaurants inside. In order to purchase alcohol for your home, a person needs to apply for a license. This takes about a month to 6 weeks to process. This meant things were pretty dry here for a while. But no worries, the license came in and we have made up for lost time.
In order for a woman to obtain this license, she needs a letter from their husband saying she is allowed to apply. She needs this to get her drivers license as well.
Thankfully I am good at forging the Great Husband’s signature.
Just kidding. He happily wrote me a glowing letter of non-contention.

(Edit: I would like to add that the non-contention rule is because I am sponsored by my husband on his Visa. He, too, needed the same letter from his work, who is sponsoring him.)

Q:Isn’t the calendar week different there?
Yes. Weekends are on Friday and Saturday. Yep, hump day is on Tuesday. Garfield would hate Sundays. We would call people Saturday drivers. I’m still adjusting to this. TGIT doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. And I need Rebecca Black to come out with a new version of her song for us to dance to on Thursday mornings.

Sundried Tomato Wrap

Sundried Tomato and Irish Cheddar Wrap
Serves 2

2 Whole Grain Wraps
4 Tb Pureed Sundried Tomatoes
4 Slices of White Irish Cheddar
4 Medium Leaves of Lettuce
2 Tb Mayonnaise
8 Thin Slices Cucumber

On each wrap, 2 Tb spread sundered tomato paste.
Lay 2 slices cheese, 2 lettuce leaves, 1 Tb Mayo and 4 slices cucumber.
Tightly roll up wrap and cut in half.
Enjoy!

Dubai: Things I’m Getting Used To

I’m learning life here in Dubai is very different, yet very much the same. I really only feel far, far away from Ohio when I miss my family. However, there is a growing list of things I am getting used to here. Things that are REALLY different from home. Big and small, these things are part of the adjustment, the learning, and the growing (and by growing I mean learning not to fall into a puddle on the floor in public crying like a baby every time something is frustrating).

1.This thing.

Bum Gun

I really wasn’t sure what to do with it.

Clean the toilet?

Wash my hands?

Cool off?

Eventually I learned it was for cleaning your privates after you use the facilities. Cleanliness is quite important in Islam so they are next to EVERY toilet.

I tend to shy away from the bum gun, buy my son adores it. If you are ever in public and hear “Mommy spray my bottom!” coming from a stall, that would be him.

Word to the wise, if you are caught in a stall with no toilet paper and use the bum gun because it is the next best thing, make sure you get nice and dry after. Because if you are wearing linen pants and walk out with a huge water stain on your bum it can be guaranteed that everyone walking behind you will know where you just came from. Just sayin’.

2. Driving

The traffic is insane.

The drivers are worse.

Especially the moms at school. This is no lie.

It is all aggression, speed, and getting to the front of any line.

The roads are ALWAYS changing so no GPS can keep up, that is if you are lucky to get a signal.

FOUR LANE TURNABOUTS. I know we don’t have turnabouts at home, so picture Clark Griswold in London in National Lampoons European Vacation. He is stuck in a turnabout for hours saying over and over, “Look, Honey! Big Ben! Parliament!”

These turnabouts make my heart speed up every single time I approach one.

I am really missing the simple left turn.

3.Construciton

Dubai is and has been in a constant state of growth. There is construction every where you turn. Literally. Everywhere.

As soon as you say, “I can’t believe Dubai doesn’t have ____,” someone will respond, “Oh, they are building one down the road.”

4.Sand Storms

Just a phenomenon that I am getting used to. They haven’t happened often since I have been here. Just two. But they are really an anomaly to me. It looks like it will rain. It gets dark and windy, but if you step outside you get whipped with sand pellets. They will close the pool due to a sand storm. I’m not sure why, but they do.

The sand leaves a light dusting on everything, so cars get pretty really quickly. No worries though, if you park at the mall someone can wash your car for 18 Dirham ($4.90), while you shop.

5.Shopping

The shopping here is INSANE. I have never seen so many different places selling different things. Such a mix of old and new!

My favorite place so far? DAISO

It is like a Japanese dollar store. Everything is bright and cheery and everything is priced at 7 Dirham ($1.91). They have everything from tupperware to wigs. Makeup to Gardening supplies.

I picked up these fabulous face collagen face masks. I don’t have a clue what the package says, but it sure did make my face feel soft!

Japanese Mask

6.The Money

Some people here have seriously ridiculous amounts of money. And they like to show it. You can tell by cars like this:

GOLD CAR

Yep, that is a car brushed in gold. Not the first one I’ve seen here, and I am sure not the last.

The cars here are ridiculous. I wouldn’t know the difference if my husband hadn’t told me. Every day he points out cars and tells me around how much they are worth…always upwards of $100,00.

7.The Laborers

The gardeners, the construction workers, the maintenance men, the movers, etc. These men leave their families back in their home countries and do backbreaking jobs. In the sweltering heat. For long hours. And many ride their bikes on the highway back to their apartments, that they share with many other men.

I am always taking them food and water, and giving them children’s clothes to send home. Twice I set out shoes the kids have outgrown on top of the trash can. Both time they were literally gone in 2 minutes. I know I can’t do anything to fix their situation, but all I can do is what I think is right.

8.The Food

I am in food heaven. This is one of the easiest things to get used to for sure. So many nationalities, so many options. Although I haven’t gotten any food delivered, and shoot me if I ever do this, one can get fast food delivered. Yep, want some KFC? Call ’em up. Need some Burger King? At your doorstep.

9.The Accents

I very rarely hear an American accent. So when I am surrounded by British, Irish, Pakistani, Indian, UAE, and South African accents, my thoughts start to have an accent.

Yes, I started thinking in different accents. I know. I’m weird.

10.The Light Switches</p>

For some reason the bathroom light switches are located on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom. And the flip it down to turn it on and up to turn it off. It still confuses me weeks later.

Small and big these are just a few of the things I am getting used to.

Believe me when I say that there are many more.

Next post will have a recipe.

I promise.

P.S. I am still getting used to seeing camels on the side of the road. We live a bit away from the city, so there is some desert in between. Twice I have seen camels. The Great Husband told me it was a mirage the first time. The second time there were hundreds, and other people saw them. I’m happy to know that I’m not crazy.

It’s Not Goodbye, it’s Dubai

I am sitting on my old couch in my new home. Thousands of miles away from Cincinnati. It is Day 5 here in sweltering Dubai, and we are doing surprisingly okay.

The decision to move here was made quickly, but not without tons and tons of discussion, consideration, tears, list-making of pros and cons, and asking the question, “WHY?”.

Ultimately, we knew the experience would be once we could not possibly pass up. Yes, there were many risks, hopefully none of which will do irreparable harm, but there were also many, many possible rewards.

So we decided to dive head-first and go all in.

Our journey to Dubai started 5 months ago when the Great Husband whisked me out here for a whirlwind trip of a mere 4 days. We had to check out this place before he accepted an offer from his company to relocate.

Our short trip was a total shock to my system. The entire time I felt like there was a heavy weight on my chest. I knew it was the pressure of making the decision that had me feeling that way. The city itself presented beautifully. Tall buildings, fancy cars, huge shopping, and Subway. It felt like a mix between Vegas and NYC. So, through my tears I said I knew we could do this and gave the thumbs up for him to accept the job.

Well, actually I said, “I really want to say ‘no’ because I am scared, but deep down my heart is telling me I’ll regret it if we pass this up.”

For the next 4 months we said goodbye. Every interaction felt important because I wasn’t sure how I was going to live my daily life without the people that were so important to me. The Great Husband left 3 months before us, so that was a difficult goodbye. My family, friends, my Jazzercise students, & my neighbors. Ann, the bagging lady at Kroger, all the servers at Skyline, the childcare staff at the Sports Club. Every time I saw these people over the last few months it reminded me of how grateful I am of them and how lucky I had been to see them almost every day.

Then there were the trips and going away celebrations. All of them special and fun and engrained in my memory for life.

Then there was our last day in Cincinnati.

So many tears.

So many hugs.

SO many feelings bursting at the seams.

A tearful drop-off at the airport…

A phone call to a friend 8 hours later, “Can I come stay at your house tonight? Our flight was delayed. Then delayed again. Then we finally got on and they announced the plane was not working and we would have to get off and switch planes. So we missed our connection. And there is not another available flight to Dubai for two days.”

A phone call to the Great Husband, who started to bawl because he missed us so much and this was just the icing on the cake and he couldn’t hold it together anymore.

Yes, we said our tearful goodbyes and turned around and walked right back in the door. For 2 more days.

48 hours later, we say goodbye again. Less tears this time. We were READY!

We hopped into my dad’s car.

Driving over a bridge Quinn starts to get sick. REALLY sick.

I dump out my purse and throw it to her.

Right in time for her to fill it up with the contents of her stomach.

Minor setback. I use a plastic bag for a purse. Sure wish I had that plastic bag in the car when she was getting sick!

Flight #1 to Atlanta. No delays. Smooth sailing.

Since we had 5 hours in Atlanta I paid our way into the Sky Club. We deserved a little comfort.

After a stern warning that we have to act properly, quietly, and NO RUNNING, Declan goes running to our chairs, trips and falls, and splashes his strawberry smoothie.

All. Over.

On. Carpet.

I really wanted a drink at this point. A stiff one. I refrained. I needed a clear mind to get us through.

After 5 hours, popcorn spilled, 3 epic arguments between bro and sis, games of UNO, tears, I pads, and books, it was time to catch our plane.

We arrived at the gate more ready than ever for our last leg of the trip.

DELAYED. 5 HOURS.

More food, more spills, more tears, more UNO.

Finally on the plane. FINALLY!

Sleep, Movies, Food, UNO, books, coloring, sleep, fighting, tears, potty, tears, UNO, potty, food, fighting, movies, tears, food, potty, DUBAI!

Walking off the plane and seeing the Great Husband at that moment was one of the greatest moments of my life. I gave him the BO-filled hug and a morning breath kiss of his life.

Which brings me back to today.

I am going to try to blog this experience as much as I possibly can. I hope you can join me.

Roasted Beet and Avocado Salad

My 20 year high school reunion is this year. Facebook has been a buzz with old classmates talking about the upcoming event. I have gone back and forth about attending.
I went to the 10 year reunion. I felt like everyone stuck to the same groups as they did in high school. Everyone and everything felt pretty much the same.
Except we were drinking legally.
I’ve heard from many people who the 20 year is different. People have lived their own lives for long enough to step away from their high school roles…hopefully. People have new things going on. Everyone just shows up to have a good time.
I think the role of Facebook has added a new element to the reunion. I am Facebook friends with a lot of people in high school, so does that mean that person will talk to me like they know that I really enjoy Home Run Inn Pizza and that my daughter sometimes acts like Amelia Bedelia? Even though we have not spoken a word directly to each other in at least 20 years?
Or will they totally ignore me? Because maybe you’ve had that happen.
I know I have.
You know when you see someone from high school who you haven’t seen in ages. And you are Facebook friends. So you know that their grandma just died and the names of their kids, and you are standing right next to each other, but for whatever reason you pretend you don’t know or remember each other.
It happens.
I am trying to break out of that. When I see someone I knew or recognize I truly try to step out of my uncomfortable feeling and go up and talk to them. Sometimes I am so glad I do, and sometimes I catch them totally off guard and it is clear they want to run. Fast.
I digress…
As I sit hear about to start Weight Watchers for the 4th time in 2 months, I wonder if anyone will care about people’s changes. I know I have lots more gray hair, a few more wrinkles, a couple extra pounds, and 20 years of wonderful experiences that I am bringing to the table. But hopefully none of that matters. Because all I am really looking forward to is having some laughs, some drinks, and a weekend away from my kids with some people I knew long ago.

Here is a recipe I received from a new friend.
Thanks for sharing, Tenney!

Roasted Beet Salad

Salad with Roasted Beets and Avocado

serves 6-8

2 medium red beets
2 medium orange beets
1 Tb olive oil
1/3 c canola oil
1/3 c red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
2 avocados
1/2 crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 375.
Rub olive oil over beets and wrap them individually in tin foil.
Place in oven and cook for 1 hour.
For the dressing, whisk canola, vinegar, Dijon, garlic, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until emulsified.
When beets are done, remove from tinfoil and let cool for 10 minutes.
Slide the skin off of the beets, removing it all.
Cut beets into a large dice.
Place and a bowl with 1/4 of the dressing and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Slice avocados.
Place mixed greens in a large bowl and toss with remaining dressing.
Top with beets, avocado, and goat cheese.
Serve and enjoy immediately.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Fried Egg

Spring break is just around the corner and we are headed out like trout.  Yep, after what seemed like the longest winter ever, this family is going to hop in the car and trek down south for some fun in the sun.

First step towards a bathing suit body?  Get the stomach bug that is going around these parts.  The sickness was an unexpected gift first given to me while I was on stage teaching my Jazzercise class.  You know that special feeling that comes on strong and suddenly?  That feeling that has you seeing spots and knowing you might spill your stomach right then and there?

That’s what happened to me.  It came on quicker than you can say “I’m not pregnant.”  Times like that I am thankful I teach to a group of nurturing and compassionate women.  The sickness had it in for me.  The timing was awful.  Started on stage, two hours before I was supposed to take my kids to the circus, and one day before I was hosting 5 of my in-laws.

Thank goodness the sickness is short.  For a mere 24 hours I thought I was close to death.  For the next 5 days I felt like I had been run over by car.  Then I finally woke up feeling fine.  That day I even had a margarita.  That was when I knew that the demons had left me and I was finally healed.

Balsamic Brussles

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Fried Egg

serves 4

2 Tb olive oil
4 c shredded brussels sprouts
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp butter
1/4 c crumbled goat cheese
4 eggs

Heat a large frying pan with olive oil.
Add brussels sprouts and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Let brussels sit for a moment so they can brown, then continue to move them around the pan.
Add balsamic vinegar and cook down until it is less watery.
In a separate frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.
Fry eggs, keeping yolk soft.
Top each serving of brussels with a sprinkle of goat cheese an egg.

The Most Amazing Ginger Cookies

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to my guest blogger, The Fabulous Marie!

Patrick and Marie

Marie is a mother of the one and only spunky 3 year old Patrick.  Wife, mother, and Christmas cookie business owner.  And in her spare time she works a more-than-full-time job as a Director of Services and Supports for a county board of developmental disabilities.  Yep.  She does it all.
Today, we have to gift to hear a tad about her life.  She has also been gracious enough to share her most amazing (seriously, most amazing) ginger cookie recipe.

I’m away for work a lot, so when I’m home one of my favorite ways to spend time with my son is to have him help me in the kitchen.  He just turned three, and it’s amazing how much fun we can have just making dinner together.  For anyone thinking it’s deranged to encourage a toddler to cook, let me spin this another way.  When Patrick is helping me make pancakes for breakfast, I feel confident that I have at least a 20 minute window where he isn’t doing this:

Patrick cereal

 or this-:mariephoto

or whatever happened here:

 Patrickmarker

Here is our favorite cookie recipe:

Ginger Cookie

The Most Amazing Giant Ginger Cookies

Yield: 20 big cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line baking sheets with parchment paper

2 ¼ c all purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg1 tablespoon water

¼ cup molasses

2 tablespoons sugar

Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves, and salt in a large bowl.  Make sure to let your little one help measure and dump ingredients.  Three-year-olds are great at dumping things into bowls!

In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer until well combined.  Little hands definitely need a bit of hand-over-hand assistance for this part, but mixers are considered lots of fun.

Add the egg, water and molasses to your butter and sugar; mix well.  Patrick is an expert bowl-scraper during this step.

At wet ingredients to dry, and mix until all ingredients look evenly incorporated.  Use a large melon baller to scoop cookie dough into balls.  Roll each ball in sugar.  This is a perfect job for a kiddo!  Put our sugar-dipped dough onto the baking sheets, and give each cookie lots of room to expand.  I usually only put four cookies on a tray because they spread so much.

Bake 15 minutes.  Conduct a “quality assurance review” as soon as your cookies have cooled a little.  This, of course, is the ultimate pay-off.  There’s nothing like sharing a cookie with your favorite little cookie monster.