Sunday, December 31, 2006

Christmas in Cairo

Egypt is about 95% Muslim. Most of the rest are Coptic Christians who celebrate Christmas on January 7th. Rare as it is, my husband has an Egyptian Catholic employee. We get all Muslim, Coptic and US holidays off. One of my husband's employees was complaining that two of the holidays overlapped this year so they only got one day off instead of two. Fortunately, Bush declared a National Day of Mourning for Ford, so we get another day off. They would all be shocked if they worked for a private company in the US and only got 6 holidays a year.

As we learned last year, one of these groups is always fasting in some manner. Last year, we had the office staff over for a Christmas/Holiday Party only to find out that the Coptics were fasting and couldn't eat meat or dairy. This was after I made 3 batches of rolls that had to rise three times each, cranberry cheesecake from scratch, roasted tomato and cheese puff pastry tarts, a cheese platter, a ham and a turkey. I threw a tofu vegetarian chili together at the last minute and it was quite popular even though most of them had never tasted tofu before. We thought we were in good shape covering the Muslim dietary restrictions of pork and alcohol. We had turkey and kept the champagne next to the punch bowl so that it could be added or left out. Not only did we have the fasting surprise, but many of the Muslims drank beer and champagne. You never know what people will do. We are smarter and better prepared this year, so we are having the party on January 11 after all the fasting is done for all the groups.

This year, on Ian's first Christmas, Curt and Roxxy (the dog) got up early. When Ian and I awoke, we found Curt hanging pictures and listening to Christmas music on the ipod in the Bose Sound Dock. There is a good, cheap framer here in Maadi so we had all of our wedding, baby and family pictures framed to protect them from the dust and dirt of Cairo and also make this apartment feel more like a home. I'm not sure if he is using acid-free materials and they don't measure precisely, but the price is right. We can have them reframed in the US--by expert framer, Heather Hosu--when we get back, but at least this way we can enjoy them now and protect them a little bit. We set up all of our technology the night before so everything would be ready to go. We actually used our big video camera that I bought a few years ago after making Washington Interns Gone Bad. I was inspired, but with my wedding, moving to Egypt and then pregnancy, I haven't done much with it.

Ian was not interested in his presents, but he got some cool stuff: Dr. Seuss books and coordinating plush toys; a book called, Where did Daddy's Hair Go?; teething toys, Robeez dragon shoes, outfits, and a savings bond from his Great-Grandparents.

Roxxy loves packages. I've always ordered her treats and accessories online, so unlike many dogs, she adores postal workers. She got two latex toys and a rawhide. Curt bought clothes for me. I was a little worried because I am not back to my pre-pregnancy size, but everything he bought, including a pair of pants, fit. I got Curt an electric griddle, a granite mortar and pestle (same as all the chefs on BBC Food use) and a breadmaking book called The Breadmaker's Apprentice. Curt made pancakes on his new electric griddle for breakfast. We had salmon in puff pastry for lunch. It was leftover from our Christmas Eve dinner. We finished off the night with crab legs, fresh pasta and asparagus. Curt made everything and it was all terrific. He hasn't quite mastered his pasta maker (one of his goals for the new year), but you put clarified butter, parmesano romano and herbs on anything and it will taste great.

Merry Christmas! New Year's Report tomorrow...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Getting into the "Sling" of Things

I successfully made a baby sling today (the blue one in the second picture). After owning my sewing machine for 2 or 3 years--I don't even remember when I bought it--I finally took it out of the box and tried to use it. Thanks to the accompanying instructional video, I discovered what all those knobs and buttons were for, got it threaded and executed stitches. My stitches weren't quite straight, but I completed the project.

Babywearing has saved my arms and shoulders from total destruction, though they still ache from all the lifting. I have a ring sling (top picture), but wanted to try a pocket sling since there are fewer adjustments. Stacie Steadman posted instructions on how to make a simple pocket sling. I used Stacie's method since I am just starting out, but instructions for a more complex, contoured sling can be found on Sweet Things Baby Slings. You can order on made by them if you don't want the personal challenge of doing it yourself. I thought about ordering a Maya Wrap Adjustable Pocket Sling before I made this one. The Maya Wrap website also has instructions for a ring sling, pouch sling and even a "no sew" version.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Making Sand Angels at the Pyramids

It is December in Cairo and though it is freezing here today (50's and windy), there is no snow for traditional winter fun like snow angels. If it weren't so filthy, I might actually try to make a sand angel, but I'll save that for my next trip to the Red Sea. You can't come to Cairo without visiting the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza. Now that Ian will be living here for awhile, we thought we'd take him so he can give better tours when our friends and family come. We took him to the Pyramids last year at this time when Chad and Lauri were touring, we just didn't know it. Ian won't remember either trip, but this year's pictures with him on the outside are much cuter!

This was a victory for us because we got out of the house and drove ourselves. It is easy to hibernate to avoid the traffic, pollution and hassles of Cairo, but that is no way to live. I've been back for almost a month and have spent most of that time working on organizing the house. Most of the ex-pats leave for the holidays, so everything shuts down until mid to late January.

Fridays and Muslim holidays are the best days to go to the Pyramids because there are less people. This is especially true in the mornings. We set up our tripod to get a family picture without having to pay someone to take our picture. Harassment avoidance!

Ian is wearing his new outfit from Aunt Kate. The wind was rough on him, but he was a champ.