Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kuwait: Local Food Options Growing

Over the summer I watched a really interesting documentary (Food, Inc.) about the agricultural and food production industry in the United States.  (https://www.facebook.com/Foodinc) I've always tried to feed my family healthy food- fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc. But the premise of the documentary is that fruits, vegetables, and grains aren't what they used to be. The soil is depleted, plants are chemically treated or modified, animals are fed unnatural or anti-biotic infused foods- in short, it has now become critical to not only know what you are eating, but how it was grown and where it comes from.

Local Kuwait Free-Range Eggs
Living in Kuwait, where agriculture is not a huge industry and the majority of your food is imported, I was concerned about how to incorporate some of my new and evolving belief systems regarding the food that I feed my family. So imagine how excited I was to walk into my local Sultan Center after being gone all summer, to see a new section of local Kuwait produce: tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, herbs and long green beans; in addition to local dairy and poultry: free range eggs, goat and cow milk, laban, yoghurt, and haloumi cheese. They are not organic, but I feel better buying non-genetically modified and locally grown products, even if they are not organic. Organic food shipped from the US or Holland incurs such an added cost to the environment and must be picked before it is ripe. (They carried the same line of products at both Salmiya Sultan Centers, but I don't know about all the others.)
The local free range eggs, as you can see, were 1.250 KD for 6 (compared to about .450 KD for a dozen of regular imported eggs. And, as you can see, they are small. Still, they tasted great and the shells were so thin and strong, with little brown speckles on them (like...um, real birds eggs). We boiled the eggs and ate them with a white sauce over toasted homemade wheat bread. They really were good. Still, the local products are limited, so I still buy a lot of regionally imported fruits and vegetables (Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia), but I do try to stay away from anything from the Americas or Europe. And while nobody competes with the carrots from New Zealand-at least I am moving in the right direction.
Tomato based soup garnished with local haloumi and basil.
I also bought some haloumi cheese. I was trying to figure out what to make with it, and felt inspired by some black-eyed beans. So, experimenting, I made a tomato-based soup with black-eyed beans, quinoa, and barley- garnished with locally grown basil and grilled haloumi, and served with homemade whole-wheat bread (I still have not found a hearty wholesome bread that I feel good about). It was a much needed delicious and nourishing meal after all of our traveling.
Homemade whole wheat bread
In addition, I brought some seeds back from the United States to try some square-foot gardening to grow some of the produce that is only imported from Europe (zucchini for example) or not available at all (Kale- I requested it at the Sultan Center today, and the manager looked at me like I was making the vegetable up-I told him to Google it). So- if you have any square-foot patio gardening tips, let me know!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


BirthKuwait: a new organization for pregnant or breastfeeding women in Kuwait!
Well, I usually like to keep my professional blog (EngagingBirth.blogspot.com) separate from this travel/family blog- but I just wanted to share some exciting new developments. We are in the process of creating a new organization- BirthKuwait- to help provide resources (doulas, childbirth educators, breastfeeding specialists, prenatal yoga instructors) and information for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers here in Kuwait. We are working on the website (BirthKuwait.com) and hope to have it up and running by September. Just thought I'd share, in case you run across my blog while researching a move to Kuwait. Check out the BirthKuwait facebook page or my other blog for updates.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Kuwait

Easter Bunny came while the kids were at basketball. Nice to have the separation of secular Easter and the real Easter Sabbath the day before.

Baptized on Easter Sabbath (Friday), and we enjoyed an Easter dinner with many friends late into the evening. Wonderful day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Beach on the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

Two peas in a pod!

So proud of Amirah and her friend kayaking in the ocean for hours. Loads of fun!

Surrogate big sister time.

Notice the 1970's playground equipment? There were five merry go rounds, and 4 seesaws. Awesome. There was even zip-line with tires and a pully-system with yards of chain to play with. Love it- although we did have a couple bloody lips and some bruised heads...maybe that's why they don't make playgrounds like this anymore.
We drove 1 hr south to the Saudi owned Chevron complex (strange to pass a McDonalds and Starbucks in the middle of the desert) to play at the private beach at our friend's house. You walk out their back door right onto the sand- it's great. Kids had a blast. Almost worth living an hour from civilization...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

International Day at AIS Kuwait

Our faithful high-school support team

Cowboys and Indians!

On Thursday, the American International School of Kuwait had their second annual International Day. I volunteered to work at the American Booth- which I thought, being an American School- would be well stocked with eager American moms. Alas, there were only three of us. But we were all enthusiastic and had great support from the science teacher and high school students who also volunteered. It was like working at a carnival all day. I made 350 chocolate chip cookies, another mom made 1200!! We also had popcorn and a snack mix, homemade lemonade (by the gallon fulls!) and some smaller portions of rice crispy treats donated by another mom. We passed out American "food" all day- and ran out by the time we got to the high school kids. Unbelievable. We also had to eventually hide my Star Wars swords and cowboy guns (we had American culture on display) because there were some Kuwaiti boys who kept trying to walk off with them (originally, they wanted to buy them).

It was a really fun day, and I enjoyed looking at all of the other booths and tasting food from especially the Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Swedish booths. Olivia and her class were asked to perform their dance again, so I tried to capture it on video. But I couldn't get it to download. Will try again later.

Dust-storms of Kuwait: Why I love my Dyson

We experienced our first dust storm on Friday night. We had some friends over for dinner after church, and as we were talking in the living room- we looked out the front windows and saw a huge dark cloud moving over Kuwait City. It blackened out the lights as it went, and by the time it reached us, you couldn't see anything outside of our windows even though it was only 6 pm. All of the harbor and marina lights were blocked out, sand was blowing in under the doors (until we put damp, rolled up towels under them), and the wind was howling. We couldn't go outside until 10 pm to take our friends home- so well enjoyed being "sanded-in" together: we had hot chocolate, pancakes and bacon! (Best night in Kuwait according to Cooper & Olivia). It was a lot of fun- but it has been a mess trying to clean it up- argh.....it's everywhere!
Luckily, we were scheduled to go clean our church villa the next morning anyways because it was hit much worse than our house (the doors and windows don't seal very well). God bless my Dyson vacuum- seriously. I invoked many prayers on behalf of my vacuum. I used it for hours vacuuming the dust out of the chairs and carpets on the main floor, cleaning the curtains and walls, and sucking up dust wherever we could reach. How can anyone live without one? :)

Camels and Playdates

We met up with our Mum's in Kuwait playgroup the other day- and there was about six camels wandering up and down the beach by our playground. The kids really enjoyed watching them. Eventually their owner ran down the beach and rode them all away :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Food: The Great Adventure in Kuwait

OK, so I know you are all wondering what a post about grocery shopping is doing in an adventure blog- but let me assure you- grocery shopping is an adventure in Kuwait! My family can attest to my history: I used to plan meals a month in advance. True Story. But now that we live in Kuwait, I have had to adjust my habits (i.e. let go of a certain amount of control). Here's how meal planning works now: every morning, Mehrsa and I go for a walk along the corniche, for about an hour, right after we drop the kids off for school. We go directly to the grocery store (get there around 8 am) just as they have finished restocking all of the produce. We stroll around and look for what is actually in stock within a reasonable price range- and then plan our dinner for that night accordingly.

So, for example, this morning they actually had fresh Thyme and Basil, plus some great looking organic tomatoes from Saudi (so they were affordable). Voila ~ homemade pasta sauce for dinner tonight with whole wheat noodles, yum-yum. We are inviting a colleague of Shahram's who is in town on a World Bank mission for dinner tomorrow night, but I have to be at the school's American Booth for International Day, so we also found some amazing looking Eggplants (from Kuwait no less!) and fresh mint and cilantro. To top if off, they actually a) had fabulously fresh looking strawberries in stock and b) they cost less than an arm and a leg- so of course I had to buy FOUR boxes of them (they are from Jordan). Mehrsa and I immediately gobbled up a whole box of them when we got home with some sliced bananas. Mmmmm. So, my tips for grocery shopping in Kuwait: 1) Go early and 2) Go frequently- you never know what you'll find!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ginger in Kuwait

Ginger - exotic, spicy and aromatic. The title of this restaurant was chosen well. Ginger is one of the most surprisingly flavorful and delicious Asian restaurants I have ever eaten at. We've explored cuisine in countries all over the world, and I rarely blog about them. But I was so pleasantly surprised tonight, that I wanted to share this jewel with others who might be looking for exotic Asian food. The spring rolls, even without the rich peanut dipping sauce, were bursting with flavor (kolrabi and green apple?). We melted with the warmth and flavor of the Tom Yum soup - full of fresh ginger and lemon grass. We had an incredible green curry and vegetable tempura, and ended with the sweet rice with mango and the fried bananas for desert. Every bite, every morsel, burst with flavor and texture. For the discerning and seeking food adventurer- this is something not to be missed in Kuwait. Don't be mislead by the humble exterior, Ginger is truly a treasure.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Nizwa Souq

When we arrived in Nizwa there were hundreds of men gathered together. They would stand shoulder to shoulder, swaying back and forth to the drums, while a few men danced between the male lines, spinning and flipping their swords and old muskets. It was apparently a dance performed at the end of Ramadan during the Eid. The drumming was cool!

Nizwa Souq

The first part of the souq (or market) that we entered was the fish market. Cooper couldn't stand it, and said "didn't they know I don't like fish?" as he covered his face with his shirt. Sensitive boy. We made it over to the Khanjar (sword), silver, and clay section of the market. Much more up Cooper's alley. The kids had a fun time exploring and trying to touch everything in the stores. There were a few stressful moments with Cooper (think bull in a china shop), but all in all they did really well. Mehrsa is very careful and meticulous about putting everything back where she gets it and handling them very carefully. Olivia is fascinated by everything and slips into her own imagination as she browses. Amirah is on the hunt to find something she thinks we'll buy her. We enjoyed looking at some Khanjar's from royal families that were about 2,500 OMR (that is nearly $7000 USD). Wow. I also really liked the silver lanterns (think genie in a bottle) and the wooden door pictures frames. Doors in the middle east are always elaborately deocrated. The rest of the house can be a plain brown clay square, but the door will be painted with bright colors, carved, or otherwise ornamented. Doorways are an entrance from the public sphere to the private sphere and hold a lot of symbolic meaning. So they make these small pictures frames with carved or jewel inlaid wood doors that flip open to reveal the picture behind. They are beautiful! Its a way to capture the beauty and symbolism of these amazing doors without having to buy a lifesize one (which many expats do, and make them into table tops). Nizwa is known for djinn (Genies) and flying carpets. Someday I'll post a summary of some of their stories :)

Wadi Shab

A wadi is a desert river bed, often dry most of the year. But this season of the year, there was water in the river bed right up to the area where you park. So we started out taking a boat from the parking lot across the wadi to start the hike from the other side. We hiked not far from the wadi bed the whole time, like hiking next to a river. The first area of the hike was on soft sand under a grove of palm trees. After that, the terrain became gravelly, with small to medium sized loose rocks in between tall cliff walls and little vegetation. A little further in, we scrambled up some smooth red rock, and along some "cave" like paths along the side of the cliffs above the wadi. The cliff walls gave way to felaj (water canal) walls that ran above the wadi as well. Then we had to leap or scramble from large boulder to boulder right before we dropped down into a deep wadi pool. This took about 90 minutes, and we were were so grateful for the cool fresh water at the end! Amirah was an amazing hiker, never complaining and leading the way. Olivia was not far behind her, telling stories and holding our hands. Cooper walked most of the way,but needed some help over the boulders and Mehrsa got the best ride of all: on daddy's back. We had life jackets on them in the deep pools (thank goodness!). After spending about 30 minutes in the first pool, we swam through a narrow ravine, hiked over some small water falls, and then swam through another narrow ravine where only your head could fit above water before it hit the rock walls, and into a deep pool in a cave. Water falls were pouring in over head, and you could see light streaming in through holes in the dome. Amirah scampered up the cave walls (hooray for keens!) and jumped off these tall cliff walls inside the cave twice! I couldn't believe it! Olivia waded with her life jacket on, holding onto the edge of the wall. I got tired pretty quickly because I had already had to swim carrying Cooper on my back, and then I had to hold both he and Mehrsa up as there was no place to stand in the cave (luckily there were some finger holes in the wall, and Cooper did have a life jacket on- although Mehrsa wouldn't wear hers....we need to get one that's pink :) But we were able to stay for about 30 minutes; Shahram dove off the cliff as well, and then we swam back. Amazing!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cooper Birthday

Cooper loved his gifts! We chucked his parachute guy into the air over and over in the front courtyard, and then the girls did back bends and made bridges for Cooper to drive his two cars under. Once we got the batteries into the "gears" all the kids would hang out around the fridge changing the configuration. It was a great party. :)

Cooper Birthday

Happy Birthday Cooper! Cooper is four! We had a nice, quiet family birthday party. The girls spent a lot of time on Cooper's gifts. I wasn't sure how we would decorate the cake because I didn't have any frosting tips, but Amirah suggested poking a hole in a ziploc bag, and it worked great! Mehrsa is tired of smiling, can you tell?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

San Diego with the Paksimas

We had a really fun (far too short) visit in San Diego with the Paksimas. They did crafts, swam every day, and went to Sea World. We were also able to spend some time with Uncle Mohammad and Aunt Sima who were visiting at the same time from Mombasa, Kenya. What a treat!

Summer Essentials

Soap on the trampoline makes for FUN times with the cousins.
Half the cousins together for a family water kick-ball game. Everyone played. It was a blast.

Summer Essentials

Sand, water, sun, grass, soap on a tarp, cousins...the essentials of a fun summer break!

Aunt Heather's Haircuts

Heather gave Cooper and Olivia some great haircuts. Thank you Heath!

Black Hills Camping

Fords, Wests and Paksimas camping at some rustic cabins in the black hills. They had a small hot tub, a stream for the kids to play in, bonfire pits, and a very "cozy" cabin. :) We all had a great time!