Saturday, January 31, 2015

Go Baris!

This is what we were doing last night

This is what Alex was doing last night.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Not a typo.  The other important delivery last week was non-dairy cheese (Mozzarella flavor), called Teese, that proclaims itself to be shelf stable. Yup, shelf stable!  I am not going to think about the processing that goes into that, because what it means is this:  We. Can. Make. Pizza.  Because of course, only a jerk makes pizza for dinner when one member of the family can't eat it yet wants to eat it.  We tasted it straight from the package and I thought it was disgusting, but kept my opinion to myself because really only Alex needs to like it and I was not interested in influencing that decision. After shredding it and putting it on top of homemade pizza dough and sauce, it was actually tasty and I was happy to share the non-dairy pizza with her.

We will be ordering it again. And the Cheddar flavor, to try it out.  Next up, when we have a chance to try it, will be a report back on the nondairy box mac n cheese we got.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


I have lived overseas many times, even prior to the foreign service. Some of those times, I lived in places without access to cheeses normally found in the USA. Somehow, at those times, it never bothered me (perhaps because I was never in charge of cooking during those times, i.e. student days when my meals came from a canteen and I didn't have to worry about figuring recipes that strayed from what I knew and were comprised only of local ingredients?)  In any case, the lack of cheddar cheese has been affecting my family more strongly than we ever would have guessed.

And then we learned that cheddar can actually be shipped safely. It does not need to maintain refrigerated temperature (if you don't believe me, check out this scholarly tome from the University of Wisconsin. These are people who know cheese)!

After five months without a decent cheese, we learned that some ship cheddar through regular pouch. When it arrives, it is normally 100% fine.  We tried it with a 2lb block purchased off Amazon.  It arrived this week. Those of us who could have cheese gorged.  The next morning Zoltan asked for cheese and crackers for breakfast.  Oh, how did we manage before now?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cashew Milk

The foreign service provides an amazing benefit to people posted in countries where many American products are not available - the Consumables shipment - that allows us to ship bulk quantities of items that get consumed (so of course food, but also paper products like tissue paper, napkins and the American glory, soft toilet paper!). The downside is we must make our last Consumables shipment before our last year at post begins. Many food items have a shorter shelf life than a year, so you're just out of luck those last months. Rice milk, specifically, starts to taste funky within a month of its expiration date, and that date is never a full year out.

In my infinite quest to ensure that Alex and I can continue to find dairy substitutes I have started testing out homemade recipes.  First up was rice milk.  The milk smelled funny but tasted fine, and I will probably play with it in the future.  However, at post nuts are plentiful, so we decided to try this cashew milk recipe.

Oh. My world is transformed.

The Ninja ground the nuts so fine even a mesh sieve didn't catch all the bits.  However, the milk settles nicely in the fridge and when I pour off from the top it is smooth, creamy, and just waiting for a chocolate chip cookie for dunking.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Good and Cheap


Leanne Brown is a food-studies scholar who wrote a book, Good and Cheap, that enables people on very tight budgets (think food stamps) to eat healthfully and deliciously for approximately $4 per day. It is a free .pdf available on her web site, and a second run of paper books will happen some day - soon, we hope.  Terry somehow found out about this book and we downloaded the .pdf to try it out.

Here's the thing.  The very basic, staple food items that are affordable to those on a tight budget are also staple items that can either be found overseas or ship well.  Also, the recipes use basic spices and simple pots, pans and casserole dishes - this should appeal to an audience who must carefully weigh (literally and figuratively) every kitchen appliance they want to have on hand.  People like us.  We have made three of the recipes so far - two have been completely delicious and one we plan to tinker with. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year Resolutions

I don't usually do resolutions. Sometimes I plan guidelines, the last two years I have participated in the "One Little Word" phenomenon. Like the rest of the world, my good January intentions usually fall apart well before the spring thaw.

This year I am getting a little slower, creakier, and stiffer. Starting my foreign service career did not remove the mental-logistical responsibilities for my other full time job of taking care of the house and family although of course most of the physical responsibilities have fallen to others. In shorthand, my concentration and focus aren't what they were. I need to change something about my life, but something that is relatively quick to do, easy to remember, and benefits my body and mind.

Experts say we're more likely to follow through on goals we make public.  My goal for this year is to do one Sun Salutation every single day.  If I'm still doing it, I'll report back on the progress (if any) on the first of each month. I have some high hopes but for now I'm just going to keep it real.


(note, this photo is NOT ME.  But I hope to down dog like this by the end of the year)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

(Belated) Merry Christmas to all

The waffles were made and eaten, as well as the homemade breakfast sausages (Note to husband, there is no such thing as too much maple. Thank you for the beef sausages).  A LOT of presents opened and then played with, batteries charged so other toys can be played with. New movies watched. Alex has not yet taken off the winter hat given to her by my in-laws, she loves it so much.  I had to break our resolve not to change out of pj's all day because we needed eggs - chocolate chip cookies can't be made without them.  Fresh bread, an apple pie in the oven and chocolate chip cookies the kids made - with minimal supervision - queued up.

Some highlights: Alex saying this was the best Christmas ever primarily because we got to wear pajamas all day, even when we went outside to play in the snow (thank you snowpants).  Alex excitedly running out to tell Terry about one of the kitchen science experiments we did this morning and telling him "It's all fizzing over like beer!" Zoltan making tunnels and mountains out of his own body as the new electric train runs around the track.  Terry got the VPN working so Target no longer scorns me when I try to access its web site.

And, for the first time ever, thanks to living in a Muslim country ...... when Terry cooks up his traditional Christmas ham for dinner there was a ham just for me made from beef!  Merry Christmas indeed!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Our winter wonderland

Astana is the world's second coldest capital city, with the coldest recorded temperature of any capital (-52, not sure if it was Fahrenheit or Celsius but at that temp does it even matter?)

In the last month, we have been starting to enjoy what winter in Astana has to offer.  We went ice skating at a rink, which was important for getting some of our skates sharpened.  We then spent a few hours at the embassy skating rink (yes, you read that right. The embassy constructed an ice skating rink on the compound.  Our awesome facilities manager also created sledding hills out of mounds of snow.)  Here's the awesome part: on the embassy rink, for the very first time ever, Zoltan consented to skate without holding on to anyone or any thing. And after skating around for about 10 minutes on his own, he grabbed his hockey stick and started passing the puck with Terry. He immediately fell down after every shot. This was probably not on purpose in the beginning, but he definitely had decent enough stability towards the end that he didn't have to fall down. When skating around he would fall down and bounce right back up with an "I'm Good!"  Alex also had her stick and the three of them had a grand time until the blisters from her new skates started to bother her too much and bad mommy hadn't brought Band-Aids so she got benched.  Somewhere along the line Terry got his hands on a leftie stick so I will soon participate as well.  He was in absolute heaven playing with the kids on the ice. This is his dream come true.

There is also an ice skating rink at our apartment complex. created from boarding up and flooding a soccer pitch.  They recently added benches right outside the gate, and even flooded that area so from the time you get your skates on you are on ice.

Finally, the kids and I went to explore another phenomenon at our apartment - a sledding ramp, all iced over to keep the sled going farther, with stairs cut into the snow mound and a tunnel to play with off to the side within the same snow mound. We played out there for a good hour and the kids wanted to stay longer.

We haven't even looked for the ice city we hear gets constructed around now each year, nor have we yet snowshoe'd or skated on the river.  It's a good thing it's a long winter!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Settling in

We have books on the shelves.  The children have toy storage furniture in their rooms and the toys to fill them.  The awesome two story UAB box fort is just a pile of recycled cardboard and I think I am the only person who mourned its passing. Four boxes and two suitcases of clothes, books and housewares to donate to the nuns.  Snow tires on the car. More shelving requested from GSO and all balconies are full. We finally reached critical urgency in getting Alex new ice skates as the rest of the family's skates have arrived and skating is once again on the family activity list (spoiler alert: we got skates this morning and hit the rink this afternoon).  Beer is brewing.

We have spices, sauces and seasonings. Terry doesn't even normally like Mexican food and we've eaten enchiladas, tacos and tortilla soup all in one week.  Turns out what I suspected is true ... I don't need much in the way of clothes, toys, games, gadgets. But I must have my kitchen/pantry in shape or I'm a big grump.