Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Come Here!" Laughing Baby Video.

Here is a video of Kaden having a hard time containing his excitement. He waits until Daddy says "Come here!" before he runs into his arms, but it's hilarious to watch how patience just about kills him! Lol Enjoy. :)

Grocery Pricing.

I've complained about the cost of grocery shopping here before (plenty of times actually), but I constantly hear people saying they don't notice much of a difference or "it isn't THAT expensive" but with spending over a hundred bucks a week on supplies for homemade meals for 2 and a half people, I decided I should actually figure it out. And guess what I found out? Holy freaking crap is it WAY more expensive than shopping at home.

Now, I will admit, back home, I shopped at Winco, which is a "bulk" type store where you can get most things out of bulk bins and you fill your little begs yourself (like you would with produce anywhere else) but they have everything the huge stores have, just much cheaper. So to go off of their prices wouldn't be a true representation of the price difference because I saved money by going there. So I got online and priced the items through Albertson's. They're pretty middle-of-the-road when it comes to prices and so is Lulu Hypermarket, where we shop here.

So, here are the findings. These are the prices we've paid in the past three weeks (I've converted from metric when necessary and priced in American currency):

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (per pound): Lulu's: $ 2.99 Albertson's: $1.99
Gallon of fat-free Milk: Lulu's: $5.45 Albertson's: $1.99
1 Pound ground beef: Lulu's: $6.74 Albertson's: 3.99
1 head Iceberg lettuce: Lulu's: $2.82 Albertson's: $0.99
6 oz. fresh blackberries: Lulu's: $6.81 Albertson's: $2.50
1 box Multigrain Cheerios: Lulu's: $6.53 Albertson's: $1.67
Jumbo pack Pampers size 4: Lulu's: $12.80 Albertson's: $9.99
Men's Stick Deodorant (Gillette): Lulu's: $8.28 Albertson's: $2.50

Total: Lulu's: $49.43 Albertson's: $25.62

That's a difference of $23.81! And this is just for a few specific items. No wonder our freaking grocery cart is always barely half-full, yet is two or three times what I EVER paid in the States. And back then I was constantly buying pre-packaged easy-to-make (read: pricier!) products. Since we've moved here, I now cook dinner every week night and we all eat cereal for breakfast and sandwiches or leftovers for lunches. There should be no WAY we could spend as much as we do on food.

Anyway, at least I feel better knowing we aren't actually EATING double, just paying double. Heh.

Monday, July 27, 2009

9 Days and Counting! (And Kaden Twi-vid)

I can't believe it's only 9 days until we leave for vacation! After counting down for so long and feeling like it would never come, now it seems like it's here fast! I am sure this is how it's going to feel when we get to go home. We've been waiting for so long to finish our goals and get back home that once it does arrive, I'll bet it's going to feel like the time went fast.

Stu is already getting nervous about moving back home. I am a little, but not like he is. It's a nerve-wrecking thing to be so set in our ways here. We make enough money that we don't really have to worry about anything. If we decide we want a video camera (two weeks ago, hehe) or want to get steak AND shrimp for dinner this week :) then we just do it. We don't have to plan out the money for things and focus on saving up for things because we spend so little money here. The saving just happens naturally. But when we go home and have bills and we each have jobs again (which cost money in themselves with car payments and gas and insurance and work clothes, etc.), it's kind of a frightening thing to think about diving into again.

It was nice getting so many comments (and even more emails) with suggestions and personal feelings about what we should do. I asked because even though I know we feel like we've thought of everything, inevitably, someone will bring up something we haven't thought of before. It happened, and actually for the better in this case. Marcia in particular reminded us that Boise winters REALLY aren't that bad and that moving home then wouldn't be the Hell situation we're so worried it will be. (She also offered lodging, which is always nice, hehe)

I know we've definitely both come full-circle as far as money goes since we came here. When we got here, the goal was simply to pay off debt. If we left here with that gone, we'd be better off than before we came. When that happened so fast, we developed fairly complex goals with specifics in mind and the fact that we'll actually hit our goals come mid-December is such a rejuvenating feeling. I think we've both gotten to the point where money really isn't everything ('cause let's face it, money IS everything when you have none of it) and where those "things" (like, uh, living life instead of talking about it) are important enough to walk away from the money aspect...

We are going to reevaluate everything after our vacation (and how much of a motivator it ends up being) and determine if we think we can and should stick it out here longer than we planned. For now, I'm not willing to ask any more of ourselves than what we've been driving toward for over a year now. I guess we'll let the chips fall where they may, but in the meantime I am soooo excited for this much-needed vacation.

Those who have travelled with toddlers (I know no one has travelled 27 straight hours with a toddler, but bear with me), any handy tips or tricks you'd like to share? Or if you haven't, any ideas that you think might make the trip less stressful for everyone, we'd appreciate the advice! :) We've been considering getting one of those kid leash-type things that allow the kid to walk, but unable to release your hand and go running away (like our lovely child has taken to doing lately). Thoughts on those? Anyway, yay for vacation! 9 days!

Oh, and I have been a loser at remembering to take videos of Kaden, but here is one from yesterday that made me laugh. Any time I need to get anything done, I can pop in Twilight and Kaden is enthralled. Not sure what it is about that movie, but he actually watches it while most movies are just background noise to him. (I know, I know, I shouldn't let the TV babysit my kid, but sometimes, dishes just need to get done) So ha! I'm not the only Twihard in the family. :) Enjoy.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Musings About Perspective.

When we get back from our vacation, we'll be just about 4 months from the Zero Day (moving home). Because we have a lot to do before we get there and after we get there, we have started planning the process now. Months ago, to keep myself sane, I was looking up things like houses for sale in the Boise Metro area, the cost of basic household appliances, sale prices at Winco, etc. But I got over that because it turned out to be much more depressing than I anticipated because it was so far away.

Now, Stu has jumped into the planning process with a vengeance. He's got lists and prices and contacts and, and, and...

Now, here is the problem I am facing: I just can't envision it. Sure, when I think about "going home", I picture myself perched on one of Marcia's bar stools, chatting for hours while Judge Judy screams at folks in the background. I picture Ann Morrison park and my son running wild in the grass. And sure, sometimes, I have a vague idea of what a "home" will feel like.

But, Stu looking up the differences in two ranges has me stumped. I light my oven for crying out loud. How do I know if I need an energy star rating or a stainless steel model? I just want one that can turn its self on when I turn a knob! No more squatting down, removing the drip pan, holding a flame to the gas and watching it "POOF" into existence. I just want a modern, working oven!

The same goes with the rest of the appliances. I wash dishes by hand (like 5 times a day because of insufficient supply AND a sink the size of a cool whip container) and truck my laundry up two flights of stairs to wash it. HAVING a dishwasher and a washer and dryer that don't leave soap on my clothes, or fade them from black to grey in three cycles is all I care about.

"The guys" at work have been warning Stu about the dangers of a wife and a new home. They have horror stories about several-thousand-dollar curtains and drapes and endless paint, honey-do lists that go on forever, top of the line fridges, etc. But these are the same women who trot around with designer handbags and A&F pants. They're high maintenance about everything. It's not me. I grew up with frugal parents (ok, my Dad was plain old cheap) and I remember my Mom's sewing machine working over time to get curtains up in our house. They were adorable. They had this sort of country-feel to our house because they were big antiquers back in the day and it totally worked. I remember how "cool" I thought getting to pick out fabric and a pattern for a new sundress was. They worked hard to save money and now they're WAY better off than people their own age. That was instilled in me from a young age. I've always been frugal and now it's suddenly ME having to rein STU in. He is the one who has his heart set on a side-by-side fridge with the freezer in the bottom, and the water hose that he seems to think is going to cost a hundred bucks.

The bottom line is that my perscpective on what is a "want" and what is a "need" has been heavily skewed by living here. I'm about ready to buy a mobile home and all the fancy-shmancy appliances Stu can stuff it with, a couple cars, and NEVER have any more payments in our life. I probably won't actually rationalize that one, but still, material things mean so little to me anymore.

I feel like even though we have the money now for the nice things we'll eventually want, doesn't mean we need to actually buy them now. I definitely want to upgrade some of the crappy stuff we've been living with for the past few years, sure, but I feel like it makes more sense to slowly transition into the nicer/more expensive things like a super fridge and bedroom set.

I want to live within vacationing distance of my family. I want to be able to let my son play outside without the worry of heat stroke (and in grass, not sand and ash). I want to be able to go on a drive on back roads with my husband, just to drive and talk. I want to have a choice about the friends we have and the types of people I want my kid around (my son has started putting crayons in his mouth... Stu thought he was eating them until he removed it between two fingers... smoking. Neither of us smoke, just our lovely friends). All of these things seem so trivial, but they become a lot more important when you're without.

Also, just a little poll: How many of you would kill us if we decided to stay a bit longer? I ask because I think it's retarded that we've decided to go home in the dead of winter (we don't even own clothes anymore that are appropriate for winter in Idaho) and Stu is adamant that we won't have enough saved to go home before winter starts. So my thought? Wait till March if we can stick it out. We'll see. I want to go home yesterday, so we will see how the next few months go. But, thoughts?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Silly Counting (sort of)

Kaden is just as excited about the new video camera as we are and he likes to watch himself in the playback. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite grasp that he has to stay in front of the camera to be able to watch himself later! Lol

So here is a bit of silliness and some out of order counting (he can REALLY count up to 5 and recognizes 1-10 written down, but the camera is too exciting to focus on performing). Enjoy, family! :)

Toys and Sunset.

Here are a few pics of Kaden playing with some of his new toys over the past few days! :)

And here are some pics Stu took of the sunset tonight. As hard as we might fight it, some times it sure is beautiful here. :)

And then there's this one, lol. This is what Kaden thought of the movie Jumanji!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kaden's Birthday Dessert

Because we already celebrated Kaden's birthday and had cake this past weekend, we decided a dessert would be good instead of doing cake again. We received two packages from Aunt Mo yesterday, so here is Kaden enjoying his dessert! Thanks, Aunt Mo! :)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kaden's Second Birthday Party!

We had a long and fun-filled weekend! We started it out by going out to eat at Cantina Laredo. My meal was great, but poor Stu’s was dry (chicken) and not very good. We had fun anyway though and we got home early to relax before Kaden’s big second birthday party the next day.

Kaden was pretty confused about what having a birthday party meant. He seemed cautiously optimistic when I assured him that Mike would be coming over to play with him. He passed the morning singing Happy Birthday to no one in particular.

The party was a pretty good time. Kaden enjoyed having so many people around, which is good because I wasn’t sure how he would react to it. After Rama arrived first, he accepted everyone else without any freaking out. Hehe.

Kaden got SOOOOO many cool toys for his birthday from all of our (his) friends. I thought his room was crowded before, NOW it’s just crazy in there! Lol. But he is actually playing with his toys again, which is great for Mommy (and giving me time to write this blog!).

Let’s see, he got a fun little sling-shot chicken that he alternates between being terrified of and in love with, and two Paddington bear books from Lindsay and Hilal, which we’ve read at LEAST ten times already! :) His card from them also included some Cars stickers, which is his favorite movie, so he keeps “reading” the card! Haha.

Charmaine and Chi Wai got him this totally awesome play gym thing that has 4 different games in one. It pops open like a tent and then you can play soccer, knock down some cans, play cornhole, or basketball! He loves it and has also found new uses for it, like holding his cars (in the basketball hoop) and pretending to sleep in it! Haha Charmaine was also a dear and came bearing cupcakes that she slaved over on her poor pregnant feet! But Stu in particular loved them and decided one was an appropriate before dinner snack last night! Lol

Lisa, Austin and Myla got him a Mega Blocks train set, which is really cool because we already have a bunch of Mega Blocks, so this morning we made a “train station” out of them and set up the track (which he decided can accommodate other cars and not just trains). He’s still playing with that as I write this.

He got a bowling set and shopping cart and cooking stuff/groceries from Mommy and Daddy. He especially loves the shopping cart!

Matt got him a set of race cars that wind up and Zoooom and Budda got him a remote control Spiderman Hummer. He uses both of those in place of the bowling ball to knock down the pins now and they explode everywhere! Clever kid. Lol

Mike got him a cute little piano that has numbers on it and comes with a book of songs by number so he can learn his numbers and coordinate them to a song! (And it’s travel-sized!)

Dan got him the hit toy of the day with a Winnie the Pooh stand-up piano with a honey pot seat and microphone. It sure is loud, but he LOVES it. I don’t think it’s been off other than sleeping times for the past two days. Haha

We ordered pizza and had snacks and Rama brought a dessert from the Lebanese Flower Bakery that was yummy! Kaden was WAY too busy having fun to stop and have some food though.

After the festivities, we headed up to the common area upstairs and played poker on the pool table (hey, it’s felted! Pretty close to a poker table). Kaden was pooped and went to bed early and Kyle cleaned us all out at poker (and then caught a flight back to the States bright and early the next morning out of Dubai!)

All-in-all, it was a great time and Kaden absolutely loves all his new toys! After hanging out with so many people I’m even more excited to share him with the family in a couple of weeks, now that I know he won’t be too freaked out by a bunch of people around.
Only 16 days till vacation now! Yay!

Kaden expressing his glee about his birthday party!

Daddy playing with his favorite toy before the guests arrived.
The snacks (sans pizza). See the sneaky little hand eating all of the goodies before his friends arrived???
Mommy and a carrot-eating baby.
VERY excited kid! :)
Hanging out with Mike and his new Burger King car.
Opening his presents! He loved the Mickey Mouse bag from Lindsay and Hilal. He is still carrying it around.
Getting Myla to read to him from his new Paddington Bear books!
Cool new cars from Matt!
So excited about his new piano from Mike!
Learning how to use the new piano
Cake #1 of two!
Kaden was not thrilled when we all sang Happy Birthday to him and he ran to Mike for comfort (or was just trying to get to the highest place in the room... Mike's like 6'9" or something!) He did blow out his candle all by himself though and I didn't let him burn himself this year! :)
Excited he has even MORE presents to open when Budda and Dan and Kyle finally made it.
Showing off his new remote control car to Lindsay.
Opening up Dan's present!
Oh my gosh! Can't contain his glee!
Thanks Dan!
Getting some assistance with unwrapping his microphone from Rama.

Serenading the crowd.

Clapping for himself when he finished playing. Lol.

Poker time! Matt and Mike.

Dan decided not to play but showed his support anyway. :)

Budda. Haha

Kyle, the champ himself. (Maybe it was whatever was in that sippy cup that gave him the edge...)

Stu dealing the cards

outside the camera flash is super bright

Monday, July 13, 2009

Planning Time!

Ok, I've decided that our vacation is getting close enough that I can start planning it! Stu and I both love get out and about when we vacation/travel so I would like to know if you have any "must-see" attractions in or around the Raleigh area.

My cousin, Sarah, has been infinitely helpful in giving us suggestions, and I can't wait to take it all in. One thing we do want to make sure we do is eat traditional North Carolina barbeque while we're there. So, if you know of a place, let me know!

Anyway, so far on the list are the North Carolina Art Museum and Pullen Park. Send your thoughts our way! :) We're only going to be in Raleigh for 4 days, so if you've got something around the Rocky Mount or Topsail Island areas, let us know too! Thanks!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cut Some Hairs.

So, I haven't had a hair cut (and color, which, let's face it, is the most important part) since December before Mimi and Papa came for two reasons. First, a cut and highlights here cost an arm and a leg. Second, because of the first reason, I can hardly justify spending said arm and leg on a cut which only my son and husband, and the occassional work buddy will ever see. I stay inside most of the time, why pay to have my hair look decent when no one sees it anyway?

Anyway, but I was due. It was getting to the point where I was actually changing my make-up to fit a brunette look instead of claiming I was a "blonde". So, off I went yesterday to Le Meridien hotel to try out their salon (or "saloon" if you ask the bell hop) for the first time. Up until yesterday, I'd gone to The Beauty Spot, but they keep raising their prices and it's killing me.

I do like the Le Meridien salon much better though, both because the hairdressers don't chatter on about nonsense and because they are super fast. (Less than two hours, which takes 4 hours at the Beauty Spot and 3 hours back home) I only saved about 50 Dirham (it was 500 Dirham total, about $140) but it was a nice experience. I think I'll go back there again instead of The Beauty Spot. Throughout the course of the color and cut, 5 different people cycled through the process of getting my hair done (the two Lebanese guys, who are the hairdressers, and 3 Filipino helpers) and every single one of them told both that I had "a lot of hair" and that my hair was "beautiful", or "exquisite" (which sounds far more awesome in a French accent). I typically hate my hair until it's getting done because hairdressers love it (probably because they don't have to deal with it daily, haha).
This salon was cool on another realm because I got a 15-minute scalp massage too while getting my hair washed after the color. I almost fell asleep and had to focus more on not drooling than on enjoying myself after a bit. Very nice.
So, here's a pic. Excuse the no-make-up. I left right after breakfast to go get it done and I was wearing only yesterday's mascara. (See how my freckles are back though? Haha. I'm a-working on my tan for vacay!) The end result included a bit more than 4 inches off the whole thing and then layers as usual. Pretty basic. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bathtime Extravaganza!

Kaden loves the bath and he normally takes one after we play on the roof because he comes down all wet and sweaty, but I am sunburned and it's just freaking hot out so I decided again roof time today. He took advantage of not being tuckered out from roof playing and proceeded to create a masterpiece in the bathtub instead of working on his outdoor mural. Here are the results and the happy artist hard at work!

He wanted a high-five.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

UAE's Road Safety.

Hopefully the dangerous roads here can become a thing of the past. Doubtful, but what's the harm in hoping?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July Weekend

We started out our weekend with a package from Aunt Marcia, which had my new Kindle sleeve (yay!), some candy and magazines, and Kaden's new favorite toy:

And here's Kaden with his cool new Cars jammies! He loves them!

This thing is SO cool! It is a microphone that has so many settings that sometimes he'll set it to one I haven't heard before. It echos when you sing into it, and our little American Idol sure does love singing! Awesome toy. Thanks, Aunt Marcia and Uncle Deven!

Then yesterday was the 4th of July (American Independence Day, for those who don't know... if that's possible) and we celebrated by having Mike, Matt, Dan, and Kyle over to grill out on the roof. It was nice, though hot (check out the sheen on everyone... it was sweaty). Kyle brought his famous baked beans (with pork) and we made hotdogs (all-American as it gets, eh?) and I made Mimi's Macaroni Salad. We finished off the night by watching The Blue Collar Comedy Tour (which is certainly strictly redneck American!)

Stu with his favorite beer: Miller Light :)
Dan and Kaden chatting
Mike striking a pose.
Matt tending grill.
Kaden with Kyle (they have the same color eyes).
Watching Blue Collar Comedy Tour

All-in-all, a very nice night, although I did finish a bottle of wine by myself since Stu found Miller Light at the store (which happens to be more expensive than the imported Irish beers, lol), so getting up with Kaden this morning was a struggle for my head and my stomach. But it really was a good time.