Monday, September 1, 2014

Gone east

The Westbounds have gone back to the Middle East. Follow our adventures in Lebanon here.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Field trip: Chicago!

To kick off our new school year, we went on a trip to Chicago this past week, to visit some museums and other sites.

 Museum of Science and Industry - This really is an amazing place, where we managed to spend 6 1/2 hours our first day! Not only are the exhibitions really cool, but there are several cool shows and interactive fun for the kids to participate in. I felt like we really got our money's worth here.

The Field Museum - We spent half a day here, and although there were a couple of really nice exhibitions, part of the museum is quite outdated (plants, anyone?) - it was so expensive for our family to enter that we ended up getting a one year membership because it saved us almost $30 (and more if we had planned to see any of the special exhibitions). If I had know what we would get for our money seeing that our budget is really tight, I would probably not have included this museum in our itinerary.

The Planetarium - This place is in a very beautiful spot, and although very expensive (more expensive than any of our other visits), I felt there was enough there to make it worth our time and money. The children's area especially was great, and I enjoyed the show on Cosmos.

The Art Institute of Chicago - There is an amazing amount of art here, and although adult tickets are quite pricey, children under the age of 14 are free, which made this our cheapest visit. The exhibitions are unique and amazing, as you imagine, and although I don't have very much experience with Modern Art, this part stood out. The only disappointment here was that there was no tolerance or understanding when it came to our baby. Max is very happy on my back in our baby carrier, while if I put him in the front, he wants to nurse or get down or just fuss, and eventually he'll start screaming uncontrollably. I explained this to the personnel who insisted I put Max in the front, but there was no sympathy, so sadly, a large part of the visit was spent with Max screaming in my face. At some point it got so bad that I dropped down on a bench to nurse him, right there (it was off to a corner) in an attempt to soothe him, and immediately I heard negative comments about my "improper behavior." A frustrating experience. And no, there was no nursing room, as in the Field Museum.

Dinner at the Berghoff - This restaurant opened in 1898 and was the first restaurant to receive a liquor license after the Prohibition in 1933 (I think), which means theirs is Liquor License no. 1. Very good German inspired food, home brewed beer and fancy halls.

The Magnificent Mile - A long, sore walk but some very fantastic views of Downtown Chicago. I imagine this street is quite magic during Christmas time.

Monday, July 21, 2014

One month left in the US

In exactly 1 month we go back to Lebanon. I can't believe how fast our year here in the US has flown by.

While trying to get as much time with family in as possible, we are starting to prepare by collecting things we want to bring back with us; mainly books and some clothes. All the boys need new clothes, having grown one or two sizes, or in the baby's case, seven sizes, since we got to the US, and since clothes are a lot cheaper here than in Lebanon, we make sure we're covered.

We need books for the boys' homeschooling programs, and we are making sure that any electronics that needs to be replaced is purchased, since this too, is cheaper here.

If you like shopping, this might sound like Christmas to you. (Oh yeah, we're also getting a couple of Christmas presents that will be hidden away when we get to Lebanon.) If you're like me, and detest shopping, you feel my pain! But it has to be done. Because there are things we cannot get in Lebanon, and there are things that make financially more sense to buy here.

I'm also having an insane amount of bacon, trying to eat the equivalent of a two year quota, since that too is hard to come by in Beirut (although not impossible; it's expensive but available at Spinney's, usually).

Other things that we spend the summer doing in Indiana...

It's not all fun & games - I've spend quite a bit of time this summer working, and the boys are taking the Khan Academy Geometry course. Intense learning. In between jobs however, we go out and explore a bit; playgrounds, lakes, sites. Most recently we went to Mishawaka/South Bend, where we spent some time at the batting cages and then the boys all went on go-karts. They loved it!

The last picture is taken at Meijer (with my very awful Virgin Mobile Kyocera phone), where a horsie ride by the check-out costs 1 cent. Great times to be had here!

Freedom to run and jump and play!

Batting cages just north of South Bend (they are actually in Michigan and not Indiana, if you're keeping score)


@ Meijer in Warsaw

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fireworks of July!

Fireworks over Winona Lake in Warsaw on 4 July, and fireworks on Lake Wawasee with our friend on his uncle's boat on 5 July. In between, we shot off a bunch of fireworks around the house that we bought at Crazy Joe's Fireworks out on 30, past Atwood.

Safe at sea!

Happy Fireworks Day!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

When friends visit

The last couple of days of June and the first few days of July brought a very special surprise this year: our very good friends in Boston that we visited on our way from Lebanon to Indiana/Atlanta last summer, decided to drive the 16 hours to come see us before we return to the Middle East in August. We spent the week chatting, hanging out with the kids, eating, drinking tea and exploring some of the local sites: we went to the children's zoo one day, and Kreager Park in Fort Wayne another, which is free and has an excellent playground and a very fun splash pad. We had Mexican food, and spent a day by the lake here in Warsaw. The week rushed by so quickly, and I feel like it was over even before it started, but it was nice to get a few more moments with our good friends, especially since we don't know when we'll be back in the US/see each other again.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Midsummer Eve, 2014

We spent this special Swedish holiday with a friend in a cabin by a pond, in the middle of the woods in southern Indiana. No running water, no electricity, no internet and barely phone coverage. The bathroom consisted of a shovel and a short walk into the woods, meals were cooked over an open fire, and when it got dark, it was *DARK* as in, thousands of fireflies against a pitch dark forest and an open sky, with more constellations than I could count. Absolutely gorgeous! Such bliss!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Atlanta, GA - Warsaw, IN in four easy steps

We arrived late at our booked hotel, somewhere in Nowhere, TN. I think our GPS said it would take 4 hours from Atlanta, but the trip was much longer and difficult due to heavy rain, traffic, hills and darkness, not to mention a fussy baby who didn't want to sit strapped into a car seat. The hotel was great though, with a large room, big beds, and a hot southern breakfast, including biscuits and gravy!

The next day we drove for about an hour to Nashville, TN where we stopped at the Antique Archaeology store, because my little group of American Pickers fans wanted to see it. Lots of cool stuff there! We left the store around lunch time, looking for a place to eat, and ran straight into a restaurant called Jack's BBQ. It was really good, with a homemade BBQ sauce bar, and when we later looked it up online, it turns out it's famous!

 After Nashville we continued north and arrived at the Mammoth caves in IN around 3 pm, just in time for one of the last caving tours of the day. Large caves, some beautiful spaces and great tours, but if you've recently visited caves in Greece, Italy and/or the Jeita grottos in Lebanon, you'll find the Mammoth caves a little less exciting. Hum. It was a fun stop, in any case, and made our last drive of the day, to Louisville, KY, easy.

In Louisville we stayed at the same chain hotel as in TN, Comfort suites & inn by Carson, and the hotels were pretty much identical, with a nice pool, great breakfast, comfortable rooms. The next morning after check-out we headed over to the Louisville Slugger museum and factory downtown for a tour and a visit. My little baseball crowd was in heaven for a few hours, and we even left with a new baseball bat, personalized, despite my protests that we had more things than we could take with us already.

After a late lunch just down the street from the museum we got in the car and drove the last bit from Louisville, through Indianapolis, to northern IN. The stops and comfortable hotels on this trip made our transfer so much easier, and even fun. On to new adventures!

Good bye, Atlanta, GA! We will always love you!

Our time in Atlanta was limited to the term of my husband's fellowship - 9 months, to be exact - and that enjoyable appointment ended in May of this year, along with the income it generated. This meant that we had to leave (since our landlord annoyingly insisted we pay him rent for living in his house, and since that's not really possible without an income) and make our way to more generous souls up north - parents - who let us stay with them over the summer, to enjoy some family time before our return to Lebanon in August.

Leaving Atlanta was hard. We immediately fell in love with this city when we got here last year, and  leaving its amazing grocery stores, great restaurants, fantastic hiking and nature, fun and active homeschooling community, challenging baseball league, awesome sites and attractions was so very sad. We even still had some things on our Must-dos list, such as visiting the CNN center.

It was also difficult, as in, physically challenging. Even though we had not accumulated very many things, knowing we would be leaving in a van with space only for our most personal belongings, cleaning out a house takes time and a lot of work. We managed to sell most of our furniture and some things on Craigslist, at a garage sale and to people we knew. This itself was a lot of work. Whatever was left was brought to Goodwill in two or three rounds. When all the big stuff was gone, we cleaned out the house, one room at a time. A lot of garbage bags were filled up. It's amazing how much stuff we had that could not be given away, but that is still useful, which made me feel bad to just throw away; a lot of spices and dry food, half full containers of shampoo and such, half full jars of food, etc. In all the chaos I also managed to take the car to Meineke and have it serviced, to make sure it would make the 750 miles without incident, and my husband finished up some research at his work. We also had a good bye party which included a lot of Southern treats and pool play, because if there's one thing I've learned through living the way we do, it's that saying good bye to people properly is important, and even though it's sad and makes me cry, I feel much better about leaving a place and friends if I've said a good farewell.

It was Friday after lunch that we mopped the floor one last time and closed the door to the house that had been our home for the past 9 months. I might or might not have held back a tear. The kids barely fit among all the stuff in the back, sitting on blankets among little boxes, bags, containers and other things, and William's guitar blocked my rear view, but slowly we pulled out, driving past the baseball field one last time to say goodbye. Our GPS brought us right through Downtown Atlanta and Friday afternoon traffic (Thanks!), which meant we got a very late start, but we didn't mind much. The last two weeks had been hard, and we were finally on our way again. On to new adventures!

...and we're back!

Dell fixed my computer, faster than they had said they would, which meant I was able to take on a Mammoth job last week, which meant that I wasn't able to write much. But hey, I'm here now! Stay tuned for an update on our transfer to a new location and the general state of our lives.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ha, ha! And just then... computer broke. My nice Dell laptop with touch screen was sitting closed on the couch in front of me, when a roughhousing, playing baby and husband came flying through the air, and in a moment of save the baby or save yourself, my husband landed on his elbow on my laptop.


By some miracle, there was no physical damage to the laptop bar a small dent in the lid, however when I opened it, it became apparent that the screen was broken. Black. Nothing.

When I spoke to Dell - just a few moments later - I was informed that a new screen only costs $79. Wow. Pheuw. I was worried it would be expensive, since the last thing we need right now are extra expenses (my husband doesn't get paid over the summer). My relief was brief, however; the repair process costs $179.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Radio silence is over

Well, there it is: 3,5 months without a single blog post, photo, check-in. Dear reader, I am sorry I haven't been able to keep up. At all.

What happened? Life took over and I capitulated: our days became filled with spring time busyness, baseball season, study, trips, conferences, work, homeschooling coop activities, hikes, and oh, Max started crawling, and he is everywhere, all the time, vertically and horizontally. We have to keep our chairs away from our table at all times, or he climbs up on our rather high dining room table. He gets into everything. If you happen to leave the toilet seat open, he is right there, splashing away with all his might and joy. Between everything and him, I realized in early February that something had to go, and I more or less consciously gave up blogs all together: reading and writing.

But I miss it. It is fun to read about other people's lives and ideas, and it is fun to write. Now that the baseball season just ended, the semester is over and we are starting our nomadic life again before returning to Lebanon in August, I want to give it another shot. Maybe there's still someone out there - mom? - looking through this looking glass, and if there is, welcome back! If not, then welcome back to me!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow in Atlanta, GA!

Eating out in Atlanta, GA

Sometimes we just don’t feel like cooking, or dealing with a messy kitchen. I’m sure most people feel like this, and I often wonder how they solve it. I suppose that if we lived closer to family, or if we had any friends, we would be invited to dinner once in a while, maybe even once a week, but since we have nobody, it’s just us. Three meals a day (since everyone is always home for all the meals).Every. Single. Day.
We’ll go for a couple of weeks of cooking, doing well, but then we’ll either run out of exciting groceries/meal ideas/energy to cook, or I just can’t stand the idea of doing or orchestrating another set of dinner dishes ever again.
One meal out or one night of ordering pizza is usually all it takes to set me straight though. We are good cooks and even when we cook a simple dinner, it’s always delicious and usually healthy – sadly, we have yet to find a restaurant where we can afford to eat that serves better food than ours, and that doesn’t involve eating too many calories (we have our go-to places where our entire family can eat for under $30: Papa John’s, Panda Express, Taco Bell and Burger King. The food here is acceptable tastewise, but not exciting and certainly not healthy).
But we keep trying. So every once in a while we try a new restaurant that is somewhat within our budget.
The other night we tried Holy Taco on Moreland Avenue: it was tasty, different, but it ended up being way too expensive for us, since you pay per taco, and our big boys can eat quite a few of those nowadays.
The Flying Biscuit serves southern food, which was exciting to try, and because kids eat free on certain days of the week, we ended up staying within budget. However, the food was more breakfast like (come to think of it, it seems a lot of southern food is breakfast food – do they not eat supper here?) and it’s quite far from our house.
The Waffle House we went to was something like a diner from a horror movie. The food was badly cooked, and the service awful.
There’s an Indian restaurant near North Decatur Rd that we went to a while back, and we all thought the food was very good, nice atmosphere, fun and exciting, but our bill was closer to $100 which is way out of our budget! The same happened at Top Spice – the bill made us cry – and don’t get me started on Red Lobster. How, or rather, why do people eat there?
We’ve also tried Chili’s and Outback Steakhouse, but again, it turns out to be slightly over budget and they don’t serve anything we couldn’t do as well for a fraction of the price at home. The same goes for the Golden Corral and Sweet tomatoes. In fact, having dinner at any all you can eat buffet is asking for trouble.

I don’t mean to sound like a complete pessimist. We’ve had some really great food in our days in restaurants across the world. We are just a bit picky, is all. But we do enjoy looking!