Saturday, March 24, 2012

Booked a Cruise


serenade of the seas

I have been talking about booking a cruise FOREVER or like at least a few months now.  I have always wanted to see so much of Europe and the idea of a Mediterranean Cruise was always so attractive to me.

I called around, I emailed and I checked stuff online.  I ordered a Rick Steves’ book and another book and read some more stuff.  Then I talked to Brian about stuff and talked and thought and debated and chose one and changed my mind and on and on.

But – a decision was made and I booked one.

Here’s our plan:



Ports of Call  




Mon 16 Jul 2012

Barcelona, Spain

   05:00 PM

      Boarding (Doing a 1/2 Day City Tour)

Tue 17 Jul 2012

Cannes (Monte Carlo), France

   09:00 AM

   06:00 PM

      Tendered (Going to check things on our own)

Wed 18 Jul 2012

Livorno (Florence /pisa), Italy

   07:00 AM

   07:00 PM

      Docked (Visiting Leaning Tower, Statue of David, City of Florence)

Thu 19 Jul 2012

Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy

   07:00 AM

   07:00 PM

      Docked (Going to the Vatican and Tour of Rome)

Fri 20 Jul 2012



Sat 21 Jul 2012



Sun 22 Jul 2012

Athens (Piraeus), Greece

   06:00 AM

   06:00 PM

      Docked (Still need to book an excursion through RCI)

Mon 23 Jul 2012

Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey

   08:00 AM

   07:00 PM

      Docked (Terrace Houses, Museum, House of Mary, Basilica)

Tue 24 Jul 2012

Santorini, Greece

   07:00 AM

   06:00 PM

      Tendered (Blue Domes, Oia, Winery, Black Sandy Beaches)

Wed 25 Jul 2012



Thu 26 Jul 2012

Naples (Salerno), Italy

   07:00 AM

   07:00 PM

      Docked (Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano)

Fri 27 Jul 2012



Sat 28 Jul 2012

Barcelona, Spain

   06:00 AM




Luckily I found this great website called where people connect who are all going on the same cruise.  Everyone shares tips and information about private tours (which seem to cost less and get you more for touring).  It’s been FANTASTIC.  This trip is absolutely overwhelming (in fact that’s my handle on the boards – OverwhelmedCruiser).  The idea of reading tours that sound good and just adding our family onto them has been great!   The trip will cost a fortune but I figure it’s a trip of a lifetime and we are packing so much in.  The kids are really excited!  

Alexander went to an exhibit about Pompeii when he was in NY and was fascinated so to actually take him there is AMAZING!   He’s also really excited about touring Athens too so we have to find the best tour to see what we want there.  I’m just hoping Cameron does well for it and no one gets seasick.  Can you imagine????  Considering that Alexander & I suffer from motion sickness (which is why I drive 90% of the time as opposed to Brian) and we have to stop every 30 minutes in long car rides for Alexander to get out and walk around……   Hoping for the best!!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sucks to not be home sometimes

This was a hard week for friends back home.  One of my dear friends went through a rough experience when her husband disappeared.  People saw him one evening and the next morning he was gone without a trace.  I don’t want to go into any personal details about the situation in my blog, because that’s not what it’s for.  I’m writing it more from the perspective of not being home when tough stuff happens back there.

I could send positive emails.  I could get updated from all our friends.  I could call her or facetime or email but it’s not the same.  I can’t come by with a bottle of wine to cry/scream/laugh.  I can’t stay up late going through papers or join a search party.  I can’t cook a meal or help with the kids.  I just sit thousands and thousands of miles away and get emotional. 

Within a few days of this happening, I found out about the son of our family photographer unexpectedly passing away.  Again – nothing I could do.  I could email an encouraging word.  I can pray.  I can send good energy into the atmosphere but that’s it.

I’m sure there will be many more times when I wish I was home whether to cry or celebrate (one of my dearest friends had her 40th birthday back home and I would’ve loved to celebrate big but will just have to wait).  So – I don’t just miss the bad stuff, I miss the good stuff too.

I am experiencing great things here and having wonderful new experiences that I wouldn’t have back home.  There are things about my current life that I love but missing the good/bad and even sometimes the mundane back home can still be hard.

I’m always thinking of everyone back home and wishing I could do more.  I know everyone feels the love from across the seas though!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Interview Process…..Hiring a Maid/Nanny

Well that didn’t take long!

I put an ad out through a great forum that I visit (  Lots of people are always leaving and they are looking to find new homes for their maids or maids are looking for employment. 

I put an ad out through our school’s website.

I started mentioning to maids in our compound and to friends that I was looking.

I have now been here for 7 months and have been around A LOT of maids.  I had a good idea of what I was looking for.  I interviewed 5 in person and a few over the phone before I found ours.

Here are some of the ones who didn’t make it:

Maid #1 

  • This one was the sister of a maid in our compound.
  • She came with her sister.
  • She only looked at me once.
  • She barely spoke.
  • Her sister did most of the speaking for her.
  • Decided I needed someone who spoke better English, was friendlier and not afraid to speak up.  I passed on this one.


Maid #2 

  • Somebody posted on a website that they were moving and had a fabulous maid who was looking for work.
  • I SMS’d the maid and firmed up an interview time.
  • A woman knocked on the door and she came in for an interview.
  • She asks about living out instead of in.
  • Then she asks about whether her husband and child can live there too?
  • Then it turns out that it wasn’t even the person I thought I called!
  • I ended up doing several emails and SMS’s and found out that someone else was sent instead (OBVIOUSLY) for the interview.
  • I contacted the original ad poster about everything and she was surprised but said these things can happen.
  • Clearly passed on this one.

Maid #3

  • I answered an ad on a website about a gal who sounded very qualified and seemed like a good fit.
  • She never stayed anywhere for too long.
  • She had a grass is greener attitude.1
  • Between the way she was dressed and the questions she asked, she didn’t appear to be looking to work very hard at whatever she got hired for.
  • Pass on this one too.


Maid #4

  • Saw an ad for someone who sounded great!
  • I contacted her within moments of seeing the ad posted.
  • I asked for an interview that night or the next morning between 9:00 and 10:00
  • I contact her at 9:30 a.m. to see when she’s coming and she asks to come at 12.
  • I ask if she can come at 11:15 and she says yes.
  • I get a text at 11:14 saying she found another employer.
  • ARGH!!!


Maid #5

In between these ones I have contacted others that have either gotten employers already or didn’t seem like good fits for our household.  We have a maid in our compound who I LOVE and would take in a heartbeat.  She is always outside playing with the 9 year old daughter in their house and her English is perfect!  My kids love her.  She has been with her family for 7 years and I told her that if they ever leave…….Well – lo and behold she became available.  I was so excited.  She had gone to school to look for secretarial work and decided to apply for jobs and told her current family.  They were sad but supportive.  She thought she found a job and notified her employer.  They started the process of working with an agency to get another maid.  Meanwhile the offer never materialized well.  The pay would be less than she was getting now and WITHOUT housing.  She couldn’t afford to take it (she supports a daughter back home – as so many of them do).  By then her employer had already shelled out money to an agency for a new maid so she had to look for work as a maid.  I told her that we would LOVE to have her.  She was unsure.  She wanted to since she enjoys our kids and knows me.  I told her that I would talk to her current employer.  They said it would be too awkward for their kids to see her right across the street.  So – needless to say we didn’t take her on.


Maid #7

  • I forget where this one came from.
  • She was okay.
  • Her English wasn’t great.
  • I decided to pass on this one.


Here’s the one who did make it:

Maid #6

  • I had a friend tell me that a friend of her maid was looking for other work since her contract was ending soon.
  • She said she seems nice and might be worth an interview.
  • At this point I was pretty open.
  • I contacted her and we agreed upon a time for me to go to her since she couldn’t leave the house (she was a full-time caregiver to a grandmother)
  • I brought Cameron along too.
  • Her English was great!
  • She was full of smiles and very friendly.
  • She was outgoing.
  • She seemed loyal (very open with her employers that she was looking and asked if it was okay for me to interview her there)
  • Cameron was very comfortable with her.
  • She has an almost 4 year old son back home.
  • The current house looked very clean!
  • She was caring for an American grandma from the South and could cook basic Southern Food and was used to dealing with a demanding, picky eater!
  • She worked in a busy household before with lots of kids and activity and was used to things being loud and active.
  • She seemed wonderful!

Friday, March 16, 2012

My thinking process……Hiring a Maid/Nanny

So….looks like it took 7 months to see the light – ha ha!

I remember moving here and thinking that this whole idea of having a live-in Maid/Nanny as a stay-at-home mom was ridiculous.  Yep – plain ole ridiculous.  I mean, come on – don’t people know that as an American woman you should be able to take care of all of your children, cook a wonderful meal, keep a clean house, take time for yourself, go to the gym, leave the house looking put together and all with a smile on your face??  You shouldn’t need help – you should DO IT ALL.  

Feasible – no (unless you are a freakin’ superwoman).   If you really think about it, you might accomplish a good portion of those things – but to do it all and do it all WELL – it’s just NOT possible for the average woman.  Yet, that doesn’t stop me from thinking that it should be.  Ack!

So….here we are in the UAE where NO ONE does it all on their own.  I have friends with drivers AND maids AND nannies AND cooks.  Ok – maybe one friend who is local that has that.  But – I do have WESTERN friends with nannies or maids.  In fact, the majority of my friends have some kind of live-in help.  It took me months to wrap my head around the whole idea.

I would think any or all of the following:

  • It must be weird to have someone living in your house.
  • Why would you want someone else to care for your kids if you are completely around to do it yourself?
  • What do these moms do all day if someone else is cooking and cleaning and minding their children?
  • If they have kids in school all day AND they don’t work – why have someone??
  • My JOB is to be at home and clean house, cook meals and take care of my children – I can’t possibly pay someone else to do what I’m supposed to be doing on a regular basis.


Over time I started to think the following:

  • Holy crap this house has so much marble and tile that I can’t possibly clean it all myself.
  • My god there is so much dust EVERYWHERE and ALL the time that I can’t keep on top of it.
  • Why are there so many bathrooms in one house?  This is ridiculous (we have 5 1/2 and they ALL have separate tubs and showers AND bidets).
  • Boy – I wish I could just go out with friends and not have to plan ahead for a sitter.
  • Laundry NEVER seems to stop
  • It sure would be nice to have a complete conversation with an adult without _________ needing something.
  • If only someone was around so I could leave ONE of the THREE kids home and avoid hearing them bicker in the car about something.  (not always – but sometimes would be nice)
  • I wish I could give attention to all the kids when they want it….


This eventually became:

  • I WILL be working full time in the Fall and I don’t want Cameron at after-school care EVERY day until 4.  I’d love to have someone around to pick him up earlier.
  • I don’t HAVE to clean my house all by myself.
  • I don’t HAVE to cook every night.
  • It really is cheaper to have someone live here full time and do the cleaning regularly and have babysitting available all the time than hire that out.
  • Maybe we’ll get someone in time for when I work full-time.


Before I knew it this became:

  • Well – if we are going to hire someone in time for me to start work, maybe we should just get someone now so the kids are comfortable.
  • I think I’ll start posting ads.
  • Maybe I’ll ask around too.
  • We should hire one today, I mean really now – why wait?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Dancing and Dokha

One of my favorite girlfriends out here called me up to go dancing and as you know – I never say no to dancing!!

We joined one of her friends and a couple of their friends and hit up a local place for a night of fun!

The music was great and dancing is always a fantastic way to relax, have fun and let it all out!

We stepped outside on the patio for a bit so some of them could have a little smoke (while I sat and enjoyed the company and inhaled second-hand cancer).  A friend of a friend took out a tiny pipe and a small vial of tobacco and asked if anyone wanted to try some.  ACK!  I asked what it was and he said it was called Dokha.  I then proceeded to give him the third degree about it.  Is it legal?  Wait, what exactly is it?  Is it really okay here?  Is it really legal??  I was assured that YES – Dokha is a legal Arabic tobacco and it’s usually smoked by locals. 

Since I decided I was there in this country to experience the culture I decided to try it just once.  After a big inhale and a bit of a head rush mixed with a feeling of doing something out of my comfort zone – I passed it on.  Once is good enough as far as I was concerned.  Everyone else seemed to enjoy it and then he mentioned that he was out and wished he had some more.  Someone asked where you get it from and he said most local men would have some on them and probably someone here would if we wanted to ask around.

Well – asking strangers for things has never been a problem for me so one of the gals and I whisked off to ask strangers for a little Dokha (after making sure we could pronounce it right).  Pretty sure we were quite the site.  I felt like a couple of white gals trolling around O-town looking for narcotics.   We walked up to people who looked like they would be locals and asked if they had any “Doh-ka”.  The first person pretty much looked at us and tried not to laugh.  I don’t think a couple of American women are the typical demographic for the stuff.

We moved on to someone else who then told us that he knew someone who had some.  Satisfied that the mission was complete, we headed back to the table.  Sure enough – about 10 minutes later someone came our way and poured a little tobacco from their vial into our friends’.   They enjoyed some more crazy smokin’ and we continued to dance our night away……

As soon as I got home – I hit google and made sure that I hadn’t just committed an unknown crime or something and sure enough – totally legal stuff.  In fact, you can buy it online back home!

Here’s a little information:   or

Here’s a picture of this totally legal-looking stuff:




Here is some information from online about it:

More feeling – dokha tobaccos are much more potent than other tobaccos and the “rush” you get from smoking dokha is very satisfying and unlike anything else.  

Saving time – you can fully enjoy your smoke in a fraction of the time versus smoking cigarettes, cigars or typical pipe tobacco.  It takes about thirty seconds to fill your medwakh with dokha, smoke it, more than satisfy your tobacco craving and be on your way (of course if you’re in no hurry or you’re relaxing on the porch, re-pack your medwakh for repeated pleasure).  

Less mess – because you’re only smoking a small pinch of dokha, there are hardly any ashes and certainly no cigarette/cigar butts.

Smoke inside?!?! – your house, upholstery, clothes and breath will not reek of tobacco! The smoke from dokha tobacco does not stick to fabrics nor does it have the distinct and often unpleasant odor of other tobaccos….this makes it easier to “sneak a smoke” undetected if you’re one of those sneaky people or at least prevent your much loved non-smoker from being subjected to the smell.   

Health considerations – since you are smoking less tobacco at a time with natural organic dokha, if you maintain the same smoking habit, you are receiving less tar into your lungs from the filtered midwakh.  Also, certain chemical additives found in most cigarettes and cigarette papers are not present in dokha tobacco.

Economical - with the rising price of cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, not only can you enjoy a more premium product, but save some cash in the process with dokha as an alternative.  We have intensely calculated the average number of smokes available in one container of dokha (approximately 15 grams/0.6 ounces of product) with ranging medwakh bowl sizes.  With one standard bottle of dokha, you can expect to smoke between 95 and 120 times.    

Stylin’ – Your medwakh is bound to be a conversation piece amongst your friends and others around you.  There’s nothing wrong with being the coolest cat at the party

Friday, March 2, 2012

Girl Scout Camp Out

The annual Girl Scout Camp Out was a blast!   The kids do the campout on the soccer fields at the school.  We have over 100 girl scouts just at Bella’s school.  How fantastic is that?  Girls from Kindergarten on up through 5th Grade attended and they started off with a Letterboxing activity.  It’s a little like geocaching I suppose.  There are boxes hidden everywhere.  The girls are given a clue to the first box and then there is a clue inside that leads them to the next box and on and on until they finish the set.  Each box has a little notepad and a stamp in it and the girls have to stamp there own papers and sign the notepad (if I remember right).  They enjoyed doing it and it’s always fun to see some girls whip through and be ready to do another route and other kids slowly amble and have no interest in doing any more.

Living here makes Girl Scout camp outs a little bit different from back home.  People ordered pizza for dinner and had it delivered for one……

We did have bathroom cleaning schedules and it was fun to see the kids attack the idea with a vengeance!  I came into soapy mirrors and girls trying to wash the doors and floor.  Perhaps it should’ve been better explained that they just needed to refill toilet paper, pick up stray bits of trash and wipe down the sinks……

There was a small bonfire and some marshmallow roasting in the evening.  Several girls didn’t know what s’mores were!  There are no hershey bars here but there are these lovely Digestive Crackers (which sounds so non-appetizing….but are actually like a graham cracker with chocolate in the middle – sorta) and they could come apart and have a marshmallow placed between them – Yum!

We even sang songs and did skits.  I stayed the night with Bella’s troop and a mom brought in breakfast in the morning so we had everything from fresh fruit to an egg/meat skillet.