Sunday, 27 October 2013

Living in the desert does strange things to your head…

I downloaded a rain app.

Now, I know that may sound bonkers but stay with me, I promise there is a good explanation.

I’ve been suffering from rain withdrawals. Well, it’s more just any kind of weather withdrawals (sun and then more sun does not count anymore). It’s been just over two months since I moved out here, and the past few weeks I’ve been realising and attempting to make my peace with the desert seasons – or rather lack thereof. Unfortunately the only thing all this trying has achieved is making me think more about the weather I am missing. It’s started me craving sweater weather, cold toes in rain soaked shoes, and ice-cubed noses.

Most of all it’s made me miss rain.

I’d been told there was always rain after a sandstorm. However there have been a couple of pretty big sandstorms since I got here – completely surreal experiences, like a thick yellow fog all around our building with the occasional plastic bag or sand spiral flying past – and neither of them availed even the slightest drop of rain.

My hopes of ever witnessing water pouring from the sky again shrivelled up and took a walk.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the city next over from us experienced a lighting storm. We had a pretty good view of it from our little suburb-esque neighbourhood of Dubai. It was by no means an unimpressive display of the weathers elements but unfortunately it erred more on the side of unsettling rather than providing the comfort in familiarity which I had been craving.

And so, my thirst for rain remained un-quenched.

Then, at long last, it happened. Two days ago it rained. Unfortunately the night owls got the best of this one. Walking out to the car in the morning, it was evident by looking at the ground and our slightly-dirtier-than-I-would-like-to-admit-car that there had been rain during the night. And plenty of it. I was however not overly sad that I missed it. I had felt three miraculous almost-there rain drops fall on my face during the walk and was full of hope that once on our way, the wonderful clouds still sitting in the sky would oblige us with another down-pouring. And pour they did; five drops fell on our windshield as we drove out of the cloud cover and on our way.

Needless to say, I was not amused or satisfied by this turn of events.

Life went on it’s merry way and I did my best to forget my dreams of rain. Until suddenly tonight, while Pinterest surfing, I happened upon a blog where I was introduced to this wonderful thing called a rain app. This is one of these times where I wish internet searching required actual leg work so that I could have harnessed my excitement at the idea and had it fuel a hectic run from place to place, book to book until finally I reached, out of breath and preferably rain soaked – just to give this discovery the weight of epic drama it deserves – at the Rain Sounds app. Fuelled by my excitement and the thrill of the fictional dramatic chase, I threw caution to the wind and downloaded the app without even glancing at, never mind researching alternatives or reviews – reckless I know! Finally, after impatiently waiting for my download to complete, I immediately opened it and swiftly selected ‘Rain on Tent’ to be my first venture into this beautiful wonderland.

I was not disappointed.

That exquisite and oh-so-familiar sound brought a tear to my eye.

After an initial period of flicking between sounds, enjoying their varied depths and tones, I settled on ‘Rain on Car Window’ as my favourite. It’s steady and comforting without getting overly hectic like some of the others, which allows me to have it playing in the background as I write this post. In fact, it’s even so enchanting that Sam has fallen into it’s allure and officially requested it as our sound to fall asleep to tonight. I doubt anybody would be able to resist falling under it’s exquisite spell.

Thank you for taking the time to go through this journey with me, it has been an enchanting haze of an hour since I discovered this app and now signing off is a chilled Harpa looking forward to falling asleep to the pitter patter of beautiful little raindrops.

Adios for now, hope to see you soon!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Highlights from my week

This week has been part hectic and part recuperating. I started the week off thinking I only had a week left in the country due to visa issues. Then, once that was cleared up, we had a little bank drama followed by some interviews/networking introductions topped up with a murderously painful shoe fiasco. The last two days were then spent part in bed recharging and part making an effort to catch up on the housework I’d neglected earlier in the week. Needless to say, blogging did not make the top of my to-do list any of these days but I decided that with the weekend here and Sam settled in for a week long public holiday, I’d make the effort to squeeze in a little post right before the end of the week.

Now, instead of focusing on the exhausting elements of this week I’ve decided to share with you a couple of my favourite things/highlights from this week.

  • Cat on the balcony – It's not been long since we got our cat (name yet to be decided on) so we have been keeping him from going out on the balcony. Then, after one of his particularly pitiful walks of boredom around the flat, I decided it was time to let him explore a bit further. He was a little hesitant at first and still runs in like a bullet if we call him, but sitting out there, watching the traffic and neighbours, is now something he’ll do for hours without complaint. Also, I don’t think I’ll ever get over how cute I find being able to see his little butt print in the sand after he comes back in!

  • Knitting – I was introduced to a Japanese dollar/pound store called Daiso this week. This turned out to be a beautiful wonderland filled with all kinds of weird and wonderful things including yarn and knitting needles – which I’d not yet managed to get my hands on in Dubai. Consequently the majority of my free time since bringing my treasures home has been spent knitting. Not knitting anything in particular, just enjoying knitting.

The end of this week is also turning out to be pretty great. It feels wonderful to have Sam in holiday mode and after I straighten up the kitchen, there is a dinner with the in-laws to look forward to tonight.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

How I stuff my freezer

Today I finished my second prep day in my Dubai kitchen. This means the freezer is stuffed, my hand is blistered and Sam made dinner tonight. Somehow I never have the foresight to think about the current day’s dinner when I do my prep days and we always end up with either Sam cooking or ordering take-out – keep meaning to change that.

So here, as promised is what I get up to on these prep days.

I like to start by cutting up all the vegetables. Most women I’ve read about doing this start by labelling and writing instructions on their freezer bags. I however, must admit that the idea of that level of organisation kind of freaks me out – what if I change my mind about what to add, what to call it etc. etc. Therefore I choose to leave that step until I’ve filled the bags, which creates the much more desirable barely legible scribble effect. Which is just so much more me.

Then, once I have worked up a good blister or two, I line up and open my empty freezer bags and start sharing the ingredients between them. This is the point at which I tend to start getting the most creative – and where things tend to start going the most wrong. I am learning though. For instance, I learned last month that just because I enjoyed juicing the entire bag of lemons, that does not mean that every meal I am prepping will taste good with a cup (or four) added.

Eventually, when the veg, meat and seasonings have all been put in the right bags, I get to scribble my instructions on them and load them into the freezer – Tetris style!

This is by far my favourite part of the process. Not only because of the fun I have arranging the bags in the most space-effective way possible (maximising hard-on-soft-mould-ability) but also because of the immense sense of satisfaction I get from stepping back at the end and knowing it’s not only all done but also looking neat and tidy!

My first Prep-day, I prepped and fit twelve bags into the freezer. But there was still a bit of space left so today I prepped fourteen which fit nicely with still a little bit of wiggle room. Therefore, next month I’ll be shooting for the stars and attempting to squeeze sixteen in there – go me!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Prepping for Prep Day

While back in Glasgow, I got inspired by several blog posts on slow cooker meals and freezer cooking and started turning Wednesdays into my day to spend in the kitchen prepping the meals for the next week. This worked brilliantly in making sure we actually ate proper meals on days when I was either busy with uni or just too plain lazy to spend time making dinner.

So, after my first, initially terrifying and overwhelming, few trips to a couple of Dubai’s hypermarkets as well as our local supermarket, I built up the courage to attempt getting to that level of organisation with our meals again.

My first step was to get the cook-books out. I keep hoping I can be the kind of person who actually uses cookbooks instead of just ooooh-ing and aaaaaaah-ing over the pretty pictures, then ordering a pizza. Which is why I –ever the optimist- got my cook books out this time and made the effort to actually look at the recipes seriously. Then, just as a bonus, I even added a couple recipes to my meal-list.*

My second source for recipes and inspiration is my pinterest food board. This is where I have gotten pretty much all of my recipes from so far. I’m not the best at actually following recipes though, which is how I end up calling something Cilantro-lime chicken despite chicken being the only common factor between what is on the plate and the original recipe. Nonetheless I have found some recipes that I love to use –with a few alterations here and there-  all across the inter-web and keep them safely stashed on my little pinterest board.

Then ensued the most exhausting grocery shopping trip of my life(so far anyway). I am gradually learning that Friday evenings are not a time to go anywhere in Dubai, and Carrefour in Mirdif City Centre is no exception. I had walked in mid-to-late afternoon, so things were relatively average. Then, as time went on and the trolley got heavier, the crowds got larger, thicker, and noisier. Until there came a point(more than once) in the fruit and vegetable arena where I just had to stand and patiently wait for the throng around me to resume it’s flow in order to get the chance to move my trolley. This entire situation was not helped by how many people had their kids controlling the trolleys, which is fun when you can look and think: ‘Look how cute it is they’re helping!’ Not so fun when you have three boys rein acting Mario Kart scenes in your way.

But anyways, the trip was a success! We got home with everything that was needed – as well as a sneaky drive through dinner from Hardy’s. Then with the groceries put away, I  went on to stealthily procrastinate into pushing my looming prep day further into the future and out of this blog post.

No worries though, it will be covered soon – not sure if I can bare the wait… can you?

*I have to admit that at some point between adding pinterest recipes to my meal list and making the shopping list, I crossed off both of my book sourced recipes… it’s the thought that counts though, right?

**No need to wait, here it is!