Friday, September 29, 2006

Awww, c'mon, now....

I'm experiencing a new situation in my new hometown. Neighbor issues. I've not really had to deal with these before for the most part, because, with my past neighbors - of all ages - I'm typically friends with them. In this case, it's a little different. I've posted before about an odd situation with this neighbor, in which complaints about my large maple tree were relayed (albeit by a 9-year old). I've since had that tree considerably trimmed - for my own reasonst, not the neighbor's.

Now, it seems, we have a new problem. Last weekend, I noticed that the mom was spraying something along my fence. I usually weed-wack the fence, but had been gone for a few weeks, so I didn't mind that so much. I noticed she was spraying Round-Up. I thought, "great, one thing I don't have to do."

But this week, I noticed what the Round-Up has killed. And, all of the kill path seems to be in my yard. Along the edge of my landscaping and new mulch:
...and along the inside of my fenceline, reaching, I think, exceedingly far at the top of the photo. For this, I noticed that she was leaning over my fence to extend her spray reach.
Why would someone do that? Too add insult to injury, I noticed 6 not-so-little piles of presents from the neighbor's 100+ pound chocolate lab in my yard (and noticably, none in the neighbor's front yard).

I made an effort to publicly pick up the dog shit. Then I went next door to very politely ask that the neighbors refrain from allowing their dog to shit in my yard and from spraying my perfectly weed-free lawn with Round-Up. But there was no answer. (They really might be out of town.)

But I still can't get over the audacity of a neighbor to do this. I have a theory, though. Maybe, my recent tree work, landscaping, and vacation departure have served as a reminder to the parents next door of all of the free time and disposable income they no longer have with three children. It's the only thing I can think of. I've got to be sure to remain on the high road, in any case, as the neighbors both work in law enforcement. So, as soon as we're both home, I'm going to pay them a kind, neighborly visit. Until then, I'm photodocumenting any activity along that side of my house.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Now What???

I’m almost out of vacation days as September nears an end and time slips quietly into Autumn, and I find myself wondering what I can do next. Normally this doesn’t happen until the new year when I tend to reflect back; project forward. Now, though, it seems to be naturally occurring for me much earlier in the year. And, this reflection seems to be intricately tied to my vacation time. It’s nearly done for the year, and somehow, I think that has become the triggering event for my current train of thought.

Granted, life in Ohio isn’t bad, it’s just…..not very exciting. I tend to get that from going Elsewhere. But now that I’m almost out of vacation time, it feels as though my Personal Excitement Potential has dwindled to near-zero.

So, I’ve started thinking of other ways I can get my groove on, while being in a comfortable, genteel village in Ohio. One thing I was initially jazzed about was taking flying lessons. I’ve made a few inquiries to places that purport to be ‘flying schools’, but they’re either not really in that business or not interested in increasing their business from interested parties. Another option is skydiving but unfortunately that’s a few and far-between event here, and even worse, advertised at the same flight training places that don’t bother to return genuine interest phone calls.

There’s an equestrian center for the university nearby, but on last inquiry it required student status to use. Or a horse. I was planning to resume my MBA this September, but my vacation plans spanned over the period of course startup, so that will have to wait. And, no – I will not tolerate any comments about my priorities being mixed up; I will always place an Adventure in Another Country over starting something routine and otherwise mundane, any day.

So I find myself on a drizzly Saturday, confounded by my own “What Next?” dilemma, and fighting the onset of a cold. The only cure is to pour myself into efforts of interest, and see what shakes out. Vacation come-down sucks.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Moroccan Chicken Tajine

Well, it's finally happened. I've found myself back in a kitchen. But I'm not complaining.....
Thought I'd list out my favorite Moroccan meal in recipe form for any you you out there willing to try it.

Note: I tend to be an anarchist in the kitchen – and don’t measure anything. Quantities listed here are general assumptions and may need to be tailored to suit your tastes.

This is a traditional Moroccan dish, but cooked without the traditional Moroccan ceramic cookware and without being done over a slow blazing charcoal roast. Instead, I find it easy to recreate using a crock pot. This recipe fills a medium-sized crock pot.

Feeds 2, maybe with some leftovers
Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cooking time: 4-5 hours (on high), 7-8 (on low)


Chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (customary to use lamb but I don’t like it so much).

Some tomatoes, diced (Romas are preferred)

1 large (or two small) whole white or purple onion, chopped

~ 2 cloves of minced garlic

1 bunch cilantro (chopped)

1 or 2 sliced zucchini or squash (for texture and color variety)

1 cup of olives with juice (I like the kind pictured below: various olives in a merlot)

Handful of chopped mushrooms

~2T. of lime or lemon juice

1t. Cumin (though Curry can be substituted)
1t. Tumeric
1t. Corriander
1t. Ground Ginger
1T. Black Pepper
pinch of Saffron
1t. Course / Sea salt

Other stuff:
~ 2 c. chicken stock or broth

Add the broth to the crock pot.
Chop all the stuff up and dump it into the crock pot.
Stir it up a bit, gently folding ladlefuls of the meal over and over, to ensure equal coverage.
Cover and let it go.

Check occasionally to ensure it is not getting too dry; if so, add more broth, some merlot or a chardonnay, or as a last resort, water.

Serve with fresh, flat bread (pita works well) and Moroccan Mint Tea; finishing with Moroccan Orange Dessert.

Moroccan Mint Tea



Tea (doesn’t matter what kind – most ‘recipes’ call for green tea, and other than a few high-end restaurants, I’ve seen regular teabags used in Morocco)
Bunch of mint
Lots of Sugar

Heat tea in a kettle.
To the serving teapot, add the boiling water and teabags. Let steep for about a minute.

Add the equivalent of 1-2 tsp. of sugar per anticipated serving to the teapot; stir, let continue to steep for a minute.

Crush several mint sprigs (to release the oils) and add them to the teapot, allow to continue to steep for a minute longer.

Add a sprig of mint to each serving glass (or crush the mint sprig into a small ball and place in the bottom of the glass).

Pour one glass of tea, with a high arc, into a glass. (This is the aerating tradition). Pour the glass of tea back into the teapot. Pour (again with a high arc) into each serving glass, and serve.

Moroccan Orange Dessert

Feeds: 2.
Prep time: 5 minutes.

One navel orange, peeled and sliced
Powdered sugar
Nuts – walnuts, almonds, your preference


Slice the orange either in wedges or flat slices. (This works better with flat slices, because then the nuts can rest on the flat surface of the orange. In the photo, I’ve sliced my oranges into wedges which nearly eliminated the ability to pick up any walnut pieces on the same fork as an orange slice.)

Prepare the serving dish:
A scribble of honey, sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Lay out the orange slices, sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, and powdered sugar.
Serve and enjoy.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Maps!!

Decided to rent a car in Morocco. Initially, a couple of us hired a car and driver to go from Fes to Marrakesh to pick up my friend Alan at the airport there. This seemed like a great idea at the time - we could stop at will for drinks, photo ops, etc., and not be trapped into the same 'train set' that took half of my day just to get to Fes in the first place. On that adventure, from Casablanca, I purchased a 2nd class seat in an airconditioned compartment. Train fares are dirt cheap in Morocco, and it's a great way to see the inner city of the country's larger metropolitan areas. Last time I rode the train in Morocco, this classification of travel had assigned seats and compartments, and was not air conditioned.

Imagine my surprise when, at the train station in Casablanca, all was a mad rush just to board. It was similar to - but not quite as bad as - trying to board a train in India. I just don't have the cahones to push old, veiled ladies to the side to squeeze onto a car. I managed to board but was crammed sardine-like into a car which had all of the compartment and seat numbering removed. I could only bear standing in the aisle for an hour or so, but by then enough people had disembarked to allow me to lay down my pack for something to sit on. Shortly after that, a seat opened up in a compartment. I found my way to it, and the compartment doors closed - to keep the hot air from the aisles out. Unfortunately, the hot air from the aisles was the only "air conditioning" that this car along with several others had. It was a bit disappointing.

So, for a trip south to Marrakech, I opted not to train. However, this opened the door to a new type of heat adventure: traveling through Morroco's interior, at the end of summer, in 105 to 107 degree temps, in an unairconditioned car with the windows down. Because there were 3 of us - the driver, Sayeed, and my Spanish/Morrocan/Jewish friend Tony, we rotated passenger seating. The car was a hatchback and with the windows down, the victim - I mean, passenger - in the back seat was subject to incredible gusts of baking hot wind and often sand that would force heated air and particulate into the nose, ears, and somehow even the closed mouth. By the time we reached the airport at Marrakech, the temp was at 107, and all of us felt completely wiped out.

We did sucessfully pick up Alan, a colleague from the Norway-based project I'd previously been working on, and drove back up to Fes for a wedding celebration. But Alan only had 3 days in the country with an early morning return, so we had to turn around and head right back to Marrakech. For this journey, though, I rented a car. With airconditioning. And we drove a different route.

The driving was incredible fun - especially with windows up and air conditioning. The roads in the countryside are sealed two-laners that twist and bend first through the Middle Atlas mountains, and then through the High Atlas range nearer to Marrakech. We ventured in and around both ranges, and before I knew it, we'd driven almost 10 hours. It felt like 4, and I felt like Mario Andretti - straightening out curves, or eating up the camber of the road. We all had to be on the lookout for goat and sheep herds, though - one of the beauties of Morocco is that is nearly fence-less (minus the walls that surround cities and homes).

What we did not have was a real map. My guidebook, in the introductory pages, had a basic map - more for the purposes of illustrating where the towns and points of interest are, though it did show a few main roads. But, as has been said many times before, the journey is the adventure - and with maps, we very likely would not have encountered a village's traditional heritate celebration. This was a re-enactment of the tribespeople of the village putting down an invasion by nomads, and consisted of elaborately decorated riders on even more elaborately decked out horses - complete with antique musket-like guns layered in silversmithing. Alan, Tony, and I were the only non-regional folks there. And we would have missed the serendipitous celebration had we bought a map.

The Depreciating Value of Youth & Beauty

Ok, I know, a heady title. But there's a funny story behind it. Not that I consider myself a current or former poster child for Youth & Beauty......

Recently, on my trip to Morocco, a friend I was traveling with (who spoke Arabic) was offered 500 camels for me in a small country town during a rest stop.

Flattering, possibly, when you consider a good camel can be bought for about 1500 euros. My perceieved value by this berber gentleman farmer is $592,500 USD. The problem (well, one among many) is that approximately 10 years ago on my first visit to Morocco, my then boyfriend was offered 8,000 camels for me, or $9,480,000. Of course, then I had long hair that was blond, and youth on my side.

Jump forward to last week. I'm creeping up on 40 and have short auburn hair, and it appears I've suffered a 93.75% depreciation in overall net value. Fortunately, because my friend was a good negotiator and could do so in Arabic, he was able to get the value bumped up to 625 camels, 93 goats, 2 horses (male and female), and a female donkey, with some chickens thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately, with my current rate of personal depreciation in Morocco, next year I'll be worthless. Though that could be an interesting travel aspect in an of itself - as in perhaps whatever friend I have with me won't be solicited to sell me.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Morocco Revisited: Je suis arrivé! (I have arrived!)

First off let me describe my posting methodology for this trip. If you are looking for photos, go to the other blog. I will be posting commentary here, and eventually, photos there. But this first post I have made to both sites.

I made it to Morocco - it is HOT - and my French is rustier than I imagined!

I would love to use contractions but the keyboards in Morocco are not laid out in qwerty fashion, so while many of the letters are in the same position, I cannot find the apostrophe icon anywhere. The thing I am tripping up on the most is that the M is to the right of the qwerty-placed L space, and there is a comma where the M should be. So you may see Q where A should be and commas for Ms.

As for speaking, since the last time I was here I have become more versed in Spanish and apparently lost some French capabilities. So now instead of speaking right away, I think of what to say and in my mind I have to translate, which to my brain right now means English - Spanish. Then I have to think French, and then say it. The embarrasing part of all of this is that this sequence seems to initiate only once I have opened my mouth.

Imagine someone walking up to you to ask a question, but instead, you see an open mouth and can hear no sound except the rusty mental gears trying to crank the language skills back into use. When you finally hear something it is with all of the finesse that a 10-year old could flourish linguistically.

My arrival in Morocco was apparently more amazing than that of my checked luggage. I had an hour layover in Paris, and the flight arrived 20 minutes early. But in true major airport fashion, we taxied on the runway for a good 20 minutes before I boarded a bus to the terminal, and another bus to the terminal I needed to transfer to. Then I got lucky and jumped into the brand new line that formed at the transfer/customs location after which I was able to directly board for the Casablanca flight. But, that boarding went to the ground, to another bus that got stuck in a short traffic jam behind 4 fire trucks busy putting out a luggage cart engine fire.

To make things interesting, I really had to pee just before disembarking the first flight. And, since the flight staff were stingy with the liquids on the flight I was also parched. I managed the thought of not having a bathroom opportunity with the irrational assumption that, since I was so thirsty, it was probably best I retained all liquid that I had. My chances to change some dollars for euros, find a bathroom, and make my once-daily connector flight were zero.

Transit overall was very good - smooth check-in, good flight, great onboard movie selection (I had my choice of indy/foreign flicks), great food, and apparently my luggage had an easier transfer than I did. I was convinced that it would not arrive today, so seeing it on the rotator belt was a very happy reunion moment.

Until I later opened it to find my shampoo had exploded in my toiletries bag. That was a first.

Now, off to a good Salon de The (tea); then a recommended spot for pastillas for dinner ith the possibility of catching a small group of traditional musicians in from Marrakech. Gleaned the latter off of the radio, so it will be interesting to see if my comprehension is correct.

watch this spqce..........observez cet espace.........