Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tax Evasion

One of the many joys of being an expat is paying your US taxes. I'm writing this while on hold with the IRS. I figured I may as well use the time that would otherwise be flushed down the toilet by the IRS and it's complete inefficiency. Please beware, I'm a bit distracted by playing "name that muzak tune". So far I have heard Feelings and Memories. And neither my feeling or memories of the IRS are positive.



Our taxes have been done and filed and we owe. We always owe. But we've set up an e-payment directly from our checking account. Relief. Done for the year. That is until we get a letter from the IRS saying that there is a discrepancy in our bank account information. Because we live in Morocco and this letter was sent weeks ago we receive it just a couple days before April 15th. So I'm freaking out that I have to get a check to the IRS from Morocco. The "from Morocco part" is pivotal, because getting anything done here is not easy, let alone timely. Especially taxes.

So I go to the US Embassy where we can use the DPO, which is the automated excuse for a real post office. First of all it has weird hours. Even though it's an automated system and even if all goes well and you don't need assistance you do have to hand the package over to an Embassy employee who works there. And second of all, the automated system NEVER, NEVER works properly. EVER.

I don't know if I need to send my envelope certified or registered mail. I can never remember the difference. The people in the mail room don't know the difference either. So I simply check the box that requires a signature on the super user friendly usps.com site. And yes, that was meant to be sarcastic. I go all the way through the system and the label won't print. This always happens. I go to another computer. It still won't print. I make a new label. Finally after 45 minutes and 3 on-lookers later, it prints. I put my check in and send it off. My envelope will be post-marked by the 15th. Whew. Done right?

No. I get home and the usps.com has charged me twice. So I need to go through the simple user friendly usps computer system again to figure out how to cancel and get a refund for the label that never printed. Done right?

A month later when I'm balancing my check book, I see that my IRS check cleared. AND my e-payment with the checking account discrepancy ALSO went through. I hope there is some kind of Super Patriotic American Award that I'm going to receive for paying my taxes twice! Crap. Now I have to try to get my money back from the IRS.

So I call the number that was on the letter the IRS sent me. This of course is not the department I need to call. I don't even know what subset of the IRS this is, but what I need, the lady says, is the Individual Assistance Line. She gives me the number for them. I dial and get a telephone error message of "temporarily unavailable". I ring it 9 more times just to make sure. I get the same message every time.

I call back the original number and inform her that the line is out of service. She does not have another number for them or anyone else who can help me. Of course she's not concerned, I have already paid my taxes. Twice. Now if I owed them money I'm sure someone would have been available to help me. Her suggestion? Call the other number back. Maybe tomorrow the number will actually work.

The great thing is at this point I'm starting to think that if I ever see this money again it's gonna be like we got a refund. I might get a little frivolous with it even and buy some really overpriced splurge item with it. Like a big $5,000 splurge. But who am I kidding? This is crazy talk! Like I'm ever gonna see my money again.

I scour the IRS website which is even more uber user friendly that the usps website. Somehow in that twisted tangle of tax horse shit, I find the number to the International Line for Help. I go through the automated triage system and I end up talking to a real live breathing person who thinks that maybe (she's not sure) she can help me. Hallelujah!

I want my $2! Give me my $2!!!! (Ok, it's WAY more than $2, but I couldn't help the Better Off Dead reference.)

Miracle of miracles! The system shows that I have indeed payed my taxes twice without me needing to send verification via cancelled checks and e-transaction numbers! This tax credit of course freezes my account. This of course is not shocking. The government is not made up to deal with surpluses, only deficits. So the nicest lady in the entire IRS attempts to unfreeze my account so that a check for my overpayment can be sent to me. Of course the mailing address they have on file for me is incorrect. She urges me NOT to correct the address because this will result in all kinds of bureaucratic crap and I completely concur. I am guaranteed to never get that check with a corrected address that doesn't match what is in their records. She has put the request into the computer system to unlock me account. Of course there is no confirmation number that results from this or anything. Again, this is the IRS. There is a waiting period. The computer needs time to thaw my account. Call back in 4 to 6 weeks she says.

But I know what she's really telling me.



I better be content being the Most Patriotic American who paid their taxes twice because I'll probably never see that money again. So let me get this right? If I evade paying my taxes, I get thrown into jail. Now what happens if the IRS owes money and they evade me?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week Without Sky

My oldest child, Sky is leaving today for a 5 day trip with school. Five whole days. He's never been gone by himself five days before. The school calls this "Week Without Walls", we call it "Week Without Sky". He can't wait. In fact he's been packed for the last 10 days at least. I had no idea that he could pack so quickly, efficiently, maturely and compliantly. I didn't even have to ask, nag or cajole him to do any of this. Hang on, where is the real Sky and what have you done with him? Wait does this version of Sky put his dirty clothes in the hamper too?

Sky is a boy. And boys as you may know are not known for their hygiene. Sky is no exception. So he's going away and I won't be there to nag him to shower. And then to further nag him to actually use soap and remind him to wash his pits and stanky feet and everything in between. I have no illusions that he is actually going to remember this on his own because I'm sure 6th grade boy peer pressure is pro-stank. And I realize that the 12 year old boys have more influence on him than does his mother in these matters. So how am I going to encourage him to shower during the Week Without Sky? And I would take a run in with a garden hose or a gentle rain shower and check the box with that. Anything to keep the malassezia furfur (sounds bad doesn't it) and/or flesh eating bacteria at bay until he's back on my watch.



The cool thing that proves you're a man-boy at my kids school? Axe. Sky has begged me to buy him axe in the past. I have refused on the grounds that until you can consistently shower all your parts WITH SOAP, I will not provide you with a spray that you will merely try to mask the stank with. But, I am offering a furlough for "Week Without Sky" because I do want to encourage the teachers to actually bring him back with them. So I consider is my civic duty as a parent to persuade him to be as fragrantly pleasing as possible. So today is the day that I will break down and buy Sky Axe. When I go to Marjane there are about 20 different Axe scents to choose from and I'm paralyzed with possibilities. Until I see chocolate. Perfect. Sky will probably think that Axe will attract 6th grade girls. Except that 6th grade girls are NOT interested in 6th grade boys. Thank god!



The day before the trip Sky wants to go to Marjane to get some snacks to bring on the trip to share with his friends. So I, certified hater of Marjane,(which is like Super Walmart, but far worse) break my solemn vow to not Marjane after 10am when it starts to get busy. I take Sky and feel like I've made the ultimate mom sacrifice for my kid. It's already busy but I'm trying to be cool calm mom. He's overwhelmed, which kinda makes me feel better because I thought I just felt that way cause I'm old. It takes several trips down several aisles to narrow the selection. He's thinking and over thinking what his friends will like or not like. And he actually organized with his friends the first days lunch. His friends will bring drinks and another will bring sandwiches. He, he volunteered to bring fruit. Of his own free will. Who is this organized responsible kid? As we meander through the store he asks for far less than I would if my mom took me snack shopping. We end up with corn nuts, mentos, gummies, apples and cherries.



His things are packed up in his room sitting right next to his toys, most of which don't get played with anymore. He can't wait for life's adventures. This is one of those pivotal moments that is going to repeat itself, slowly seeing his childhood slip away and witnessing his transition to independence. And stepping back and watching it all unfold knowing that this is right where he needs to be at this time. Even if I'm not ready. Even if he's travelling 4 hours away from me for 5 days. Even if he doesn't take a shower for 5 days and returns with the most fowl stank cleverly (or not so cleverly) disguised (or not disguised at all) with chocolate axe.

The Loerzel 5-Day Social Experiment: How will Sky's absence change the dynamics of our other 3 kids?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Piggin' Out

Life is full of unexpected surprises. Like when a friend announces that she acquired 50pounds of boar meat and do I want some. Do I want some pork? Remember, I live in a mother flippin' Muslim country free of pig products. And someone has pork and wants to give it to me for free? Yes! Yes! Yes! After all one should never look a gift horse in the mouth. And if it's a gift pig, don't even make eye contact, just take it and run!

Now what are the origins of this boar and how did it get to me? And is this the little piggy who went to market or the one that stayed home? Does it matter? The bubble (and if you don't know what the bubble is, read my post Bubblicious) says that the boar got in the US Embassy circuit from the someone at the United Arab Emirates Embassy. Someone who likes to hunt boar, but can't eat boar because it's pork. Now I never thought of the conundrum of the Muslim hunter before. But now I'm the direct benefactor of this moral dilemma. So while I've never been pro-hunting and I'm not really religious ever, today I will say a little prayer for NRA. Or the UAERA (United Arab Emirates Rifle Association)....whatever.



So we arrive at Claire's house of boar liquidation. Everything must go! She has a body bag size cooler, actually it's a Samoan size body bag cooler. It's full of assorted boar parts loosely wrapped in cellophane marinating in bloody ice. We are the grateful recipients of a boar leg. Front leg? Back leg? I have no idea. I'm really just taking it on faith that it is a boar, because hacked up bits of animal parts tend to look pretty interchangeable. Who cares what it is? I am carnivore. Hear me boar. I mean roar. Claire puts the slab in the only thing large enough for transporting it to my house, a garbage bag.

So now what do I do with it? Make space in the fridge and look for recipes online. I come across two recipes, both of which contain massive amounts of red wine. So I guess I won't be inviting any Muslims or any Mormons to dinner to help me eat this thing. Oh wait, the recipe says to bake it in the oven. But I have a tiny Moroccan oven and I don't have a pan big enough to fit it anyway. If only I had a grill. But wait, I have friends who have grills. Hi, um can we borrow your grill so we can grill our gift pig who I now assume was the piggy dumb enough to try to make it to market, but didn't quite make it. He should have stayed home.



I've got the recipe, I've got the grill, I've got a lot of really cheap wine and I've got a garbage bag full of boar. So after I pull the boar out of the garbage, er...garbage bag that is, I inspect it. It seems like someone didn't shave their legs before they went to market because there's some wild boars hairs on them. This Babe needs a bath.



I search the kitchen for the largest vessel that can hold the boar and the marinade that it will suffuse in for over 24 hours. I cook the cheap wine up on the stove top with onions, carrots, peppercorns, cloves and thyme. And my scent memory brings me back to living in Germany because this smells exactly like the gluhwein at the Christmas Markets. A drunk pig is a tasty pig.



I put the boar in the biggest platter I can find. It's more of a bowl actually. I guess that makes is a plowl, the distant cousin of the spork. And it becomes obvious I have too much boar, or too much marinade and a shortage of plowl when I overfill it and it runs onto the counter and all over the floor. This is when it would be helpful to have a dog who would just lap it up and then entertain me with its drunk antics all afternoon. I'm sure the kids would have done that too, but they're at school. Damn.



Now I have to get this plowl full of wild (and drunk) boar into my fridge. Oh crap. Why didn't I think of this before? It was not a pretty shuffle of me helping the boar to bed the fridge. This was after I moved every item in the fridge to accommodate. What a pig! And when I'm done I have wine all over the counter, the floor, the fridge and me. At least I bought wino wine and not the good stuff.

Am I boaring you yet?



Finally it's time to grill it and Craig takes over the cooking. It's a guy thing. I finish cooking the basil potatoes, green beans and chutney for the pork. The guests are invited. And now the gate rings and a friend is picking/up dropping off kids and while we're talking two local ladies walk by and I make the rookie American mistake of making direct eye contact with these ladies and smiling. What WAS I thinking? See here in Morocco random passersby will ring your door bell and ask you for things. This happens all the time. So they approach us and ask us in French for a job and for food. How do I say "I've got a boar leg cookin' if you want to come back about 6pm" in French? Then they ask for water. Ok, you have me at water. I can't deny another living creature made up 98% water of water. That would be inhumane. Plus hopefully it will make them go away before the next stranger walks by and asks us for things. After about 10 minutes or so and their bottled water they finally leave.



The boar is cooked, our dinner guests have arrived. Now we have to carve it. We don't have tools to do this, but strangely Christopher does it well. With a dull knife even like he's done this before. And he's very intense and methodical about it. And he's trying to feed me big pieces of boar while he does it. Is he trying to fatten me up? Remind me not to get to close to him or his freezer cause I don't want to wind up in it...

Time to pig out.



And the reviews are in. "More beefy", "really juicy", "totally delicious" and my personal favorite, "I swallowed it". I didn't even pay them or withhold dessert to get them to say these things. Really I didn't.



And how does a wild boar party end? Eating ice cream out of cup with your hands. Yeah, it was that wild.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Duplicity

Every year Rabat hosts the Mawazine Festival. An International music festival boasting the likes of Kanye West and Shakira. There is African music and Latin music and everything in between. And the best part? It's free! Nothing's free you say? So true, its sung to the tune of 12 million dollar price tag. But that's a whole different post. Or is it? There's only one person I want to see. Like really want to see and that's Yusuf Islam. Don't know him? Yes you do. He's the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.

The plan is we're going to the Sofitel (the poshest hotel in Rabat), which is right across from the big open field that is the concert venue. After parking the car and having an obligatory glass of wine to pay for our parking sins, we'll simply walk across the street to watch the show. So how does one dress for both a swanky hotel and a not-Cat-Stevens concert?



Classy on the top...



And granola on the bottom. (I'm even adding some extra crunch by not shaving my legs and having stanky feet. See the duality of the flip flop is even though they are so open and breezy, the rubber absorbs odors like a sponge.)



So we head to the Sofitel and get that drink with purchase of a parking space. We discuss really intellectual things like Craig's new concept of googlebation and really not so intellectual things like whether the chick at the hotel bar with her boobs jacked up to her neck and miniskirt also jacked up to her neck is a prostitute because women just don't dress like that here.

It's almost time for the concert to start. And two very strange things don't happen. No one is pushing to get to the front, like the tramplings that killed concert goers at the Mawazine a few years ago. And no men are leering, brushing up against me as they squeeze past or cat calling. Because unfortunatly, that happens to women fairly frequently here. Did I just leave Morocco and enter the Twighlight Zone?



Cat Stevens makes his way to the stage. Everyone cheers. I don't know if you know this, but Moroccans love him. They play his songs in the grocery store and his songs of course are in English. So do they get the meaning of his songs? I question this because I'm the only one grocery shopping listening to Father and Son and crying. And it is impossible not to sob a along to that song if you understand the words! So do they like his music more or the fact that he's now Yusuf more?

He starts playing his old stuff. Everyone's into it.



The he changes into a djellaba, which is a traditional Moroccan dress worn by both men and women (although not at the same time). And poof he's magically transformed into Yusuf Islam. The Moroccans are cheering and loving it. Except Yusuf can't pronounce djellaba correctly which is shocking coming from someone wearing one. Then Sara asks, is it like a kilt? Is he wearing anything under that? I've never thought about that until that very moment. And I now I know why. Ewww.

Yusuf launches into his new songs. I don't know any post Cat Stevens stuff myself. And to my surprise, neither does anyone else! They love Yusuf, but they only listen to Cat? Hmm.

So while Cat-Yusuf-whatever-his-name-is is singing about trees, we start to drift. And there is a faint smell of pot surrounding us. Islam forbids pot smoking right?

We take picture of "sexy chick" who is one of the private boxes reserved for the king and his siblings. Who is she? Wait, is she the prostitute from the Sofitel?



Sing Freebird!

He doesn't...

So we take pictures and ponder which Baldwin brother Craig looks most like.

Please cast your vote:
Daniel
Alec
Billy
Stephen (If that is his real name.)



Then we're snapped out of our boredom when he starts the chords to Wild World. Yes, something we know!

And Sara gets a little wild....



He's gotta sing Freebird soon. So we get ready. I whip out our bic lighters, 'cause I'm old school like that. Oh my god, how many non-smokers does it take to light a lighter? It requires so much more coordination than I thought.



This might take a while.



And then we're lit, but probably from the second hand pot smoke. I'm pretty sure this bic lighter thing is gonna catch on with the Moroccans like the wave. After all, how many Moroccans have a lighter? But it doesn't. And lighters get really hot, which is probably why concert goers use cell phones now a days.

And we're ready when Freebird starts. Or Peace Train. Whatever.
Check out the super sweet sway cam...



Call him Cat, call him Yusuf, call him Mr. Duplicity, he's good! Just don't call him the singer of Freebird. Although Freeballin' might be a nice title for a new song...

Challenge Question:

Can you find all the layers of duplicity in this post?

Politics
Name
Clothes
Religion
Cultural Norms
Popularity
Smoking

Discuss.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Unbirthday Unparty

It's not Jade's birthday and we're not having a party. See 5 out of 6 of our birthdays fall within 5 weeks of each other. Of course this 5 week span is during the holiday season from right before Thanksgiving to right on through Christmas. Except for Jade, whose birthday is in June. So partially because most of our birthdays come at the busiest and most stressful season of the year and partially because we're retro slacker parents, we don't do big birthday parties. Except when you turn 10. This was my number 1 brilliant friend Kirsten's idea.

So this year Jade can have any kind of party she wants to celebrate her double-digitness. Now Jade is my child who never asks for anything. Except for pets. She asks for lots of pets, but nothing else. All she wanted for her birthday was to have a sleepover with her best friend in Morocco, Lydia. The sad part of the story is Lydia is moving to the states next month. So we decided to have an early unbirthday. And with only two girls it's very unparty, cause don't you need like 3 people to make it a party? So here's my quest to give the girl who never asks for anything the best unbirthday unparty ever.



Every unbirthday unparty needs ungoody bags. As you may have guessed, there is no Party Superstore here to get these items. I'm not even sure what to get because Lydia and Jade are not your average girls. When they are together they like to play school, organize their rooms (this is purely Lydia's doing, Jade well, she takes after her mother), practice piano, craft and compost. Yes, they LOVE to compost! Meal worm goody bags? Tempting. I'm pretty sure I could get them here. But, I don't think Lydia could take them on the plane. Ok, I've got nothing. So I go on Target.com and order some hello kitty nail polish and lip balm out of pure not-knowing-what-else-to-get-ness. Two days before the unparty I get a notice that these items were returned, rejected by the receiving post office. See somethings you can't ship overseas like very, very dangerous lip bomb. Frantic for unparty ungoody bag items I head to Marjane and start buying stuff. And I find: pink post its, cute erasers, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, cat notebooks pads (hoping to tap into their pet lust), magnifying glasses (so maybe they can find their own meal worms in the compost pile) and cute pink carrying case. SAVED!



Almost 10 year old girls like to plan. So Jade has it all written out and posted on the fridge so we don't forget. As if this is even possible. She calls Lydia to long discussions about the possible things they could do. Oh, yeah? What ARE we going to do? I'm talking to my friend Sara worried that the girls can not compost for 24 hours straight. She has an ice cream maker. Would the girls like to do that? BINGO! They would LOVE to do that. Brilliant friend moment number 2. Now what am I going to do with my other 3 kids? Because really the best gift I can give Jade is 24 sibling-free hours with just Lydia. Enter brilliant friend number 3, Bobbie. All 3 of my other kiddos can go to her house for a sleepover over there with her 4 kids! Yes, someone wants them or is kind enough to convince me that having 7 kids at her house for an entire day and night would be "fun". Then the day before the party brilliant psychic friend Laura, who doesn't even know about the unparty sends a box of every different flavor oreos perfect for makng cookies and cream ice cream which is exactly the kind the girls want to make! I wish there was a lottery I could play here, cause I'm feelin' lucky!



We have the plan, we have the ungoody bags. We exchange the kids. I say a prayer for Bobbie 'cause I know that I've got the best deal in town. I've got 2 of the sweetest almost 10 year old girls and no distractions! So we take them to lunch.



And go bowling.



And a trip to the candy store.



Then home where Lydia gives Jade a bff necklace she made and a jewelry box. And I gave them their goody bags and they loved them.



They organized their ungoody bags and played school. Until that morphed into FBI. They made cool fingerprinting cards.



And took mugshots for FBI ID badges.



Very realistic mugshots...




They watered the garden, the lawn, the compost pile and each other.



The looked at the bugs in the yard with their new magnifying glasses.


video

And they danced to Jade's new wii Just Dance game that miraculously arrived from Target.com in time. Which leads me to why is shipping electronics not nearly as dangerous as the lip bomb?



They crushed oreos to make the ice cream.



They watched it swirl.



Before they hunkered down in bed watching A Wrinkle in Time that we downloaded. (There ain't no convenient Blockbuster to go get the hottest new movie release here.) And ate the best cookies and cream ice cream ever.



The next morning they ate their smiley happy face breakfasts with happy smiley faces.

Things I learned today:

It takes a village to make an unbirthday. Thank you to my village. You know what they say, you are the company that you keep. And I must say, I am keeping some inspiring company and so is Jade. To our friends across the world and to those like Bobbie and family and Lydia and family in this post who are moving away from us this summer, no matter how far apart we are, we are still a village. So today find a village people song, just dance and we can be together in our own village if only for a couple minutes!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Infamous

You know that infamous Neiman Marcus cookie recipe that was floating around the Internet some years back. Ok, 10 maybe 15 years back. I'm old ok? Some lady bought the recipe for some ridiculous price and sent it, via e-mail forward, to the entire free world to really stick it to Neiman Marcus. Well, I don't have that recipe. But I do have a really awesome "Raspberry Chicken" recipe. I used it in quotes because I didn't actually make the "raspberry" part. (For more about that read on.) And be forewarned, one should probably not BWP (Blog While Pissed).

Ok, so this is like two weeks of dinners that my 12-year-old has voiced his utter disgust at how utterly disgusting the dinner I made for our family is. And the really fantastic thing about 12-year-olds is the sheer intricate way in which they can describe their distaste. Wow, things were so much easier when he only knew "yuck" and would move on. But now I can get a whole 10-minute sermon that starts out with "this is the most awful dinner anyone was ever served" to "I wish I was an only child" (like his friend Nick who coincidentally got a new lego set today. Is the legoness as prized as the solitude though? I dare not ask.)

Now, we live in Africa without a lot of the foods my kids know and love. I work really hard, as I always have, to provide a healthy, diverse, homemade meal for my kids. I love to cook. I take pride in it. And there's a lot of love that goes into my meals. Dinner and being together and sharing our day is important to me. Probably way more important than I realized just 10 minutes ago. And my oldest is not my pickest eater. In fact, he's always been my adventurous eater. He likes things spicy. And he likes cabbage, beets, fresh fish and turnips like I do. But, he doesn't like potatoes, corn, or french fries! (How unAmerican is that? He should have his social security card revoked or something.) And now chicken.

Ok, I have enough trouble putting dinner on the table here. Morocco doesn't have pork products in the supermarket (we would eat pork at least every other week in the states), there is no edamame, there are no sugar snap peas. No American sweet potatoes, no baby spinach (thank god we now have spinach growing in our garden) and salmon...oh god salmon...how I've missed you. They do have it here, but it's expensive, so I save it for a sometimes treat. I make a mean salmon, goat cheese and corn quesadilla by the way. They are even better with this great sangria recipe I have. I could do an entire post listing all the foods we miss in alphabetical order, but I digress....




So seafood is expensive, lamb is well...lamby. Beef we have occassionally (it is halal meat and has all the blood drained out...and everyone knows bloody meat is better than bloodless beef). You can't get tofu or pig products here. So this leaves chicken. A lot of chicken. Yes, we eat a lot of chicken, ok? Don't judge me! I try to spice it up. I do! Really, I do! So tonight in an effort to "spice up the chicken" once again, I'm making Raspberry Chicken. Well...sort of. I'll get to that later. The recipe is out of the Peace Corps Morocco cookbook. A cookbook made by the volunteers for the volunteers. They contain ingredients that are locally grown and found "most" places throughout Morocco. Although having made a lot of these recipes I imagine a lot of ingredients would be difficult to find both in the mountains and the Sahara Desert, as Morocco is a country of vast geological differences. That again would be a whole other blog post.



So I'm excited to cook this recipe and explore my spectrum of international culinary skilz. But, I don't have the raspberry jam that the recipe calls for. But I do have "conficture de mures", which in French translates to that-fruit-that-is-kinda-like-blackberries-but-totally-not-blackberries-that-I-happen-to-have-bought-probably-by-accident-that-happens-to-be-in-my-cupboard. I'm pretty sure that that's the translation anyway. Oh, and it also calls for orange zest, but when I was shopping for oranges today they were moldy at the store. So the recipe is also sans o'range (said with a French accent s'il vous plait).


Ok, so here it is, the "Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe" of the chicken world as it appears in the Peace Corps handbook:

Raspberry Chicken:

1/2 cup sweet red wine (Or really any freakin' wine you have. The closer, the better.)
1/2 c. vinegar (Or the shallot vinegar you use because you don't have just regular vinegar.)
1/2-1 cup raspberry jam (Or the Conficture fruits de mer....what the crap was it I had in the cupboard again? Again, I don't actually speak French.)
2 T. soy sauce (Oh my god, I have that. I really have that!!!)
1 t Dijon mustard (How is it that one can get dijon here from the exotic dijon plant only grown in France and yet not horserasdish? Discuss.)
1 clove garlic (How old should your garlic be before you don't use it anymore and just throw it out? Anyone?)
1 frying chicken, cut up into pieces (Or one tray of chicken breasts cut up already on the styrafoam tray so you don't have to talk to the guy behind the meat counter in French because you don't know how to ask for a cut up chicken a la francais.)
2-3 T honey (Or just the scant remnants of the honey bottle as that shit is expensive here in Africa.)
Strips of orange zest for garnish (Unless all oranges in the entire store are moldy...)

Mix all ingredients together except chicken and orange zest. Taste and adjust sweetness. Pour mixture over chicken and let it marinate at least 4 hours. (Unless you totally forget... then 20 minutes works.) Place chicken with the marinade in the pressure cooker and bring to a boil. (Unless you don't have a pressure cooker, then cook it in the oven at about 350 degrees Farenheit, I don't know I'm approximating from the 150 celcius I cooked mine at for about 45 minutes or until a kid starts fighting with another kid and you rememember oh my god I need to take the chicken out of the oven now.) Seal and cook for 12 mins. (By the way, what Peace Corps volunteer has a pressure cooker if I don't even have one I ask you?) Remove from heat and remove chicken from marinade. (I guess I have no comment for that one, just do it.) Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with orange zest. (Unless you don't have oranges because they were all moldy, you just have 4 grumpy children who are all moldy. Then just sprinkle with f()*&^%$ fairy dust and hope for the best....)

Ok, I added in all the parenthesis. But I am pissed. And my life includes a lot of parenthesis.

Now dare you even ask whether Sky liked the chicken? No. Don't. He's 12. He doesn't like anything. He has declared himself vegetarian. Except for bacon and beef jerky. No, I'm not kidding. I had to explain what "that arguement doesn't hold water" means and I explained that yes, cows and pigs are animals too. So if you want to be all sympathetic to the chickens you should also extend the courtesy of life to all the other animals in the animal kingdom. If you are indeed vegetarian believe me I will heep more brocoli on your plate than you have ever seen. By the end of our "discussion" (or more like my 10 minute rant about holding water and loving the whole rainbow of animal flavors) he truly understood what the term "holding water" means. I hope it's on the SATs. I'm fine with you being "vegetarian" and all. Just not a bacon loving vegetarian who doesn't want to eat my "Non-Raspberry, Raspberry Chicken" for no good reason that doesn't hold water.






And by the way, this is an amazing recipe. I dare you to try it on your kids. Two of mine loved it and so did Craig and I. And you know the rule. Majority rules, minority drools. I apologize for my overuse of parenthesis in this post. It's annoying and childish. Much like I'm feeling right now.


So, let all mothers everywhere who want to feed our kids healthy real food unite and share the Raspberry Chicken recipe far and wide. You know you want to. Unless you're a bacon loving vegetarian.
Amen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Inconspicuous Tourists



The trip was planned months ago. Then a couple of weeks ago there was a terrorist bombing at a cafe in Marrakech. And Marrakech is of course where we are going. It's no less safe than anywhere else in the world. But, our kids are getting older. They hear things and they get anxious. Especially our oldest. He doesn't want to go. Actually we knew this far in advance. He never wants to go anywhere with us anymore. He's 12. He'll grow out of this in about 18 years when he'll want to move back in with us.



Ember on the other hand is in the car 20 minutes before the car pulls out of the driveway. She's ready and when we start our driver her favorite cd is in the cd player. And it won't eject because someone jammed it in there. Hmm, who could that have been? Definitely not Ember because she proclaimed her innocence about 20 times. Very loudly.

Click on the above video to hear Ember's favorite song of all time. Then replay it for about 4 hours...



We arrived at the Dar Tasmayoun, a farm outside of the city. We and 3 other families took over the whole place for the weekend. They have a pool, rabbits, bocce ball, lots of open space and someone to cook for us. The kids all have friends and we have our friends. When is too early to open the wine? We need to celebrate getting here. We have a lovely dinner and the kids play into the evening.



The next morning the moms head into town to shop. We start at a store. A real live store, as opposed to the medina. This is great because there is no bargaining process. And I hate the bargaining process. They have everything, lamps, glasses, shoes, candles, poofs, pottery. But what they don't have? Prices. Nothing in the store has a price on it. So I don't have to bargain, but I do have to ask the price of any item I'm interested in. And that doesn't interest me or my friend Denise either. We find somewhere to sit and notice the sheep horn lighters. Yes, lighters made out of sheep's horns. I guess it's for the (very masculine) man who has everything. I would have bought it too. That is if I didn't have to ask someone what the price was. We used all the lighter fluid playing around with them at the store anyway...



Then we head to the medina. That is after we figured out how to get to the medina that is. Nothing says inconspicuous tourists quite like 5 white women huddled around a map.



After lunch there was more shopping.



And more shopping...



And then to round it out, some more shopping...




And lots of sitting.



And still more sitting...



Until we arrived at Cafe Argana, the cafe that was bombed a few weeks prior. It was our family's favorite cafe in Marrakech. It has the best terrace view on the square, especially at sunset. It had amazing fig and avocado ice cream. We have so many fond memories there. Now the cafe front is covered by a tarp. It looks like it was being fumigated or remodeled. Only a small memorial right in front told a different tale.



Of the 15 who were killed in the blast, most were tourists. Just like us. Probably having a day very similar to ours. It seems so frivolous to be enjoying ourselves and marveling at our purchases when I think about it. But that's what being a tourist is. It's about seeing the world, living your life and enjoying the journey with your friends. And sometimes you want some mementos of that trip. Things that will remind you of the friends that you made along the way and the laughs that you shared. Damn, I knew I should have bought that sheep horn lighter.




The car is loaded up. I'm not sure the lighter would have fit anyway. We're laughing and enjoying the ride home when Jenner gets pulled over. Something about missing a stop. And Jenner holds her own. In French too. It's very impressive. We didn't know the stop was there. You may have not noticed because we're inconspicuous tourists, but we're not from here. He let her off with a warning, but I'm pretty sure that's just because he thought she was Tea Leoni.



When we get back the kids are playing happily together and the guys are talking. We'll have another evening to enjoy each others company and wonder why we don't do this more often. Another night to savor the sojourn. And another glass of wine...


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