Thursday, April 30, 2015

Publishing Again – But Not for Long

The day in February when I arrived back on the island in Bahrain after baby LW’s birth, the President of the American Women’s Association, LW contacted me.  She was very sweet, but I knew she wanted me to be involved with a committee that was meeting the NEXT day.

Jet lagged, tired, not unpacked – I headed out to a location unknown to help a committee of the AWA with a book project.

I should have known I was doomed as I got lost twice trying to find the villa where the meeting would take place.  I should blog about how they organize (or do not organize) streets and signage in Bahrain. It is appalling.

No street signs, no numbers on buildings, you have to learn landmarks!
When I finally arrived I was surprised there were 8 other ladies there.  This was looking good.  We talked for a while and I (of course) shared my baby pictures.  Everyone who meets me for the first time has to endure my pictures of baby LW.

I love this one most.  Our good friend SW says D and baby LW have the same barber. This comment always gets a chuckle from anyone I show the photo.

I just love this picture. Baby LW is less than 3 weeks old. Aren't they so cute?

The AWA committee was creating a book to document the history of AWA in Bahrain. AWA was celebrating their 40 Anniversary. They wanted to put all the history of the past 40 yeas along with some personal tributes from current members and past members into a book that could sit on your coffee table and be a testament to the history of AWA.

I had someone snap this picture of me with the American Ambassador at the AWA luncheon to celebrate the 40th anniversary.

American Ambassador, Thomas C. Krajeski speaking at the AWA meeting.
The idea for this AWA historical document came from President LW.  She had the vision of a beautiful book that would showcase the impact of AWA in the Bahraini community as well as share the positive impact AWA has had on current and past members of AWA. This was sort of an AWA Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Great goal, fantastic idea, BIG PROJECT.

When the magazine was 20 years old, we created this great cover showing some of my favorite covers over the years. I thought 20 years was a long time - AWA is looking at 40 years!
The committee had already uploaded thousands of photos to an Internet site easily accessible for creation of the book pages.  They had also scanned HUNDREDS of historical photos and press clippings that were stored in old AWA scrapbooks.

I agreed to share my expertise and help out a bit if I could.

On the day I left my office at the magazine after the close of the sale, I thought my publishing days were over.  WRONG. . . .
I strongly warned the committee that my graphic skills were extremely limited. When I published Washington FAMILY Magazine, I had several skilled graphic artists on staff I supervised, but doing the work was not in my portfolio.

I know every reader out there is smiling because they know what happens -- I was sucked in. I was doomed from the beginning.  They needed my skills.

We used to have a great archive online of copies of the magazine. I kept a link to it after I sold the magazine. Unfortunately, the new owners opted to change the service for online archives and all of my old magazines online were deleted.

At first it was a struggle to create pages. I had to learn InDesign all over again. I was never very good at it – PageMaker I could do in my sleep – but InDesign was too much like Photoshop and Illustrator.  Those were programs I left to the graphics people.  If I ever needed anything complex I would call EL or KS, my long time graphics designers. Either one of them could do anything in ALL of those programs!

As the project developed, it became more of a graphic design job for just two of us.  CS and I worked on the pages for over 8 weeks. She had never worked in InDesign as well and so we learned together. Although she does know Photoshop so she had a leg up on me. Together, we probably logged several hundreds of hours of work. (SEVERAL is an understatement.)

I have to tell you about CS.  She is a watercolor artist, and a very good one.  I love her work.  I have commissioned her to do a painting for me of the traditional dhow ships in Bahrain but unfortunately, she has been tied up with this big project (THIS BOOK!) for over two months so I don’t have my painting yet.  Hint, hint to CS!  LOL

Here we are working on our pages.
CS and I snapped this at one of the AWA morning coffees.

My computer and my large monitor really came in handy when we were reviewing the page progress.  The first meeting at my flat to review pages took over 5 hours. However, it was fantastic to get feedback from the committee that we were moving in the right direction.

Here we are at the second and final review of the book pages. This review also took over 5 hours. However, it was a good use of our time. Everyone had extremely valuable input.

Just like every month at the magazine, as we neared the deadline, the work became more hectic and stressful.  I told my hubby D that I felt like I was back at the magazine in the old days when I did a lot of the work myself.  I could feel my back tensing up and I could not sleep at night worrying about a page or a specific problem with the layout.

I started waking up at 2AM and 3AM to get up and work.

Finally the big day arrived.  CS and I finished our page design – all 210 pages.  Yes, you heard me right.  210 pages.  HUGE!!!

Our files totaled over 27 Gigabytes.

Off to the printer I went with hard drive in hand thinking my job was just about finished.  But, no!  I was wrong.

This blog is like those movies where at the end you can tell there is a sequel coming.  I am gong to save the story of what happened when I went to the printer for another blog posting.

Hint - I will also be posting a picture of the front cover of the book in that blog post.  :-)

The big reason for this is that I am going to stop writing. I am going to go relax in our lovely living room, read the newspaper and cook a lovely brunch with my wonderful husband who has put up with my “volunteer” job getting in the way of a relaxed and wonderful life at home with his loving wife.

I am going to go sip strong coffee while I enjoy the view of the Arabian Sea from our living room.
Hubby D just came back to my office and reminded me he is waiting for me...
See you soon! Gotta run. . . . . just had my second reminder from D to come join him.  LOL


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sand or Formal Wear - which would you choose?

Everyone tells me that this year is unusual in Bahrain because they have had so many sand storms.  Just my luck.

When you drive down the road, sand blows across the pavement like snow in the winter in Virginia or Oklahoma. And, it becomes slippery just like snow so you have to be aware of your speed and braking.  It is not nearly as bad as ice, but you need to be aware.

As the sand was blowing outside, we prepared for an elegant evening at the Italian Ball.

The Italian Ball is an annual event here on the island and is quite the affair. Even before I arrived in Bahrain, I was told about the Italian Ball by some other expats. So when the invitations came out, I knew we had to attend.

The theme this year was based on the movie Il Gattopardo and the turn of the century in Italy. DW and I thought about renting Italian ball gowns, but opted for regular attire at the last minute.  However, after being at the ball, we probably should have gone all out in full Italian gowns. It might have been fun.

The lobby of the Sofitel, where the ball was held has wonderful lanterns.
"Let's take it home." D and DW inspecting the Ferrari on display.
Of course, my selfie.
All dressed up for a party, our group was impressive.
The Italian Ambassador, Ambassador Alberto Vecchi was very gracious when we asked to have our photo taken with him.
The Ambassador and his wife made a striking couple.
This is DE with the Mrs. Vecchi along with our friend, LW from AWA.

At the beginning of the evening, there were several Viennese Waltzes. They were lovely.

If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog page to watch the video.

I have to tell you that the food was not good. I was very disappointed.  But the people were gorgeous and the company of our group very interesting. It was a lovely evening.

Lost in translation - they were serving Limoncello at the other tables and D ordered some. This is what arrived at our table.
We all had roses at our places along with Ferrari cologne. Ferrari is starting to be my favorite brand of cars and other things.

The evening was elegant and a great break from the sand and wind.

Salute (Cheers in Italian),

Zoom Zoom

This has been a very busy week.  I am still working on the project for the AWA (a blog about that is in my future) and we have had some really fun activities.

Fun - Fun - Fun - Last weekend we attended the Bahrain Grand Prix, a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) racetrack.

All over town there were bill boards and signs promoting the race. The race actually set a new attendance record this year.
Even the local shopping malls got into the action with activities related to the race for the kids.

I completely expected the experience to be similar to the Indy 500, but this was much more civilized and family focused.  Maybe this is because there is no alcohol sold inside the facilities.  Hmmmm.

The track and the facilities are amazing.  It is very sophisticated and first class all the way.

EARRINGS --- Look closely at my ears- these are custom designed Formula One BIC earrings. SW designed them and gave them to us before the race. Is this cool or what?

The earring is the shape of the race track.  There is the letter "F" and a number "one" in the middle.

The race track is a huge facility located out in the desert. Here is a picture from overhead. I tried to find one showing the entire track but this is as close as I could come. Notice the very small round shape in the upper right corner of this picture. That is the round tower shown behind D, DW and myself in the first picture. It is 12 stories tall but looks very small in this picture. The Formula One race track is huge!
The open area in front of the grandstands (for the music performers) was filled with cushions and places to sit.
We spotted several of our AWA friends at the race. 
We connected with LS and her husband in the grandstands.
We had a great view of the straight away and turn number one. This is where all the action would take place. 

SW told me to watch the wheels on the cars as they entered the first turn.  They would be going really fast down the straight away and would have to brake hard for the turn.  The brakes on the cars were actually glowing red with heat. The whole time we were watching the race I kept looking at the brakes. It was amazing.

I tried and tried to get a photo of the glowing brakes but the cars were going too fast for me. Guess that SLR camera would have come in handy for this adventure.

The roads coming in and out of the BIC were lined with lit palm trees. D would not slow down enough for me to take a good photo.
After the first night of prelimenaries, LS and her husband, DS took us to an Italian restaurant located close to their flat. We had fish baked in salt. The presentation was phenomenal and it tasted great. 
On the final day for the race, I wore my Ferrari shirt and noise reducing headphones. My team (Ferrari) came in second.

There was a large number of the Jacob's Team at the race. 
BIC sunset as seen from the grand stands.
After the race, they lit up the sky in celebration.

Here is the final outcome of the race. 
It was a lot of fun to attend something that is an international event.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Last day in Jordan

As we left the gorge leading away from the Treasury, we saw the one and only sign indicating you should be cautious with the antiquities. In the US, the entire area would be roped off with guards keeping you from touching anything. This sign was the only one of it's kind we saw on our entire trip to Petra.

Our last evening in Petra was AGAIN very memorable. Our guide, Nader made arrangements in advance for a local restaurant (one of his favorites) to cook Mansaf for us. 
It takes several hours to cook so in advance he had asked if we wanted an authentic "Jordanian" dinner.  Never to shy away from an adventure, we all readily agreed.

According to Wikipedia, Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt called jammed, and served with rice or bulgur. It was served on a large platter with a layer of flatbread (markook or shrak) topped with rice and then meat, garnished with almonds and pine nuts.

Our Mansaf came to the table with a layer of flatbread on top to keep it warm so there was a dramatic unveiling when Nader removed the bread.

Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan and it is also common in Palestine. To a lesser degree it is also found in parts of Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The name of the dish comes from the term "large tray" or "large dish."

This was our Mansaf dish. The yogurt sauce is to the left. It was fabulous!
This was a huge tray of food.  Note the size of the knives and fork in the upper right corner of the photo.  The tray of food was bigger than a large pizza and piled 4-5 inches high with pieces of lamb covered with almonds. The pieces of flatbread (shark) were also that big.

Mansaf is served on special occasions such as weddings, births and graduations, or to honor a guest, and on major holidays such as Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, and Jordan's Independence Day. It is traditionally eaten collectively from a large platter in the Bedouin and rural style, standing around the platter with the left hand behind the back and using the right hand instead of utensils.

Nader gave us a demonstration on how to create a ball of rice and lamb then "flick" it into your mouth with your right thumb. You never touch the food with your left hand, and you never let your right hand go inside your mouth. YES, we all washed up very good before we started eating.
After our long day trekking through Petra, we opted to sit at the table instead of the tradition way of standing with your left hand behind you. Hubby D secured some wine from our hotel to take along as well.

DW picked up my phone and caught a bit of the experience in video.  The only problem was that she did not have a clean hand to stop the recording.  She used her nose to stop the camera.  That’s a memory for sure.

If you are reading this in an email, you will need to go to my blog page to watch DW's video.

The table was a mess when we finished. However, it was delicious!
The next morning, our last day in Jordan we were up early and on the road heading back to Amman. We traveled on the desert highway that was constructed as a supply route for the Iran-Iraq war.

These are not mountains or hills. These are piles of mined phosphorus. Mining phosphorus is a big industry in Jordan, however they do not process it in Jordan.
Our next stop was a Crusaders castle in Kerak

Kerak is south of Madaba and the capital of the biblical kingdom of Moab (Moses). Perched atop a steep hill, Kerak is a predominantly Christian town dominated by the largest and best preserved of the Crusader castles in the region. Nader provided great history and a tour of the castle. Our drive through the town was also very interesting - very rural and a very traditional Jordanian community.

Side note, Kerak was the home of the Jordanian pilot recently killed by ISIS. Nader told us the entire region mourned for the young man.

This is the main street in Kerak as seen through the front windshield of our van.
We ate a lot of sesame cookies this morning because we wanted to wait until we arrived in Amman to have a late lunch.
Lufa for sale in Kerak.
Several stores had shoes for sale and this is how they were displayed. 
After it was constructed in 1142 by the Crusaders, Kerak Castle became the center of the Emirates of Transjordan and the most important in a series of fortresses between Jerusalem and Aqaba. The Crusaders set up an impressive system of security: all the fortifications were a day's journey apart and each one lit a beacon at night to inform Jerusalem it was safe.
One thing very memorable about Kerak Castle was the wonderful visitor's toilet. It was the nicest one we "visited" in Jordan.
This caption has a "griffin."
The view from the top of the castle of the valley below was beautiful.
This is the castle kitchen. There was even a running water system.
The hall in the prison was not so inviting.
D tried his hand at mimicking the actions needed to shoot through the arrow window in the main portion of the castle.  It was a tight fit. Maybe men were smaller back then.
The top of the castle was very windy but I could not resist a selfie.
Another long hall way with arches. The light is all natural and supplied through slits in the ceilings.
When we arrived in Amman, Nader took us on a walking tour of the old town.

You would never guess the books we found out on the street in Amman.
Second book on the top left, "50 Shades." Guess the religious police missed this one.
The symbol with three hands (green, white and red) stands for the country of Jordan - it is the shape of the country.
This was a doorway in the "oldest" building in Amman.
These are eggs for sale on the street.
The market had mounds and mounds of green almonds. 

ES is looking at some lambs ready to be purchased and cooked.
Need some garlic?
All of the other signs were in Arabic except this one.  
I found a bag of popcorn from the US. 
After the vegetable market, we headed to a local restaurant located on the top floor of one of the old buildings.  There were many people smoking shisha. The restaurant was very local and VERY GOOD!

The green colored drink is mint lemonade. Once I had the courage to try it, I was hooked.  It is delicious.

Our final destination in Amman was a shop selling a sweet desert that Nader assured us we would love. I filmed this video walking through Amman to the sweets shop. Horns were honking all around us.

If you are reading this blog in an email, you will need to go to my blog page to watch the video.

On the way to the airport, we made a detour to a Starbucks restaurant we had spotted on our way into Amman several days earlier. The goal was to secure “Jordan” Starbucks mugs. I collect a mug from every adventure. We are starting to have a pretty good collection.

View from the Starbucks on the way to the airport.
We found this book inside the Starbucks.
These M&Ms caught my eye in the airport.  Middle Eastern people like sweets with their coffee and I wonder if M&Ms eat M&Ms when they drink coffee?
D, SW and ES could not resist one more analysis of the structure of the Amman airport. Buildings are in their blood.
Jordan was a wonderful adventure and completely surprising. The intriguing history, the amazing ruins and the friendly people – all of this adventure will be remembered for a long, long time.