Monday, February 15, 2016

Celebrating the Beginning of the Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year started on February 8 and we celebrated in style right here in the Middle East - What Fun!

Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year. Chinese traditionally celebrated the start of a new year of farm work, and wished for a good harvest (when most were farmers). This has now evolved to celebrating the start of a new business year and wishing for profits and success in various vocations. 

Although there are many interesting legends and stories explaining the start of the Chinese New Year festival, the main two reasons for the festival are:
--To celebrate a year of hard work, have a good rest, and relax with family
--To wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year

Our Bahraini celebration started with the monthly AWA (American Women's Association) meeting themed "Year of the Monkey." There were some beautiful dresses on the ladies.

A good friend, DT gave me a hand made red envelope (very impressive). I love the little Chinese red envelopes and always thought they were intended to give good luck.  When I looked them up the Internet I found out some interesting facts. 
This was just TOOOO cute! Thank you, DT.
I have kept these red envelopes in my desk drawer for at least 20 years.

Chinese people love the color red, and regard red as the symbol of energy, happiness and good luck. Sending red packets is a channel for sending good wishes and luck. 
Actually, the significance of red packets is the red paper, not the money inside. Wrapping money in red packets is hoped to bring more happiness and blessing to the receivers. Hence, it is impolite to open a red packet in front of the person who gives it to you. I messed up on this one and opened it in front of DT. She had the nicest note inside with a shiny American penny. I hope I did not offend her.   
In China, the red packet is called yasui qian (压岁钱 /yaa-sway chyen/), which means 'suppressing ghosts money'. Those who receive a red packet are wished another year negotiated safely and peacefully.

According to legend, on New Year's Eve, besides the monster Nian, there was a demon named Sui that came out to terrify children while they were asleep.
On one New Year's Eve, in an official’s family household, the parents gave their child eight coins to play with in order to keep him awake, so as to avoid him being hurt by the demon. The child wrapped the coins in red paper, opened the packet, re wrapped it, and reopened it until he was too tired and fell asleep. Then the parents placed the packet with eight coins under his pillow.
When Sui tried to touch his head, the eight coins emitted a strong light and scared the demon away. The eight coins turned out to be eight fairies. From then on, giving red envelopes became a way to keep children safe and bring good luck.
The next Saturday, we ventured to the Bahrain Farmer's market to buy some wonderful locally grown vegetables. It was a very interesting experience. We ate waffles and bought the most beautiful vegetables.

My grocery bag carried some really unusual items. They were delicious!
It was impressive that so much is grown here in Bahrain.

Our culinary journey through the New Year Celebration continued with an Asian friend who also works for D – PF invited us for a 7 course Chinese New Year dinner.  

We ate and celebrated for over 2 hours. PF has a favorite restaurant in Manama called Beijing Chinese Restaurant.  It is what I would imagine is a very authentic local Chinese restaurant. Not fancy, very "down home" and the food is OVER the top FANTASTIC.  Thanks PF!

We ate in a small private dining room. In the center of the table was a lazy Susan we could rotate to refill our plates. Waiters just kept bringing food and bringing food and bringing food for 2 hours….we were stuffed! Fish of all kinds, lobster, shrimp, dumplings and of course Peking Duck, their specialty.  

I would never know what to order in a Chinese restaurant and that made having PF treat us to the New Year specialties exceptionally wonderful.

Last year PF invited us to celebrate the New Year with him as well so this year the ladies all got together and gave him a miniature orange tree. Oranges are good luck in Chinese culture.

Our week long New Year celebration ended with Valentine's Day and a Skype with little LW and his mom, BHB. Remember, Sunday is Monday here in the Sand Box so it would have to take place after Hubby D got home from work.

Sadly, Hubby D was caught in traffic on the Saudi causeway coming home. They closed the causeway because it was the anniversary of the 2011 uprising here in Bahrain. It did not open to traffic for 3 hours.  His commute home took over 4 hours. He did not arrive home until after 10PM, almost 10:30.  

I went ahead and talked to LW on Skype at the designated time.  He seemed to remember me.  He is walking better and can throw you a kiss.  The kiss part is very important as I need lots of his kisses!  It was a great Valentine's Day gift and would have been perfect if D had been there. 

Thanks to KW for taking this photo for me.
Even Guinness, the dog got into the action.
Hubby D did bring me some beautiful roses (when he finally arrived home), so that was really, really, really nice. I love flowers and will enjoy them for many days to come. Life is good.

Here is a virtual red envelope from me to you. May it bring you prosperity and keep you safe throughout the new year.

Happy Year of the Monkey!


Monday, February 8, 2016

Glamour, Glitz and Paparazzi in Bahrain

A Night at the Oscars!

It was the perfect theme for the recent American Women’s Association Ball.  Glitz, glamour, paparazzi, and a night filled dancing with the stars.

I volunteered to be on the planning committee for the ball but right in the middle of it all, I left Bahrain and went back to the United States for the holidays.

Every time I saw a text go by in the “AWA Ball Group” on WhatsApp I felt stabbing pains of guilt.  One time I looked at my phone and there had been 238 text messages in the group in a little over 20 minutes. They were working hard....or chatting.  LOL

Here I was in the States having the time of my life playing with little baby LW and they were working away trying to decide on venue, food, wine, flowers, decorations, the band, selling tickets (huge job), the DJ and all the other thousands of details.

Oh well, we all have to choose our priorities.  I would just have to work hard when I got back to make sure I did everything I could to help out.

I would like to thank the committee by name for the fantastic job, but you know me - no names in the blog! A BIG THANKS to LW, CW, TP, DW, DR, KH, and SK.

I arrived back in Bahrain on Wednesday about midnight. The time difference is 8 hours so my days and nights were mixed up. The Ball was on Friday.

Whew!  I just needed to push through it.

The evening was fantastic, even better than I could have ever imagined. The committee did an unbelievably good job.

KH is not pictured here because during all the planning, she had a baby!  WhoHoo! Pictured here (left to right) is TP, me, DR, LW, CW and DW. SK is also not pictured as she had to leave Bahrain before the Ball.

My assignment was to greet all the “celebrities” as they arrived.  Everyone was a celebrity and it was just the most fun.

Our Ball made the local papers.  I am on the far left with the Ambassador and his wife, AR.
So with microphone in hand (champagne in my other hand), DW and Hubby D snapping photos with flashes, we were the paparazzi as everyone arrived on the red carpet.

“Welcome, aren’t you a beautiful couple.”
“Tell me about your dress.”
“These are amazing jewels. Are they special?”
“I hear you have been nominated for an Oscar.”
“Remember to keep your acceptance speech short.”

It was so much fun and everyone played along. I saw some fantastic dresses, drop dead jewelry and heard the wildest stories.

“This is my fifth nomination but I am not expecting to win.”
“The jewels are from DeBeers.” Wait, that was true! (And, they were beautiful!)
“This is from the private collection of Ralph Lauren.”
“Mine is vintage blue fox.”

I think people really enjoyed playing along with the theme.

American Ambassador Roebuck and his celebrity wife, AB arrived in style.
I felt really special interviewing them! Is this cool or what?
DR, the President of AWA wore jewels from De Beers. They were stunning.
It was definitely a star studded evening.

Everyone adopted the spirit of the evening by making a dramatic entrance. There were some really beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen!

Dinner was great – the food 100% better than expected.  The wine flowed freely and our table was stunning. Right smack dab in the middle was an Oscar. I loved it!

The band was not as good as I would have wanted, but we danced and danced anyway.  There was plenty of music for every taste.

A great big thank you to all the sponsors and those that contributed to the glamorous evening.  We have to do this again!

          A Big Round of Applause of Thanks
Sawsa • SEEN by Sawsan
Noora • Fashionita
Nahla • Nahla’s Style
Nariman • NS Design
Mariam • Sweet Lady
Hala • Hala’s Accessories
Suad • Season’s 365
Rocio • Mongo
Nahed • Sugar Lily
Hawra • Hazel Store
Maysoun • Belarabi Ahla
Huweida • HS Design’z

          A Very Special Thanks to the Following
          for Sponsoring Our Star Studded Door Prizes
De Beers Jewelery
Haute Cupcakes
Live Healthy
Showcase 101
Rosita Rafallo with Filipino Life Magazine

Here I am presenting the Oscar for the Best Supporting Husband to D, of course!

Hubby D and I had a great time. We love to dance no matter where or when but this was special.

And, it was so much fun to be Paparazzi for an evening.  Reminded me of my days with Washington FAMILY Magazine doing video interviews with Camp Fair Vendors.  Goodness, what a memory!


Friday, February 5, 2016

The BIG Number One

Significant. Memorable. Extremely Important. Historic. Just down right fun!

A child’s FIRST BIRTHDAY is a very significant celebration marking his or her transition from an infant to a toddler. Certainly you just have to celebrate.

When the decision was made for me to stay in the States long enough after the holidays to celebrate LW’s first birthday, my daughter BHB told me she had a problem. She didn't know what theme to make the party because LW didn't have any favorites yet.

I told her the party was not for him, it was for us.  He won’t remember it, but we will.  He will have pictures like she has pictures of her first birthday.  However, we did not need to plan the party around anything that he liked. He will have fun with the wrapping paper and the boxes.

Here is a picture of BHB's first birthday with D's mom, her sister M and her brother B. The theme was pink elephants. Sweet little pink elephants were all over the cake and falling down the sides.
BHB chose an under sea theme for little LW's birthday to match his bedroom décor. It was a great party and everyone had a BLAST!

This absolutely over the top adorable photo was taken by my son-in-law, RB. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, RB! I just love, love, love this photo.
Preparing and thinking about LW’s first birthday was the joy of my month away from Hubby D.  I missed D, but looked forward to the big birthday. And, I would not have missed a minute of it for just about anything.

One big benefit of being in Florida for several weeks was that I was able to see LW at different times during the day and to babysit several times. It was what I call the "real grandma" experience. 
My mom and dad came to visit first and we had a great fun sharing great grandchild LW with R&R.  Then a good friend of mine, ES came in from Virginia and I showed off LW some more. Finally the big day arrived.

My mom loves reading to children and LW loved listening to her.
The big party was supposed to take place at the zoo, but Mother Nature did not get the invitation. It was too cold (yes, in Florida!) and it was really windy. We improvised at a local restaurant and it was great.

How old are you LW?  I taught him that.  :-)

LW loved all his gifts and even enjoyed peeling off the paper on the packages. Over Christmas, our granddaughter, ML had the pleasure of showing him how to grab the edge of the paper with his fingers and pull.  LW loves cause and effect. ML did a great job of getting him interested in this process and he picked it up really fast.

Ripping the paper off with mom holding on.
Yipee! A cement mixer.
Yipee! A police car!  Do we see a theme here? If it rolls, LW loves it.
Yipee! A new ball!  Please take note of the bottom tooth.  
LW loves to see how things work. He will twist, turn, roll, pull and push all the time.  If something rolls, he loves to watch it move and push it again to see it roll some more.  Maybe he is going to be a physicist.

Balls are especially interesting to LW. He loves to toss and retrieve. Maybe he is going to be a baseball pitcher.

The party was on Sunday and his real birthday day was on Monday.  So Monday evening (the day before I left for my return to Bahrain) we had a family dinner with a “smash cupcake” and LW’s favorite meal, grilled cheese sandwiches.

We have a tradition in our family that the birthday child (or adult) gets to choose the food for their birthday dinner so I cooked grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone since LW loves them. It was a hoot!

Here's his first taste of icing. Although LW did not much care for the taste, he had fun smearing it all around.

He enjoyed the toys more than I anticipated.  Usually the boxes have more appeal to little toddlers. However it seems we choose wisely and he loved all his toys.

Grandpa D and I gave LW an airplane "ride on" toy. He needed a big "take off" for his first big year. In this picture I am trying to capture the moment but LW captures my phone.
LW getting ready to taxi for take off.
My time in Florida was especially fun this year.  It would have been hard to beat the experience of being there last year for LW’s arrival, however this year was great fun. It just warms my heart over and over again to think about all the hugs, snuggles and kisses from LW and of course all the great time spent with BHB and her family. D and I are so proud of her and really enjoy sharing in the experiences of her growing family.  

Our fantastic visits from DM, our granddaughter ML, grandson BSJ, my mom and dad and our friend ES made this year even more significant.

Now I am back in the land of sand, long black dresses and veils.

No matter what, I can definitely say life is good.


P.S. If you are interested, here is a video of LW's first steps made one evening just after I left their house. LW has no choice but to try hard. You can hear his dad (RB), "You can do better." We all have high expectations for this little guy.

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

Fun in the Land of Sand and Veils

Yikes! It is already February!

2016 is off and running but I would be amiss if I did not share some of the fun we had at the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016.

(I apologize for not having any blogs in January. You will understand when you read the next couple of blogs. I have been really, really busy! And, this is good.)

We have an executive (TM) from Hubby D’s company currently visiting here in Bahrain. TM arrived around midnight on January 29 just as we were dancing the night away at the AWA Ball. He was shocked to see “tuxedoes and ball gowns in Bahrain.”

I can assure you I set him right the next day. We took him on a “4 Star Tour” of our little fun filled island.  I think he will be leaving Bahrain with a much better appreciation for life here.

The final weeks of 2015 held some pretty fun stuff for Hubby D and I. H m m m m m, maybe I should rephrase this to fun for myself.  Hubby D was working his fingers to the bone.

I should have known the holidays were going to be packed with fun. We started the season with a "FANtastic" brunch at the Golden Tulip Restaurant to celebrate AWA President DR's birthday. Here she is (center) and my good friend DW (right). That's me with the pink fan.

Early in November the fun started heating up even more.

AWA holds a fashion show each year and the chairman (IF) asked me to be the MC for the show this year. I was thrilled!

IF had arranged to have professional makeup and hair for all the models. She included me and I tried to go along with what they wanted. In the end, I had to wipe off the lipstick.  I just could not handle big bright red lips. I am just not a fan of heavy makeup. In the Middle East women wear a great deal of makeup.

They did create a bunch of curls in my hair. It was a hoot to look at, but it took me two days to wash out all the product they put in my hair.

IF is a very talented lady. She choreographed the dancing and even appeared as Charlie Chaplin in the opening sequence of the show. It was so cute!

Here is a video of the opening of the show. If you are reading this blog in an email, you will need to go to my blog page on the Internet to view the video.

I am not the model type, but it was SO SO SO much fun being on the stage with all the talented AWA member models.  Not only did they model beautiful clothes, they also danced.

Some of the clothes were traditional Bahraini dresses.
The evening wear was stunning.
I was very impressed with ALL the models. One of the models, AR is the wife of the American Ambassador to Bahrain. She modeled, she danced and she is the wife of the Ambassador!

They really strutted their stuff down the runway modeling AND DANCING. It was very impressive - downright amazing.

The dancing really made the show a hit.
Here are co-chairs for the show IF and SB at the end of the "Spectacular Fashion Show."
The models represented the diversity of AWA membership with ladies from Switzerland (co-chair SB), Egypt, Lebonean, Texas, India, Jamaca, Belgium, the UK, South Africa, California, Palastine (LA was also Jordanian) and the Czech Republic.

There were also plenty of beautiful ladies in the audience.
There were gorgeous pumpkins on all the tables with the beautiful ladies.
Right after the “Spectacular” fashion show, I was invited to be the MC at the grand opening of an American Festival at a department/grocery store, LuLu’s. Again, I felt really honored.

The grocery stores here in Bahrain are like a super WalMart with groceries, small and large appliances, clothes and all you need for your house even small furniture items.

LuLu’s is an Indian owned grocery store and has a huge selection of traditional Indian clothing and formal wear. The women’s dresses are beautiful.

From time to time LuLu’s holds a festival with a country theme. They were going to have an American Festival of food and products. Through AWA they were given my name and asked me to be their MC for the opening ceremonies. It was so much fun to represent my country and see all the great (and familiar) products they brought in to celebrate America.

A group of AWA members organized by my friend DW sang patriotic songs and read patriotic poetry. The American Ambassador even came and toured the event. I had the thrill of my life when he remembered me from our previous encounters and greeted me by name. I felt so honored.

AND THEN THERE WAS THANKSGIVING which was a very interesting this year.  We hosted 40 people in our flat including 3 service men from the US Naval Base. To be specific, we shared the hosting honors with 3 other families in our building by having the dinner as a progressive feast. We took up 3 floors of the building with the traveling dinner. It was very successful.

We had old friends from Hubby D’s company as well as other great new friends we have met here in Bahrain.  Most were American but a few were from other countries including Canada and Greece.

Our flat overflowed out onto the balcony overlooking Manama.
This was a progressive Thanksgiving Feast on three floors of our building. We only hosted the main dishes in our flat with 2 tables overflowing with turkey, ham and delicious side dishes. The starters and salads were hosted by "J/K W and ES" on another floor and dessert was hosted by "S/D W" on yet another floor.

December arrived and we celebrated D's birthday by inviting a group of our friends to share the decadent Friday Brunch at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa with us. We reserved a number of large tables on the patio and enjoyed several luxurious hours in the perfect Bahraini winter weather.

We even stayed long enough to enjoy a sea view sunset. This was a great treat for me and a fun celebration for Hubby D.

The Sofitel is right on the beach of the Arabian Sea.

Thought you might find this interesting.  Our little island lies in the Arabian Sea between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The Sofitel is right in the middle on the coast towards Saudi (red dot). We live close to the bridge to Saudi in the top left area of the island. Hubby D works in Al Khobar where the bridge from Bahrain meets the Saudi coast line.

Some of the ladies on the beach at sunset.

I finished up my holiday celebrations in Bahrain with a special AWA Christmas Luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton. This is the "smoking dessert" they prepared especially for our group.

We were having WAY TOO MUCH fun.
I never did quite understand these holiday decorations at the Ritz-Carlton. Umbrellas?
After all the parties and celebrations, I was ready to get back to Florida and visit with family (and see little LW). However Christmas had to be achieved in only a few days after we arrived on American soil.

Great grandpa DM, granddaughter ML and grandson BSJ arrived, we hustled and it worked out okay. I am sure you saw in my Christmas blog and know that we had a great time.

ML, BSJ and Great Grandpa DM celebrating Christmas.

ML, BSJ and Great Grandpa DM celebrating Christmas.

I am not going to spoil the fun by telling you about little LW’s FIRST birthday in this blog. You will have to wait for my next installment  - and it is great.

When I arrived back on the Island of Bahrain from America, I had only one day and then our big American Women's Association Ball was held.  Oh My Goodness!  It was fantastic.

Wow, I am warn out just remembering all the fun.