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My friend ZuZu and the secret

 

I have been patiently waiting, tick tock, tick tock. My oldest son, Osama will soon be 29. My second oldest son, Yusuf, is soon 28!  Yusuf got married 5 years ago, Osama got married 4 years ago. The clock has been ticking and I have been patient (not that patient). Osama and Jacki got a dog, Kenny.

Then Yusuf and Alicia got a dog, Clementine.

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I love my little Grand dogs they are so sweet and so much fun!!

The clock quit ticking and finally I gave up! I resigned myself to being a Grama, to dogs!

Then last year my daughter- in- law, Jacki, told me she was pregnant, within weeks, sadly, it was over. Then only a couple months later, another pregnancy and again, over. I had given up on grand kids anyway, but felt sad and hurt for she and my son!

Now, I am so very excited and joyful to announce that Osama and Jacki are expecting twin boys! She is making her way through a high risk pregnancy in which the babies share a placenta, so prayers are welcome! She has passed a crucial point and so I feel I can say that yes, we are guarded but excited! I will be in their home this New Year’s weekend doing what I can, which is cooking up t.v. dinners to freeze.  As always, I do not possess wealth to buy fancy gifts,  I cannot give anything other than what is in my heart. I can help carry babies, change diapers and give hugs, cook and give my love which is what is infinite and abiding! And so I bring in this New Year with something that is truly amazing and exciting!

One of my favorite bloggers and authors is Claremary Sweeney! She writes lovely books and agreed to generously inscribe one for my son and daughter in law to read to their twins!  Clare also sent me this lovely Santa snow globe pop up! Thanks Clare! She is a loyal friend and special lady! Clare’s book is a tale of ZuZu the cat and her adventures, A Berkshire tale. Her blog is  Around ZuZu’s Barn. If you don’t know Clare stop over and say hi.

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Snow globe Clare sent me. Me holding A Berkshire tale

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Happy Holidays!!

I want to wish all of my friends a happy holiday season, whatever holidays you may observe! My oldest son and daughter in law will be dropping mom and dad off and we will be hanging out, relaxing. So, no posting tomorrow but I will be around saying hi!

This winter break I have college kids, high school kids and middle school kids who are all sitting around bored! I told them I have a little extra and they could go bowling, ice skating, see a movie or two! But, instead they did what our family has done for years-make do!!

In Saudi with not much else to do they made pinatas, videos of magic acts, went down the stairs in a box, did lots of crafts with recycled stuff, made houses out of the pads and in general used their imaginations. They had very few toys except the special things Grama and Grampa brought, but they were always happy!  I felt bad that maybe they were missing out! But, when I look back, I know that things do not make you happy!  So in keeping with our family tradition of using only our imaginations and what is easily available, the girls made a snow woman!

The boys stood looking out at snow woman, discussing plans of what they could make, soon blocks of snow (using my planters,typical! ) were scooped out and stacked! The snow woman was pushed aside by tools and piles of snow, making her lopsided, competition ensued! The snow fort was fortified, enlarged and improved. The girls talked of taking down the fort brick by brick, arguing over snow woman’s untimely demise! The boys said that they only “moved her very carefully to start construction!”

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Finally a deal was made and the girls started working on the snow fort, adding their special touch!

Happy Holidays from lynz real cooking and family!

 

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Hugh’s photo challenge:week 8-charity Christmas tree topper challenge

I hope I am not too late, but I wanted to participate and wasn’t sure how until my parents sent me our old star! I can’t say how many years this topped our tree but it was years and years! I am including a picture of mom and dad back 30 years ago and the star now! Hugh’s Views & News

The star holds great memories for me and I always watched dad place it on the top! When we went to help with gingerbread cookies and unpacked the decorations, I saw the star! I told mom it was so special and all of the memories and asked her not to throw it out! The other day she sent it to me!

I hope it is not too late Hugh and thanks for this wonderful event!

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Patty’s cut out cookies

One of my favorite childhood memories is sitting at the kitchen counter frosting and decorating cut out cookies. Mom would separate the dough into several bowls, coloring them blue, yellow and green. We helped her roll and cut out the cookies and then frosted and decorated them with sprinkles. My mom’s favorite sugar cookie dough is a recipe she has used for years from her friend Patty. This past Saturday the kids and I continued with this tradition and made a triple batch of cut out cookies.

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 cups margarine

1 cup butter

3 eggs

7 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2  tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Directions

Mix butter, margarine and powdered sugar until fluffy, add eggs and continue mixing, add vanilla. Mix in flour and other dry ingredients until well combined. If you want to color some of the dough, divide it and put in separate bowls. Add desired food coloring and mix.

 

Place each color of dough in a plastic food storage bag, flatten out so that it is easier to roll when chilled. Place bags of dough in the freezer. We left our dough for about 4 hours and then started rolling!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Only take out the bag of dough you will be working with at that time! When dough softens it is very difficult to work with. Lightly flour work surface and start rolling dough. Turn dough over and continue to roll.  Use desired cookie cutter and firmly place on dough pressing down.  Cut out each cookie and place on cookie sheet. You can roll the dough very thin for crispy cookies or thicker for softer texture.

At this point you can sprinkle some of the cookies before placing in the oven and leave some plain for frosting. Place in oven for 10-12 minutes depending on thickness of the cookies. Remove from oven and cool. When cookies are cool, frost and sprinkle. Have fun!

 

Thank you Suzanne!

As we all know, blogging is very special! I started blogging in late June! I never thought I would be a blogger, but more astounding to me is the love and support I have received! When I first pushed “publish” it was scary and then a magical thing happened, people accepted me and cared for me. I found a family here and I truly am grateful!

I guess you would say I am slowly picking up the pieces of my life. I have been back in the states for 6 years but there are still days that are tough and I have to step back, count my many blessings and just keep putting one foot in front of the other! One such day occurred two weeks ago where everything just seemed wrong! I got on the blog and looked through the reader and saw a post by my friend Suzanne  apuginthekitchen  that said winner of holiday giveaway, I decided to go and check it out. I saw the name Lynz real cooking and I stopped!! It said that I had won the giveaway!! At first I didn’t believe it, so I wrote her and she said it was true!!  I was shouting and laughing. It made my day, my week! I will admit it was hard to win and accept this gift, my first reaction was to decline. As I have written, I was rarely allowed to keep gifts. So, receiving this beautiful  Farmers board was amazing! It somehow felt like a symbol that I was allowed to enjoy life and be happy!  I received it this week and it is beautiful!!

Suzanne from apuginthekitchen is a special person who has supported me since that first day when I dared to write my story! Her blog is full of amazing recipes and lovely lifestyle posts! If you don’t know her please go over and say hi! I want to tell her thank you for such a generous and beautiful giveaway and to tell her it is much more than a Farmers board!

The Winner Of The Holiday Giveaway

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The winner of the giveaway is Lynn who has a wonderful and inspiring blog, Lynz Real Cooking, there are fantastic recipes and her stories of raising 9 children in the Middle East is absolutely amazing. Lynn, I am so happy that you won the board. I will send you an email.

 

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Basbousa

The following recipe is a middle eastern cake/bar cookie called Basbousa. This dessert is easy to make as well as being a little different than the average cake. It is made with semolina which can be found in the baking section of most grocery stores. A light and sweet syrup and toasted almonds top this tasty and different cake!

 

Ingredients

2 cups semolina- found in the baking section of most grocery stores

3/4  cup white sugar

1/4 cup softened butter

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. baking powder

20 almonds, blanched and toasted

Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

lemon juice-optional

rose water- optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix  Semolina, sugar and butter. Add baking powder, yogurt and milk and mix well. You can also add 1/2 cup of coconut if you like. My kids like it plain but it is tasty with coconut. Spread in a round cake pan. Flatten this out as much as possible.

For this dessert you will be using a butter knife and cutting the bars before you bake them! It was hard for me to get this batter to smooth out using a spoon or knife so I wet my fingers with water slightly and it helped. I smoothed the batter out and then cut lines all the way across the batter to the end. Continue doing this until you have finished the whole pan. Then slice the other way to make diamond shapes. Place a toasted almond in each space where a portion will be.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes or until done.

When cake is done, remove from the oven and cool slightly. Place 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small sauce pan on the stove. Let this mixture come to a boil. Turn heat to a lower temperature so that it is still boiling but a low boil. Cook for ten minutes watching and monitoring so it does not boil over. It is common to add rose water and/or lemon juice at the end of boiling, for a few seconds. This is where I have changed the recipe and I leave my syrup plain.

Let syrup cool slightly and then pour warm syrup over cake. You can use all of the syrup or the desired amount. This is something that you can experiment with. Cool before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Borrowed

Life on the compound remained the same, ladies walked the loop, smiling and waving as they passed. They crowded onto the shopping bus and attended weekly coffee mornings at the clubhouse. Men walked by in their button up shirts and ties as they made their way to the opposite end of the compound and office. Workers from the mini market delivered large jugs of water and groceries in shopping carts, as children rode their bikes freely on the very same loop. The brightly colored flowers, shrubs and green grass were trimmed to perfection. Ladies sunbathed at the pool while their children played at the park only a few feet away. Life was quite unusual and at the same time very average. He drove his car up the street each day and through the gates to the office. I jumped into the van with my boys at 6 a.m., carrying my 4 little ones along as we made our way 30 minutes to the school. We sped on the freeway past houses, souks, camels and tents that randomly spotted the desert, until we reached the school. The boys said a reluctant goodbye, and as always I assured them that my thoughts would be with them all day.  When I arrived back home my real day began, loads of laundry, scrubbing bathrooms and cooking the homemade meals that would send love and comfort wafting through the air when the boys came home. Ladies sat on their porches and also walked past my home, and soon a quick nod and wave turned into ten minutes spent discussing the many compound dramas that were always present.  As I made acquaintances and let out a tiny part of the extroverted, chatty, gum chewing Lynn that still existed, people started asking me to come along. I always laughed and told them that I was busy, and did not want to drag crying little ones to different destinations. As I watched them walk away smiling and heading for their day to anywhere, secretly I wished I could be part of their world…

I felt like the cat in the hat, juggling a fish bowl on my head while holding a baby on my hip, stirring frosting, meringues in the oven, a crying Abude calling from inside of the closet, unable to find his way out. I stirred, mixed and whisked, searched the counters for a clean spoon to taste a new concoction and sat Soos in her swing. `Baby girl was now 7 months old and very verbal about her time spent on my hip while I tended to “bakery” duties. I took a moment to sit and nurse her while things baked, simmered and cooled. My British neighbor’s husband fancied my Frosty mocha torte and she wanted carrot cake for their weekly Sunday meeting. The list grew longer with each day, at first it was just a nudge and request to provide a little snack for tea, and then the orders came barreling in. I hesitated at first but it was something I liked doing and it was part of living on a thriving compound. After a few weeks of life on the compound, women met at weekly coffee mornings and ideas started brewing.  A shopping bus took ladies to and from different destinations in Riyadh twice a day, but there was still that feeling of isolation and boredom. Western products and services were limited and hard to come by, such as printing, child care, music lessons and western baked goods. Compound life became a world of it’s own and tiny enterprises cropped up in the least expected places. I already made dozens of pastries for the “sheik” each week and had “dessert” nights where I experimented on my new friends. So, when my neighbor across the street informed me that I should be the one to have a “bakery” in our little world, it didn’t seem that odd. It was quite a task, adding more chaos to my life but also a great deal of adventure and exposure to the outside world.  There were days when spoons, pots, pans and spatulas were stacked in the sink while cakes cooled on the counters waiting for a quick glaze. Other days were quite ordinary and nothing beyond my usual routine occurred. My little “bakery” was not a money maker, as western products were quite expensive and I needed cookie sheets, cake pans, disposable boxes, trays and other western implements. He was ok with the idea as long as my duties to him, the children and household were in no way affected. This was the rule since the beginning and was still in place. If I could keep the house and all that went with it in perfect order, then it was fine to engage in outside activities. I still provided him with the 5-6 dozen pastries 3 times a week for his dinners at the “sheiks” house and tried my best to uphold all of my duties.

I continued baking for people on the compound throughout that year. I was able to meet new friends, be involved in holiday events and trade recipes.  Although it brought chaos into my life it also afforded me the opportunity to be involved in the real world. I never refused his requests to bake for the office, cook for his friends or deliver sweets on his behalf. I knew that this would secure my right to continue doing what made my life more interesting. So, when he asked me to “whip” something up for his Saudi boss, whose wife had just delivered a baby, I happily complied. I made her American cheesecake standard and plain, as requested. I would need to hand deliver it along with a few kind words and a quick cup of tea. As I prepared for my visit, I faced a a small glitch, shoes. I had only one pair, the plain canvas kind that were easily under $5 and had been brought 3 years before in the boxes. I looked at the navy blue shoes, holes now covered the top, sides and bottom. The soles hung loosely and flopped as I took each step.  The cheesecake balanced on my arm and Soos hung on my hip. He came to the door and stood looking at me and my bare feet, then with his foot he gently slid his best pair of work shoes over and nodded that I should wear them. I slipped them on and trudged out the door, forgetting, much to my relief, that I would be removing them before entering her home.