29 July 2016

I'm still amazed every time I go to the grocery store at what I can find, especially for a reasonable price.  I've hardly looked for anything since I just wander around different stores and find stuff I need.  But I am getting to the point where I'll actually need to start trying to find some certain things like tofu. 

The employer, like a lot of employers here, provides us with transportation.  Drivers here are generally from Asia and Africa and there is plenty of time to chat. I've learned how to pronounce Eritrea and Kerala correctly, confirmed that Lulu is the grocery store for me (next I need to ask about little roadside places), and am trying to keep track of when babies are due.  It is very odd to be chauffeured about and to have to plan ahead when I leave the house.  I am looking forward to the bicycles arriving and cooler temperatures so I'm not so dependent on a driver (and who knows how often you can ask for a ride before they tell you it's too much).

Also, in a major success, I found the medication I need at the pharmacy.  Yes, I could have it mailed, but it's a bigger hassle to do that than to go to the pharmacy, plus I prefer to buy locally if at all possible, and medication costs so much less outside the US that I can't justify buying it there when I have another option.  I'm feeling good about this one.

I have spoken pretty much zero Arabic since arriving here, except with my husband when the boys are listening and we need them to not hear for a minute.  It's sort of fun to have people assume I don't understand them, but it's also very hard to practice. Even reading signs while I'm riding in the car, which I've always done everywhere to practice, is hard because almost everything is in English and Arabic and it takes a lot of concentration to ignore the English and just read the Arabic.

The Internet is still a problem because of an odd combination of circumstances.  I'm hoping for a temporary solution in a few days that will at least allow us to have a connection that works all of the time, although a slow one (but still 120 times faster than what we had in Kyrgyzstan the first time, so it's just slow for 2016 which is doable). Mostly, we need something to do because we're stuck at home and we packed our suitcases over six weeks ago and entertainment in Riyadh wasn't on our checklist.

I knew that having a Sunday-Thursday workweek would be weird.  I have to think every day about what day it is and how that day fits in with the rest of the week.  I'm sure I'll get used to it, but right now, the weekend comes quickly which isn't a bad thing.

This house has a Dyson vacuum.  I'm not sure if it's just here while we're waiting for our stuff, but it's a cool vacuum, and since I'd never actually buy one, it's fun to use it.

I think the humidifiers make a big difference, or my body adjusted to Utah dryness and so Riyadh dryness isn't too much worse.  

We've been trying some new greens from the grocery store.  Last night we ate gerger and I can't remember the name of what we had before that and I couldn't check because no internet.  This no internet thing has been tricky with the food shopping.  Also, there are mangoes here.  Egyptian, Yemeni, Pakistani, and more.  I like this. I doubt mango season is as long here as in Mexico though.

26 July 2016

I really liked Paris, but if I were planning a trip there (instead of having a layover scheduled there by the employer), I wouldn't take my children, I wouldn't get a car, and I wouldn't do anything else besides Paris because there is plenty to do that.  The boys did like seeing the Eiffel Tower and we are great food, but they much preferred Germany and Austria.  It would also be so much fun to live there for a couple of years- I kept thinking about doing a Paris history class like we did DC.  

Germany was wonderful too.  Meeting up with my sister for a bit was the best part of the whole trip and I loved seeing their family.  I wish we could have spent more time together.  We also saw lots of castles in Germany.  The oldest didn't like the over-the-top ones like Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, but he did like Landstuhl, Lichtenstein, and several others. And breakfast at the place we stayed in Mannheim was so very delicious. Also, my boys now love spätzle. 

Austria was everyone's favorite though.  We stayed in Ehrwald and went hiking, rode up the Zugspitz, did alpine slides, and went on the Highline which was very much worth doing.  It was just so lovely to be in the mountains and have it be cool and pleasant and green. I want to meet up there with all of my sisters and my mother. Also, we bought local Tyrol groceries and especially loved the muesli in yogurt.

I unfortunately didn't get any time to shop, even though I knew exactly what I wanted.  I suppose I'll have to order some German Christmas ornaments online which won't be the same at all. I wish we'd had more time but, like I said, we weren't really in control of the timing or where we were flying to.

It just was so very easy to travel in Europe.  Also, the flights to and from there were amazingly good.  I slept for most of the ten-hour flight to Paris and so did the youngest (which is why I was able to). And then we were upgraded on the flight to Riyadh.  I had no idea how much better premium economy is.  It was almost fun. But I forgot that I had the kitchen knives in the bag I was traveling around Europe with and didn't move them to the checked luggage so they were confiscated at the airport. So sad.

24 July 2016

First post from Riyadh

So, we've been in Riyadh for two days.  This will be a very long post because I have plenty of time to write it this afternoon.

Yes, it's hot.  But it's cool inside and I wouldn't be outside in Virginia right now either.  I'd rather go outside in a dry 110 degrees than a humid 90 degrees anyway. August is the hottest month here so we'll check off an August right away which isn't a bad thing.  The time zone here is an hour earlier than it ought to be and gets dark around seven and the sun comes up before six.  I love having darkness start sooner because even though it's still hot, it's mentally much cooler.  The bedrooms all have room-darkening curtains already installed so the early sunrise isn't a problem and I don't hear the dawn prayers. We also have a couple of humidifiers and air purifiers.  The air purifiers are there for the dust in the air.  It's been breezy in the afternoons and quite hazy, although it makes it look cooler which I like. 

No, I can't drive.  We don't have a car right now so the no driving for me thing actually is helpful because the employer provides transportation.  In most places, you're on your own for transportation.  I've been able to get more done in the first couple of days than I usually am when I arrive in a new country.  It is obviously inconvenient to be entirely dependent on someone else transporting me around.  There isn't even anything walkable near me, although when it's cooler my walkable range will expand a lot. Also, I'm planning on doing a lot of biking in my neighborhood because it's the only mode of transportation I'm allowed and I plan to use it.

Yes, I have to wear an abaya whenever I'm not my neighborhood.  I take a scarf with me too but I've never worn it.  I will generally only wear one if I am asked to (and the husband has been instructed not to tell me to put it on if someone tells him to tell me to do that) unless it's in a place where I would have chosen to wear a scarf in another Middle Eastern country (can't say a Muslim country since I never ever wore one in Kyrgyzstan). I have a large collection of scarves from lots of different countries and I like to take one along.  So far I've used one from Kyrgyzstan (with felt trim); a rebozo from Mexico City; and a silk thing from Kuwait that I bought in the US a few weeks ago from an organization that donates the proceeds to refugees resettling in Sweden. The abaya is black and not particularly cool, but it's also lightweight and I don't have to wear much under it if I don't want to.  It's actually not bad although I obviously wouldn't ever choose to wear it if I didn't have to.  The scarves make a huge difference in my attitude about the abaya. I am sure I will have much more to post about this over the next two years (or afterward).

No, it's not illegal to be a Christian here or attend church services.  However, just because it's legal, it doesn't mean it's easy since there are people here with a reasonable amount of authority who don't agree with that particular law.  Getting around that mostly involves not being obvious about what you're doing.

Yes, there are certain food items you can't buy here.  This bothers me a lot less than your typical Western expat because I don't drink alcohol and I don't really care that much about pork products and rarely buy them no matter where I am.  And there is plenty of other good food here.

Yes, the stores close during prayers, but if you're already in a large store, they don't shoo you out.  You can't check out or get your vegetables weighed, but you can keep on shopping.  The prayer closings would be a much bigger problem for people whose schedules are busier than mine, but for people like me?  I still can't figure out why everyone kept warning me about prayer closings, particularly since there is a long chunk of time in the morning between dawn and noon prayers and the stores open around 9 or 10. Also, there are plenty of prayer apps so you can plan ahead.  They seem to start warning you to check out soon about twenty minutes ahead of time.

I think that covers the negative things that people immediately think about for Riyadh.  I am sure that most will get very oppressive at times (to varying degrees), but I don't think any of them are awful right now. I'm sure we'll keep discovering quirks about getting things done here.  My husband was looking for clothes yesterday but couldn't try them on because the religious police had closed the dressing rooms during the sale the store was having.  He had to buy the clothes, go to the bathroom and try them on, and then return the clothes if they didn't fit.  It was quite a process but he did end up with clothes that fit.

I am a lot happier with this house than I thought I'd be. I'm sure it will find ways to annoy me in the future, especially since it's so big, but it just feels so much more livable than the house we had in Mexico.  There are rugs on the floor in most of the house so it will be so much easier to clean.  There's a huge freezer.  There's a clothesline on the roof!  The downstairs is crazy huge but it's laid out so we can entirely close off half of it.  There are wardrobes everywhere.  The garden has lovely flowering bushes. There's a courtyard which will be lovely in the winter.  It's been lived in so the tile in the kitchen is cracked and the door jambs and corners are dinged up. It has room-darkening curtains.  The furniture isn't brand new and we can move the extra parts into the closed-off part of the house.  Some of the bathrooms don't have showers with glass doors so they're much easier to clean.  There are lots and lots of kitchen counters.  It has Middle Eastern stonework on lots of the windows. 

Like I said above, I've been able to get a lot of shopping done so far.  I think I will love grocery shopping here.  I have never seen stores with such a huge variety of ingredients from so many parts of the world at such affordable prices.  There are still things I will need to make myself (mostly Mexican food, but it's really not any worse than DC was) but there are so many options here.  I probably should apologize to my family right now.  Also, I'm going to have to learn to cook some Philippino dishes.

There are lots of different grocery stores here rather than a few large chains like you usually see in the US. I've been to Lulu, Danube, and Euromarché so far and will probably go out again tomorrow. Danube had a lot of Saudis shopping there and had an amazing bulk section that I didn't have enough time to explore. It was beautiful. Lulu was bigger and there were so many Philippinos and south Asians there.  Almost no one had their heads covered unlike at Danube where most of the women were wearing niqabs. The rice sections in all of these stores is pretty much the happiest thing ever.  I got to Euromarché not long after it opened and it was rather quiet and almost no women were in the entire building.  In Danube all of the cashiers were Saudi women in niqabs and in Lulu they were all Saudi men.

The biggest problem right now is the internet.  It's a long story, apparently, but there is no end in sight for getting it at home.  We are working off hot spots with the cell phones for now.  It also appears that our shipment of stuff that was supposed to get here quickly won't be so quick and we really have very little entertainment in our suitcase because we wanted to have fewer suitcases to drag around.  School doesn't start for a few more weeks so it's entirely possible that everyone will go crazy very soon. But at least we won't starve to deal.

20 July 2016

Our too-short Europe visit is almost over.  We did meet up with my sister in Mannheim where we at good food and explored together before they went on to Switzerland and we went to Austria.  We stayed in Tyrol and had a lovely time in the mountains.  It was so nice.

The Alps are amazingly beautiful.  The climate obviously helps keep everything green and lovely, but they're also not very tall mountains so the valleys are below the tree line.  In Kyrgyzstan, the mountains are much, much taller and the mountain valleys often don't have trees in addition to Kyrgyzstan's being much drier.

It was nice to stay in a place with a kitchen because going grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do in other countries. We have eaten a lot of spaetzle.  Also, I made sure we stopped for döner yesterday.

15 July 2016

So I haven't blogged in a really long time because we're doing the longest move ever and it's still not over.  But today I am sitting in a little German city on the French border and I'll see my sister this afternoon so it's a good day.

We were in Paris yesterday and the previous afternoon.  The Louvre was free and relatively uncrowded yesterday.  We saw the Mona Lisa for my husband, the Egypt stuff for my youngest, and the Code of Hammurabi for me and my middle son.  I loved the Persian section too.  The Lego store for oldest was closed but it's always fun to look in the windows.  I got to see Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.  And we went to the Catacombes.  And rode the Metro.  It was a pleasant surprise that there were parts in elevated tracks so it was so much fun to ride around.  I love Paris public transportation.

I had a few specific Paris things I wanted to do.  I told everyone we were eating crepes and ham and cheese baguettes at the Eiffel Tower and after some resistance (why, child?) everyone agreed that the food was perfect. Then I found a bakery with a line and since I knew that meant fresh baguettes, we went in to buy a couple and the family approved of those too, especially with cheese.  And we had the best croissants for breakfast.  Most places were closed for the holiday yesterday, but we ate a delicious lunch at a cafe and everyone was delighted with their food.  Oldest loved buying warm baguettes and good cheese in the gas stations on the drive to Germany.  Even gas station food in France is delicious.

The rental car wouldn't start yesterday so after a three-hour delay we finally were able to leave Paris which got us to our hotel really late last night, but I'm trying to not stress over its torpedoing my jet lag recovery program. Most of the family is at the Lego store right now.  Of course.

04 June 2016

On Racism

Trump's strategy to be himself in the primaries worked. Barely.  He didn't get a majority of Republican voters and he has really high unfavorable ratings.  Republican leaders are largely wishy-washy about him or totally against him.  He needs to broaden his base.  So why in the world does he continue to say things that further alienate Republicans who are concerned about him and that don't really persuade independents to vote for him?  Especially about people that do not matter in this race?

The latest horribleness has been about the judge in the Trump University case.  Trump, not surprisingly, disagrees with the judge and his rulings so far.  If he didn't, there wouldn't be a case anymore since Trump thinks it should have been dismissed a long time ago. But he has gone far beyond being irritated that things aren't going his way in the case.  He is saying that the judge shouldn't be over the case because "he is Mexican" and Trump is "building a wall."

First, Trump should not be using the word "Mexican" as a pejorative. His words are an attempt to portray people who, are Mexican, either by citizenship or by heritage, in a negative light.  He refuses to acknowledge that the judge is American.  He is only Mexican in Trump's words. When Latinos are a huge voting population in the US, this is idiocy, even if most Latino Americans aren't ethically Mexican.  We need to entirely end the negative connotations of the word Mexican.  Now.

Second, it is inherently racist to state that a person cannot do a job because of their ethnicity (acting jobs are the only exception I can think of) but Trump is arguing just that.  Since Trump is building a wall, a Mexican-American judge must be inherently biased against him, according to this argument.  Can we think this through to its logical conclusion?  I've heard people saying this is like saying an African-American judge shouldn't hear a discrimination  case, but it is so much worse that that. This case has nothing to do with anything related to being Mexican. Instead, the implication here is that no judge with Mexican heritage should hear a case with a defendant who is opposed to, for example, deporting undocumented workers.

Does that mean that Mexican-American judges need to keep a list of people in the country who are opposed to immigration from Mexico (no matter the personal opinions of the judge) so they can recuse themselves in case one of those people is a defendant in a case? Do African-American judges need to ask defendants their feelings about Black Lives Matter so the judge (again, no matter her or his personal opinion on the issue) can determine if they can hear the case? Should Muslim judges find out if the litigants think Muslims should be banned from entering the US so they can sit out if necessary? Trump seems to think so.  And he has explicitly stated that he does not think his suggestion that the judge recuse himself because of his Mexican heritage is racist.  Friends, that is the very definition of racism.

I've said this over and over, but this is yet another example of how concerning Trump's ideas are.

I honestly do not think this is helping the man.  I guess we're thoroughly testing the idea that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Or that he believes that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

Here's the ABA statement:

While publicly criticizing judicial decisions is every person’s constitutional right, levying personal criticism at an individual judge and suggesting punitive action against that judge for lawfully made decisions crosses the line of propriety and risks undermining judicial independence. Anyone running for the highest office in the land should understand that the independence of the judiciary is essential for an effective and orderly government and justice system.

31 May 2016

Trump keeps saying that conservatives, Republicans, whoever will lose the Supreme Court if Trump loses.  And that's true.  Hillary would appoint very different people that Trump has proposed nominating and that obviously matters to a lot of people.

However.  The Supreme Court is not the only important thing in this race, or the most important thing. There are things that are worth losing the Supreme Court over (and, if I might remind people, the current Senate has made it clear that even moderate SC nominees can be stymied no matter who is president so it's not as if all is entirely lost even if your candidate doesn't win) and I think one of those things is the way that people are treated.

The POTUS should not be a blatant bully.  Have we had bullying presidents before?  Of course.  But have we turned out in relatively large numbers to vote for a man who heaps abuse on anyone who doesn't do what he wants them to?  It's fascinating to talk to people in the DC area who have had various dealings, political and business, with Trump and hear how he treats people.  To hear how he treats contractors.  To hear how he treats attorneys he hires.  And then you read excerpts from his own books telling about how he treats people who don't do what he asks.

Trump always says that he's a counter puncher.  And in a way that's true.  He generally doesn't say much about people who aren't talking about him (although that's definitely not a rule).  But when people criticize his proposals, for example, he goes after them in a very harsh and personal way that has nothing to do with their criticism of his proposals or even his character.  

This ties in with something else that comes up over and over and that the media doesn't get right.  Yes, Trump says awful things about a lot of women, but he says awful things about everyone he doesn't like and/or respect.  He's certainly not just picking on women and I don't think he's necessarily being a misogynist there- he's just horrible to a lot of people.  He does used gendered language a lot of the time when he's talking about women which is a problem, but I think there's a much bigger and more troublesome reason that illustrates his misogyny.  He objectifies women.  We have no value unless we are doing something to help him.  For Trump, men are worthy of respect if they are strong leaders, tough negotiators, fighters- things that have nothing to do with Trump. He considers women worthy of respect if he perceives them as increasing his own value and that, my friends, is appalling. He's not a misogynist because he says mean things about women, it's because he sees no value in women except as they relate to him.

There is so much more here than the Supreme Court.

27 May 2016

DC Bests

So, it's easy to find things to do in DC since there are so many monuments and museums that are well worth visiting.  But if you visit the city more often, there's a lot more to see than war memorials and Smithsonian museums.  Here are some of my best lists in DC, in no particular order.

My top five of all the things to do in DC:
  • Anacostia (Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Anacostia Neighborhood Heritage Trail, Anacostia Community Museum)
  • Alleys (Hughes Mews and Snows Court in Foggy Bottom, Georgetown alleys, Blagden Alley and Naylor Court in Shaw, F Street Terrace in Barracks Row, etc.)
  • National Building Museum historical building tour- this was one of the best tours we have ever been on anywhere in the world
  • MLK Library for the Washingtonia Collection
  • Cherry blossoms at the site where a tree was cut down after Pearl Harbor

Top Five Smithsonians:
  • Renwick Galley
  • American Indian Museum
  • Sackler and Freer Galleries
  • American History Museum
  • Anacostia Community Museum

Top Five Neighborhood Heritage Trails (besides Anacostia):

Top Five Annual Events:
  • EU Embassies' Open House (second weekend in May) and the Around the World Embassy Tour (first weekend in May)
  • Family days/holiday events at individual Smithsonians (Dia de los Muertos, Holiday events at the beginning of December, Family Days in the summer at the Air and Space Musuem, etc.)
  • Cherry Blossoms when it isn't crowded 
  • National Christmas Tree
  • So many street festivals

Places I love or that have great stories that you don't hear much about:
  • Boundary Stones 
  • Larz Anderson House (tour)- this is one of the few houses you can go in all the time on Embassy Row and it's a great house with lots of history and a good tour
  • Lithuanian Embassy- (there's a sign in front of the building with its interesting history)
  • Peirce Mill (milling demonstrations on 2nd and 4th Saturdays, midday, except in winter)
  • Georgetown and Alexandria colonial-era places to visit
  • Octagon House (self-guided free tours)
  • Fort Washington (visiting info, free)
  • Washington City Canal Lockkeeper's House (17th and Constitution- read the signs)
  • Civil War forts all over and around the city- try Fort Stevens for a taste
  • Lincoln Cottage (this doesn't seem to be all that popular, maybe because the house tour is fairly expensive for a family, but you can see the house from the outside and go in the worthwhile museum for free)
  • US Botanic Garden- go at all different times of the year
  • Cavalry Baptist Church (designed by Adolph Cluss)
  • Grant Road Historic District- one of the few country roads remaining after L'Enfant's grid was extended to the suburbs
  • Striver's Section (brochure)
  • 1727 S Street NW
  • Eastern Market (closed Mondays) or any of the other old public markets like Georgetown Market (now Dean & DeLuca), Central Market (razed for the National Archives), etc.
  • Ben's Chili Bowl
  • Site of Schneider’s Hardware, beginning of Berman v. Parker (west side of 4th Street SW between G and I)
  • Old Mormon chapel on 16th street- fossils!
  • National Cathedral
  • Sixth and I synagogue
  • 437 Seventh St NW- Clara Barton office (and read the sign for the story)
  • Ninth and F NW alley- John Wilkes Booth escape
  • 604 H St NW- Mary Surratt's boardinghouse

25 May 2016


One of my favorite things we did when we were here in DC last time was the Embassy open houses.  Last time we did the EU embassies and this time we did the regular weekend.  Since the embassies on Massachusetts have huge long line and we don't like waiting in huge long lines, we went off the beaten path to see Gabon, Saudi Arabia, Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Albania, and Barbados for a lovely time.  I hope we'll be here again in May someday.

24 May 2016

The Final List

So here's our final list of (mostly) chronological DC field trips.  35 field trips in 8 months.  We did a good job and learned so much.

We also read Empire of Mud and Washington: A History of Our National City which is the most boring title ever for a very interesting book.

My son is also writing a final research paper about the impact of redevelopment, displacement, and property rights in DC with a focus on Southwest DC and the currently proposed Barry Farm redevelopment.

1. Georgetown and Alexandria
2. Capitol and Library of Congress
3. White House and surrounding area
4. Rock Creek area
5. Washington City Canal, Navy Yard, and Congressional Cemetery
6. Washington Monument and Smithsonian Castle
7. Fort Washington
8. Downtown Heritage Trail
9. White House tour
10. Anacostia Museum and SE forts
11. Fort Stevens and the Lincoln Cottage
12. Ford's Theater, Petersen House, east loop of downtown heritage trail
13. Washington Monument and Adolf Cluss
14. Renwick Gallery
15. Tenleytown
16. Barracks Row Trail and the National Building Museum
17. Georgia Ave Trail
18. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
19. Greater H Street Trail
20. MLK Library, Washingtoniana Collection
21. Dupont Circle
22. Federal Triangle trail
23. Logan Circle
24. National Cathedral
25. Adams Morgan
26. Cherry Blossoms
27. U Street
28. Lincoln Memorial, Watergate, and Hughes Mews and Snows Court
29. Georgetown Alleys
30. Mt. Pleasant 
31. Anacostia 
32. Shaw 
33. Anacostia Museum
34. Columbia Heights
35. Southwest

Southwest Walk

I think this might have been our last field trip for the year. This DC history class has been amazing.

I'd put this walk in my top five of DC heritage walks.  It includes a bit of colonial/federal history, some industrial history (even though you can't see it anymore), slavery history since the Pearl left from the waterfront here, and then plenty to learn about race, poverty, politics, property, and government.  And some architecture too.

Anacostia Community Museum

I went back to the Anacostia Museum with my son on a rainy day when we didn't have a lot of time for a field trip to see their exhibit on DC from 1963-1975.  It truly is one of the most interesting exhibits ever and I love that museum.  It's too bad many people don't go to Anacostia very often.

23 May 2016

Columbia Heights Heritage Trail

I think this is another important DC walk to do since it highlights the city's diversity north of downtown.

22 May 2016

Stuff I've Been Thinking About While I've Been Busy with Life

-Bathrooms. If you are concerned about this, have you actually read the letter from the Obama administration?  Nowhere in the letter does it ask public schools to allow children to arbitrarily go into any bathroom they wish.  Instead, it lays out guidelines for schools on how to accommodate children who identify themselves, either personally or through their parents, as transgender to school administrators. The letter states that girls, including transgender girls, use the girls bathroom.  Boys, including transgender boys, use the boys bathroom.  It does not allow boys to use the girls bathroom or locker room.  In addition to other guidelines, it states that harassment of transgender students cannot be tolerated.

I think the reaction to this letter has been misleading and disproportionate. It would have been a disappointing reaction if it weren't unexpected.

-The Republican Party.  I used to be a Republican but couldn't identify myself as one by the time George W. Bush's presidency was over.  And then the Tea Party happened.  And the government shutdown. And now Trump.  Even if I'd managed to hang on until now, it would be over.  I admire Republicans who will not endorse Trump or who won't commit to voting for "the party's nominee."  I get the difference.  I  also get that no nominee is perfect and every time you vote, you're voting for some positions you disagree with.  But if you vote for the Republican nominee, you are really voting for an actual human being named Trump who has, based on the day and the audience, promoted some extremely troubling policies, many of which can be implemented without oversight by executive fiat. You're also voting for someone who is running on fear, intolerance, hate, xenophobia, bigotry, greed, pride, obfuscation, and willful ignorance, none of which should define the Republican Party.

-Religious freedom.  I'm still not seeing the problem that some religious people are seeing.  I still have the right to believe what I want, to go to church where I want to, to not be religious if I don't want to be, and so much more.  Religious institutions don't have to follow discrimination laws in hiring, Churches don't have to marry anyone they don't want to.

I don't want to see religious freedom elevated above all other rights.  If a person incorporates a business, they need to follow all discrimination laws, not just the ones they agree with.  If we allowed people to opt out of discrimination laws because of strongly-held beliefs, I honestly don't think that civil rights would ever had happened in the US because there was such strong opposition, including religious opposition to it.  There still is in some circles, and we still hear people saying that it should be okay for businesses to deny service to anyone they want to (and I can't help pointing out that a lot of those same people seem to think they should be able to conceal carry wherever they want to, including private businesses).

There are a lot of different rights here to balance.  If someone loses their job because they belong to a church that doesn't support gay marriage, I have a problem with that, just like I have a problem with someone losing their job because they married their gay partner.  Discrimination laws are worth supporting because they stop both things from happening.  I'd rather see the focus on making sure everyone can live their lives without fear or discrimination rather than worrying about people disagreeing with beliefs.  Disagreement =/= discrimination or persecution.

16 May 2016

LDS Refugee Relief Effort

A friend of mine and I have worked on gathering a lot of different resources and ideas for participating with the church's new relief effort.  Here's the link to the Google doc.


Please do something in your ward or your home or on your own to support this.

05 May 2016

Shaw Heritage Trail

This is another important DC trail because it documents so much African-American history.  Also, Blagden Alley and Naylor Court.

04 May 2016

Rolled Baklava

A friend of mine taught me this version of baklava that she learned from her sister's mother-in-law who from Greece a few miles from the border with Turkey.  I love to learn regional variations of different dishes and this is a good one.  I really should post recipes for layered baklava and for the Turkic versions from further east with thicker layers of dough.

This is just a basic outline of how it's done.

Grind lots of walnuts with cinnamon- 1 T of cinnamon for every cup of walnuts (or whatever nuts you're using).  Preheat the oven to 375.

Stack three sheets of phyllo (no buttering, just stacking) then sprinkle on some walnuts- 1 tablespoon per sheet if your phyllo sheets aren't huge.  Roll it up from the short end, then cut the dough into 1.5-inch pieces.  Stand them up in a buttered baking dish and keep going till it's full.

Meanwhile, start heating lots of butter.  It will need to be very hot and will brown. Just don't let it burn.  Once the baking dish is full, blob a bit of very hot butter onto each roll.  If the butter doesn't sizzle when you do that, heat it more.  After all the rolls have been buttered and sizzled, stick the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes till they're golden.

While they're baking, combine 2 parts water and 1 part sugar and simmer it to make syrup. It should boil down quite a bit.  After the baklava comes out of the oven, spoon a blop of syrup onto each roll and you're done.

As with all baklava, it's better the next day but you can also eat it right away.

24 April 2016

Anacostia Trail

I loved this trail and I think it's an important one to do because there are so many pieces of DC history here.  You'll read about the Bonus Army, the first mental hospital in DC, segregation, Barry Farm, redevelopment, and so much more.  Totally fascinating.

Anacostia isn't the safest part of DC and its reputation is probably worse than the area actually is.  I decided that since we're running out of time to do everything I want to do, I wouldn't try to fit it in with my son's weekly field trips and to go with my husband on another day instead.  It was such a good walk that I want to go back with my son, but if we don't have time to do the entire walk, we will definitely go back to the Anacostia Community Museum because they have an amazing exhibit on DC history from 1963-1975 (it replaced the DC after the Civil War exhibit we went to last fall that was so good).

23 April 2016

Mt Pleasant Trail

This was a lovely walk to do in the spring because the area is so nice and it was interesting.  However, it wouldn't be at the top of my list of most important heritage trails to do in DC, especially if you'd done others in the area.

22 April 2016

Georgetown Alleys

My son isn't quite as interested in alleys as I am, so I got my husband to come with me on this one.  We started at Pomander Walk (south off Volta between 33rd and 34th), then went to Cashell Alley (which was just named and doesn't really have older buildings or homes on it so you could skip it, but it's right there north off Volta between Wisconsin and 33rd).  Then we went up Wisconsin to Caton/Scott Place (Reservoir and 32nd- you can walk through it on Google street view) and over to Orchard Alley (NW of P and 30th), then down to Corcoran and Oak Alleys (between 31st and Wisconsin and M and N).  We crossed the canal to go to Cady Alley and Cecil Place, then into Georgetown University and back to the car.

I loved it.

If you think alleys are interesting, you might like this pdf about alleys in DC.