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I’m sitting here trying not to listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks, which the kids are watching. I have a low tolerance for squeaky voices, which makes my adoration of my daughter all the more remarkable since she was very squeaky for a number of years. But that’s beside the point.

Yesterday, I made a new friend. “Will you be my best friend?” I asked her. No, just kidding; I was channelling my 8 year old self there for a minute. It’s the voices, the voices. Not to mention the spunky beat. Augh.

We do not own this movie. We will never own this movie.

When we lived in France, I made friends with an Italian woman named Angela. She had a son in Abel’s class. “I speak American,” she told me the first time we met, just outside the elementary school. “I used to live in Chicago.” She pronounced it with a hard CH, CHick-AH-go.

Depending on my schedule, which varied daily, I used to sometimes follow her home from dropping off our children. Her house had pictures of saints and her mother in her coffin. Her sons were named things like Anthony and Joseph; they wore gold jewellery and leather jackets and rode fast motorcycles and they would ask her for more money. “But I already gave-a you da money!” she would shout at them, gesticulating with her arms. “But I need-a more-a!” Anthony or Joseph or Giovanni (I forget his real name but it was just as Italian) would shout back, arms just as active. I would stare, bemused. Wasn’t this behaviour just a cheap American stereotype of Italians? Apparently not. We saw this when we visited Italy and couldn’t find our hotel. “It’s-a no-a far-a!” said the Italians we asked, gesticulating helpfully down the street. “Are you for real?” said Donn.

It was in Angela’s kitchen that I really learned to love Italian coffee. Living in France, I learned to drink café noir, just a shot of espresso in a demitasse cup, black, sipped slowly and made to last for hours while you chat with a friend. I had thought that was strong. The Italians use the same amount of coffee and the same size cups, but half the water so that the coffee is twice as strong. You can get this coffee anywhere in Italy, even in the roadside stops next to gas stations. It will ruin you for American coffee; especially the frou-frou kind.

The other day (ok the other month but then I got sick and then I got busy), I met one of my new neighbours. She is Italian, married to a Moroccan, and has a daughter in Ilsa’s class at school. “Drop by any time,” she urged me. So on Sunday afternoon, I took a plate of my home-made fudge and did just that.

She made me coffee (swoon!), thereby cementing our friendship, at least from my side. She liked the fudge a lot too, so I could see this being mutually beneficial. I don’t know what the magic is. She uses Lavazza coffee; I use Lavazza coffee. She uses a stove-top machine, as did Angela. I have 2 or 3 stove-top machines in Mauritania and I have used them plenty, but it’s never as good. I believe Italian women are blessed at birth by the coffee fairy (or maybe at their first communion? I‘m not Catholic so I don‘t know), while the rest of us have to labour and strive and make mistakes along the long hard path to coffee nirvana. I can make French coffee, which is very good, but Italian coffee continues to elude me.

She sent me home with samples of herbs from their land, located just outside the city, and half a dozen roses, red and yellow and pink. Their scent fills the room as I type; they are full-blown today and beginning to droop. “It’s not really the season for roses,” she told me, but the blooms are still beautiful.

Some might think I take coffee too seriously, which I don’t. But I’m not as bad as some! I’ve been very amused by this interaction lately. First, read this NY Times article, which scooped this very funny post by Wacky Mommy’s husband. It was picked up by Starbucks themselves, and then mocked mercilessly by a French blogger! It has had me in stitches. Enjoy!


Here is a rough translation of the first two paragraphs of the French blogger.

“It’s happening already, just as we predicted. First they kept giving their
coffees names that were more and more complicated and they came up with
fantastic combos (the vanilla caramel frappucino double shot soy latte with
tomato soup to go…who’s it for?). Now the coffee sellers have surpassed

Whoever wants to become a “barista” (the new glamourous name for the guys
behind the espresso machines) must pass an entrance test for NASA in order
to get a 5th-grade job.”

…the rest just explains it…

Snapshot #1: FOOD

We had a great visit with our friends. Highlights included Dean cooking raclette on Christmas Eve. What is raclette, you ask? Merely a quick way to die happy.
First you make mashed potatoes with lots of garlic, cream and black pepper.
Then you put a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, and add slices of raclette, which is a type of French cheese. I suppose it is somewhat similar to a brie. You let it melt. Then you pour it over the potatoes. Eat it with some kind of pork product, and a green salad to cut the richness of it.
It is sooo good.
THEN, just to keep the good French customs going, we had a buche de Noel. For those of you poor people who have never been able to sample this wonder, it is incredible. Ours was “fort en chocolat,” made of a layer of cake, chocolate mousse filling, dark chocolate ganache, I don’t know. I wish I could accurately describe it to you. Imagine creamy dark chocolate melting on your tongue. Incredible.
Christmas morning, we came back to American traditions and had baked French toast with fresh local strawberries. Oh wait–guess that part’s not traditional. Sure was good though!


Snapshot #2: HOMELESS

The story of the first Christmas includes some homeless people, seeking for a place to stay, giving birth in a stable. This year, we decided to emulate them. Well, not in EVERY detail. But we heard just before Christmas that this place we’re living would be even more temporary than we were hoping–we need to be out January 20th. That put a bit of a spin on our moods, as you can imagine. But in the week since we got this news, we’ve seen a couple of possibilities. One was on the beach–can you imagine how nice that would be? It’s in budget too. Of course it would take us at least 40 minutes to get the kids home from school…


Ilsa and I and her little friend decided to go to the Christmas Eve service. We were on time, which meant we got roped into participating. We trooped up front to light the Advent Wreath, and Ilsa and I both did readings. Hers was in French. Mine, thankfully, was not.
She and another girl walked down the aisle lighting candles, and I loved watching her stop at each pew, her face intent in the light of the tiny flame, framed by her long hair, as she leaned her little candle towards theirs. We sang Silent Night like this: verse 1 in English, 2 in French, 3 in German, 4 in Spanish, 5 in Arabic, and 6 in English again. Phew!

Snapshot #4: LES CADEAUX
Our guests left before noon, and as soon as they were gone we started opening presents. Shopping was a bit challenging this year. They say you can find anything in Rabat, and they are almost right. You can find name brands; Cartier, LaCoste, Estee Lauder, Guess. You can find cheap Chinese knock-offs, and a staggering variety of colourful, locally-made goods. What is missing is the in-between, the level of Old Navy and Target.
We got Elliot a black leather jacket, locally made lambskin, soft as butter. He looks very cool, and he wanted it, but not as much as a drum set. On the other hand, homeless people in general don’t buy drum sets–especially not those who might end up in an apartment. Although this might be a good way to meet the neighbours.

Snapshot #4: CHOCOLATE

Knowing we had guests coming, we bought a box of truffles. Then a friend gave us a purple heart filled with chocolates. Then my Moroccan friend brought us boxes of Lindt and Ferrero-Rocher. Then my children bought me chocolate.


So why did I still make fudge?

Last Saturday was our Christmas concert. Ilsa was in the Youth Choir. She protested because I wouldn’t let her wear jeans–according to her, they’d discussed it and everyone else was wearing jeans. I made her wear a black skirt and tights, and she kept complaining that 30 year olds wear black skirts and tights (who knew?) and that she looked like a hag. I let her bring her jeans in a plastic bag, just in case she was right. When we got there, the entire youth choir were in black skirts and tights! Turns out ALL the mothers insisted their daughters not wear jeans and sweaters!

It was a cold, rainy day. In the afternoon, Ilsa and I ventured out to buy cocoa (past a dead rat who’d drowned in a huge puddle) so that she could bring a chocolate cake to the concert. It was too late to make a chocolate cake, of course, but Ilsa was determined. So I let her. We used the new electric mixer, brand name “Triomphe-FRANCE,”  for the first time. I have never seen an electric mixer surrender to a little resistance so quickly! The butter wasn’t even all that hard, but my new mixer was smoking away within two minutes. I had to throw it away and do the rest by hand.

Morocco is a Muslim country with a large tourism industry. That means there’s an awareness of Christmas, but it’s not really celebrated. The larger stores decorate, hanging wooden stars and winding tinsel around railings. You can also buy tinsel in many colours, lights that blink off more than on, and gaudy tasselled velvet ornaments in purple, orange or turquoise. A few specialty stores carry red and silver candelabras and stiff, shiny silk wreaths, and the nurseries stock Christmas trees. Stores’ piped music continues to be Arab pop.

In some ways, I don’t mind this. I hear other’s stories of holiday stress, marathon baking sessions to deliver hand-made gifts to a list of people, having to buy the perfect gift for a long list of relatives. Christmas in Africa is much calmer. We see our immediate families. We buy smaller presents for them. We mix and mingle with an international community, learning new ways to celebrate and new foods to eat. (It’s always about the food, isn’t it?) There is no round of parties, no “festive casual” office gatherings to stress about, no stupid holiday sweaters to buy at Goodwill.

In other ways, this time can be hard. We miss family, friends stopping by with plates of Finnish bread or fudge, Christmas programs, 10-foot noble firs. Like everyone, I have times of intense homesickness, times of utter contentment.

I wrote that last bit yesterday, and today realized that somehow I have ended up really busy, feeling totally overwhelmed. Part of the problem is the extra time that simply living life overseas takes. Take, for example, Friday (the day I wrote this). On Fridays,  most stores downtown are closed from somewhere around 11 or 12 till about 3, because Friday is the Muslim holy day, and shops close so that everyone can go to prayers at the mosque. Stores are often also closed on Sundays. I admire the lack of materialism, but sometimes I fret because of time.

Christmas is fast approaching, and Donn and I haven’t even remotely finished our shopping. So Friday we set off at 3 to go downtown. It took us half an hour to get a taxi, which severely cut into the 2 hours we had available for shopping before the kids got out of school at 5. On Saturday, the store we were trying to go to at 3:15 didn’t open till 3:30, which meant we added in an extra half hour of walking from another store back to it. And, somehow, we have gotten ourselves really booked, ending up on Saturday evening with 18 people eating white chili in our living room.

Friends that we knew in Mauritania arrive tomorrow for 4 days with us. I need to change sheets, clean house, go shopping, do some more baking. One of the toilets isn’t really working; always a fun way to start a visit. So I really need to go.


At sunset, the sky fills with storks, their wings rose-tipped as they whirl amongst the clouds which are scattered like rose petals across the western sky. They land heavily on the tops of the Norfolk pines, which sway alarming under their weight. My Moroccan friend brings us boxes of imported Swiss chocolates. I receive a Christmas card from the family who let us live in their basement, and on the front is a picture of a stork on top of a Norfolk pine. “Noel de Maroc” it says; Christmas in Morocco.

Good News: We found a store that sells legos for not too much higher than American prices! They had little selection, but they did have a Star Wars set! They even offered free gift-wrapping.
Bad News: Turns out that, according to Elliot, Abel already has that set. And around here, stores don’t really do returns.
Result: If one is good, two is better, right?

Good News: We got a tree! Free!
Bad News: It’s lopsided. And bush-like.
Result: Oh well. It works.

Good News: We got chocolate ornaments!
Bad News: We got ants!
Result: Chocolate-covered ants?

Good News: My husband loves me!
Bad News: He wants me to get off the computer.
Result: Short, stupid post.

Ilsa: I’m writing down all my memories in this journal. Then, if I ever get amnesia, or if I get old and lose my memory, I can just read it.

Abel: How will you remember that you have the book?

This is Mary. No really.

I don’t THINK she’s as angry as she looks. (Although maybe that song line about “no crying he makes” isn’t accurate)

On Sunday, I walked over to a neighbour’s house for choir practice. I’ve joined an amateur choir and we’re doing a Christmas concert on Saturday. It’s the first time I’ve been in a choir since university days, and I’m really enjoying it. We’re singing lovely songs; a couple of haunting French carols, a mix of traditional and modern. The director has sensibly chosen songs that aren’t too high, so we don’t have to have that shrill drifting into sharp that is such a feature of amateur choirs made up of mostly middle-aged people.

I rounded the corner and saw a truck full of greenery. “How fun; looks like Christmas trees,” I thought, amused, never thinking it would be true. But it was. “This guy delivers our tree every year,” the family explained to me. He dropped 4 off for them to choose from, and never came back, so we are now the proud owner of a fresh, green tree.

It smells wonderful. Apparently it is some sort of cedar, and it’s really aromatic.


We are sorely lacking in the decoration department, but we are making progress. So far, we have two felt ornaments that a friend gave us, and an angel that Ilsa made out of tin foil and Kleenex.

And we have a Lego creche. Abel made it himself, but I’m sure it could be a bestseller.

I think this look makes a nice change from the blonde, bland look.

Here we see the baby Jesus, looking slightly blurry. Not to mention legless.


And the complete nativity scene, including the star that rose geometrically in the east.



So you can see we’re making tremendous progress. I’m sure you’re all in awe.

* what movie is this post’s title taken from?

I woke to the acrid, unpleasant scent of burning hair. I’d been warned. Yesterday, everywhere we went we saw or heard sheep–crammed into the backs of pick-up trucks with humans wedged in as well, or bawling desperately in backyards. Today is the Feast of Sacrifice, the biggest feast of the Muslim year. The kids have two days off school; kids in Moroccan schools have the entire week. If you’re Muslim, you should slaughter a nice fat ram, if at all possible. Outside the kids’ school, beggars scurried in between cars, approaching windows with their hands out.


Note: this is a two-way street

One thing I’m noticing is that the feasts and fasts that make up the Muslim year are celebrated differently between neighbouring Morocco and Mauritania. For example, in Mauritania, restaurants are still open during Ramadan; here, they are not. So I was interested to see how this feast would be different.

In Mauritania the feast was celebrated yesterday. I know that had I been there, I would have walked out the front door and been greeted by the sight of mostly dead sheep, perhaps still bleating softly and moving their legs, their heads resting in a puddle of blood.

Here, in the modern city that is my new home, there was nothing that dramatic. But on every street corner, the kids had made a fire and were singing the hair off the rams’ heads. Horns were lying in untidy heaps on the ground, and there were plastic buckets full of heads waiting their turn. Apparently, all other parts can be cooked in the oven, but indoors it is difficult to singe the hair off the heads so that the head can then be cooked to get at the really tasty bits–the brain, the eyes, the tongue.

It was a showery day, so they had rigged up plastic awnings, and underneath they were grilling away.


I’ve been served goat’s head before, in Mauritania. It was our first meal in a local home, and boy was it a shock when they proudly brought in the platter of couscous with the goat’s head in the center, the tongue artfully draped just so over the jaw. But I don’t know that many Moroccans yet, and today we spent at home. The kids went to friends’ houses; I listened to Christmas music and did laundry.  A quiet, if smelly, day.

Ironically, after I wrote about how cold it was, it warmed right up. Wish I’d thought of that before. Today was gorgeous–sunny, deep blue sky, and warmer outside than in. Now that the sun has set, leaving the stars to glitter like rock salt in the sky, it’s cold again.
Many of the comments on my last post talked about being cold, so I thought I’d warm us all up by posting something from the archives. This was originally published in September, 2006.

Weather Daze

All day the sky was low, about 10 feet over our heads, and made of bronze. The air was heavy, without a breath of wind. The leaves hung limply in the garden. By nightfall, it was, if anything, even hotter than it had been during the day.

We always get at least a couple of nights like this during the year, so I knew what to expect—the electricity would go out. Sure enough, about 11:30, I was writing an email to my husband when suddenly I was plunged into darkness.

I fumbled my way into the kitchen and found matches and candle. Leaving a trail of blue wax drips behind me like I was Gretel trying to find my way home, I turned off what lights I knew were on and tried to find the kids’ water bottles. This year, 2 of 3 don’t have insulated ones because I haven’t gotten around to buying them yet, so their bottles need to be ½-filled and placed in the freezer overnight. I completed this task mostly by feel and optimistically, with faith that the lights would be on before 6 a.m. (Hey I’m an optimist! Didn’t you notice that bit about ½ filled?)

By midnight, I mounted the stairs, leaving my signature blue drops behind me, the candle and I both dripping. Our room was a tiny bit cooler than the rest of the house. By some miracle, I could get a driblet of water from the tap (when the electricity is gone, the pump can’t get water into the house), enough to brush my teeth. I cleverly stuck the candle to the side of the taps, to leave my hands free, choosing that spot because a. I would have the light and b. it would be easy to clean the wax off the smooth porcelain later. There was plenty of room between the candle and the plastic shelf above which holds toothbrushes, soap, etc. I washed my face, careful not to let the water splash onto the flame, since I’d left the matches downstairs in the kitchen. The flame heightened in the still air and licked quietly at the underside of the plastic shelf… Oh well. I never really liked that plastic shelf much anyway, and if I put my scrunch spray over the hole, no one will notice. And who else goes in my bathroom anyway?

I lay down on top of the sheet and tried to relax. I could feel the heat descending upon me, the heaviness of the air, as the last of the coolness evaporated. I dropped off quickly, only to wake again gasping for air a few minutes later, drowning in a puddle of my own sweat. (Gross, I know, but we must face facts if we’re going to help you feel you were living it too) I walked slowly, hands outstretched, feeling with my feet to avoid stepping on my daughter’s face, and groped until I found a hand fan, and fanned myself till my arm was tired. I waved it over the kids. (I think I’m addicted to parenthetical remarks: we have only one AC so all the kids are sleeping in my room these days. Privacy? Well I don’t get much of that at the best of times!) I gulped down a glass of water. I wandered out onto the balcony, but it was just as hot out there.

Elliot woke up, gasping. He was dripping wet. We chatted a while about the lack of electricity and how much darker it was. There’s a hotel near us with a generator, and we could see their light reflected off the sandy air, like fog.

Soon all the kids were awake from the heat, and inclined to be whiny. It was about 1 a.m. by this point. I sang songs, I told stories, about children who lived in ice caves and went to school by sleigh, about a little girl who lived with her family on a cedar-covered island in the middle of a cold grey sea. I thought of hell and said I imagined it might be like our current situation, which made my daughter cry. (Although it didn’t take much to make her cry at that point) Finally about 2 we all wandered out onto the balcony, which was gritty with sand. Everyone liked standing there staring out at the darkened city. We felt the teensiest breath of air sigh across our faces. In hope, I dragged two mattresses out, but the mosquitoes were terrible for such a sandy night, and the night seem disinclined to loose any more sighs our way, although I sent a few its way, in hope. We went back in and opened the windows. We tried to sleep.

The night dragged on. Around 5:30, the electricity came back on, just in time for the call to prayer to blare from the mosque across the street. When it came on, we all cheered! We all slept in, too. At school, the kids’ teachers said that everyone was tired but let’s still try to get some work done.

No one in the city slept last night. I compared notes with French mothers, Senegalese house-workers, Mauritanian friends—all had the same experience, although some were lucky enough to get a nap in later.

The morning continued hot and still. The air was still sandy, but the light was brighter. Suddenly, the sky went dark red and the windows rattled. Sand and wind mixed together hit the house with a bang. We were in for a really bizarre sandstorm—more like a sand blizzard. For about an hour the storm raged, disrupting traffic, downing trees and electric wires and fences and streetlights, lifting plastic bags into a wild frenzied dance in the air, filtering through even closed windows to leave a film on every surface in the house. I stood on the porch, looking out. Visibility extended only as far as my next-door neighbour’s, but amazingly enough the wind was cooler.

I went out towards the end. The house was still muggy and hot, which made taking my sticky skin out into a sandstorm something special in the way of exfoliating options. Also, it saves me money on that rub-on tan stuff—my way is all natural, no weird chemicals. Come visit me and you can try it too—for FREE. Optimistic and generous, that’s me.

Eventually the sand died down, so we opened up the house for the cooler breezes. But they went away too. Now we’re back to where we were before—still and hot.

But the electricity is still on! I’m going to bed, where I can enjoy that AC while it lasts. I hope to dream of ice caves.

“This is the most rain we’ve had since 1974,” says a Moroccan woman confidently to me.

I joke in response. “Maybe we brought it with us from Oregon.” After all, these days of scudding grey clouds and cold slanting rain remind me of my Northwest home, even though the land here is more like California, with its palm trees and groves of olive, citrus and eucalyptus. But the joke does not go over. People just look at me. I know that the rain is considered a blessing; I wasn’t trying to claim to be the author of it.

Storms wake me in the night. Wind howls, rain gusts; it shatters against the glass windows, it soaks the laundry I forgot to bring in. During sunbreaks, as I gaze up into the deep deep blue framed by flashes of fuchsia bougainvillea, I can feel the southern latitude in the strength of the sun.

One thing I did not expect to worry about in Africa was keeping warm. My first foray onto the continent only enforced this for me. We landed in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in April 2001. We were met by a man we’d known in Oregon. “We’re planning a tourist trip into the interior for you, to the historic city of Chinguetti,” he told us, “But we’ll see if it cools down first. It’s been so hot that some people have died.” Oh.

The airline lost all our luggage so I washed what we were wearing that first night, and hung it out to dry at about 1 a.m. Our clothes were dry as bones the following morning. That was a clue. We were in the desert now, a place where even the air is thirsty, and rain evaporates before it hits the ground. I wore sandals and cotton skirts year round.

We knew that Morocco’s climate would be different. We studied maps, checked the statistics showing yearly averages. Rabat, our new home, is the same latitude as Los Angeles, and we assumed things would be similar, much cooler than Mauritania, where it got up to 125 degrees that first summer, but not cold.

But although the plant life is similar, with palm trees raking the sky with their spiky fronds, the weather here is far colder than Southern California. The houses are built for the hot summers, with no thought taken for cold damp winters. I was talking to a friend about this, and she showed me how she was wearing 4 layers of turtlenecks and sweaters, plus a scarf. “You have to wear a lot of clothes,” she told me. “This is how the Moroccans do it.”

In the meantime, we’re all sick. The cement-block house echoes with our coughs. It might not snow here on the coast, but it does in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, where apparently you can ski. “I was sick a lot my first year too,” soothes a Korean friend. “But then I learned to do as the Moroccans do–I don’t use the space heaters.” We’re not convinced, until she explains that she used to run hers all day and all night. I still don’t know why that would make you sick, but given that these run off large bottles of butane gas, I suppose the fumes wouldn’t help.

On Saturday morning, Ilsa and I walked a couple of blocks to a major road to catch a taxi. Her clean jeans were soon soaked to the knee as we dodged puddles and tried to keep the umbrella from blowing inside out. In the meantime the rain poured down, bucketed down, incessant. We drove in and out of enormous puddles, straining to see through the condensation that fogs the windows of all taxis in the rain.

This morning, I woke to soft rain, a silver whisper on the pane. I reluctantly put my bare feet on the icy tiles that make up Moroccan floors. When I opened the front door to send the kids off to school, my breath fogged out around me. Our shower is, literally, scalding hot, with the fun addition that when you turn on the cold water, the hot water heater shuts off, so you can alternate scalding/freezing/scalding/freezing. Or you can take a bath.  We turned on our space heater, huddled round, gratefully drank hot coffee. We’re keeping warm here in Africa, but it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.

This post is an entry for Scribbit’s December Write-Away contest. I found the topic fit right in with what I’d been thinking about anyway.

…and one of your new friends happens to stumble across your blog, she will notice that you mention making your own evaporated milk for your pumpkin pie. “Silly girl,” she will think. “You can get it here.” She will give you a can of your very own.


Sunday afternoon. I’m coughing my lungs out here and have already exhausted several boxes of Kleenex. Ilsa’s cold has come upon me. The boys have friends over and are duelling it out for dominance of Europe during WWII. Right now, the Russians appear to be winning. (It’s Axis and Allies, a game which I remember my brothers playing when I was a little girl)

Thanksgiving dinner was fine, and the Brits were very thankful. Many things were just a little burnt and crispy round the edges, which is not ideal but was to be expected given the limitations of my tiny, borrowed oven. In fact, we had only half the dressing I intended; it burnt so we scraped out the inside, put it in a bowl, and our guests would have been none the wiser had we not told them. We even had cranberry sauce, bought in a British store in Gibraltar and boasting “real American cranberries” plus some redcurrants. I bought huge slabs of boneless, skinless turkey breast and, unsure, decided to cook them as if they were an entire turkey, and it actually worked.

The pie was very tasty, although the spice was a bit off. I used “quatre epices,” a French spice blend that includes black pepper as well as ginger and cinnamon, so the pie had a nice little after-bite that I rather liked.

Of course everyone had school/work all day, so we ate about 7:30 or so. It’s not good to eat an enormous Thanksgiving meal, complete with cheese course because, well, just because we could,  and the French totally supported the American Revolution so it makes sense to me, plus I love cheese. This sentence is too long so I’ll start over. It’s not good to eat so much so late in the evening. You need time to digest and go for a walk. And of course, the alarm went off next morning and everyone was back to school/work, with no time to recover. I think next year we will celebrate on the weekend.

I usually avoid stores at all costs on the day after Thanksgiving, but this year I ventured out. I figured I’d be safe from getting trampled by crazed perspectiveless shoppers, and I was. I ended up at the Moroccan version of Costco. I didn‘t know it existed either and no one was more surprised than I to enter a store called Metro, where they sell gas heaters for less, and discover a place that felt like medium-sized Costco, selling normal-sized items for slightly less. A Muslim feast is coming up soon, the one where everyone must sacrifice a sheep if they can at all afford it, and I read with some bemusement my opportunity to enter a raffle and win a sheep! I was tempted, but really, what would I do with it?

We bought a space heater that takes a big gas bottle and we’ve been running it a lot. The place is positively toasty. That’s because it’s Tuesday now and my voice is beginning to come back, although Donn is still down for the count and Elliot is sickening rapidly.

I hope I’m better soon. I spent today in bed reading Ilsa’s books, as I have worn out my own supply. My friend who gave me the evap milk has a nicely-stocked bookshelf but I’m too sick to walk over there and borrow something. I’d better get well soon, or I may be reduced to finishing a mystery novel left on the bookshelf here. This book was purportedly written by a cat (could it get any cuter?) in which the animals talk to each in italics (how twee!) and call their human owners “mom.” (I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth!) I started it last night but wisely switched to children’s books just in time.

December 2008

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