Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shake Shack

Howdy
It's fun to eat at new restaurants.  Today I got a taste of home with a traditional burger and shake from The Shake Shack.  I had the Shake Stack and a Red Velvet milk shake.  I thought everything tasted good, but I ate at 12:30pm, it is now 4:30pm and I am still full.  I am very, very thirsty though.  The burger was topped with a fried mushroom.  The wax paper bag was quite greasy by the end.  I think next time I would have only one of the items.  I also think I won't have this as a treat too often.  I was a tad confused by the name.  When I think of a shake, I think of a more liquid beverage I can drink with a straw.  This shake was more like a sundae. 

Amendment - turns out my reading for comprehension needs work and I really had a Red Velvet Concrete, billed as "dense frozen custard ice cream blended at high-speed with mix-ins." As opposed to a shake which are "hand spun with frozen custard and whole milk."

For clarification maybe trust the menu and not my memory. 




To see a picture of the actual restaurant at the Villaggio Mall in Doha just follow the link

Laura


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lulu Hypermarket

Howdy
I take any opportunity to go out into the city. A coworker offered to take me grocery shopping on the way home from work so how could I say no?

Today we visited Lulu Hypermarket, Gharafa, Qatar. I spent 267.45 QAR = 73.45 USD.  As I am stocking my pantry its taking a bit of money but I know it will level out soon.  Today's awesome haul includes flat bread, pitas, lentils, sausage, and beans.  Also there are fruits and veggies in the plastic bags to the back right.  I also bought hot sauce, salsa and crushed red peppers.  Dried fruit is easy to find so I bought a big bag of dried dates.  I also got pasta, miso soup, and bio yogurt.  I think bio yogurt is just regular yogurt but the package always says bio yogurt. It tastes just the same, maybe less sweet.  I bought a 2kg=4.5lb bag of rice which is going to be very interested because I have never excelled at cooking regular rice.  I always cheat and buy the minute stuff.  The bags of rice are huge here, if you want a bag that 4 times what I bought this is no trouble at all. 


A happy discovery today was the blue round dish behind the rice, it is helva or halva. This is a sweet paste of sesame seeds (tahini) that often has pistachios or fruits mixed in.  It has the consistency of dry peanut butter or the filling of a Reese's Cup. Since helva means sweets or dessert there is a lot of variety in recipes.  In some countries helva is flour based while in other countries the treat is made with sunflower butter. In the US you may find the item in the international section labeled Sesame Fudge. This is how mom buys it in Ohio.

I'm not ready to commit to the purchase of a drip coffee maker so I bought more instant coffee. It isn't great but at 5am its good. Also instant makes nice cold coffee drinks when I get home from work. Instant coffee like Nescafe is very common here and unless you ask how the coffee is made you will get nescafe. When you eat out you can look for American Coffee or even Turkish Coffee.  To me Arabic is more like chai because it is unique in some many ways.  There are more differences than similarities when you compare Arabic coffee and American coffee.

It is great to shop with other people because they may have found great bargains or new tastes they really enjoy.   Then you can benefit from their experience. Today my friend suggested Fougasse Zatar.  This is definitely an multicultural item.  The Fougasse is a French flatbread.  The spice mix on top, Zatar, or Za'tar (I learned at work to say this like za-tr) is generally from the Middle East and varies greatly. The two main ingredients are sumac and sesame while the other herbs that can include thyme, marjoram and oregano.  For this bread the spice mix was combined with olive oil.  What could be bad?  The bread is 3.50RIY = .91USD for two large breads. Compared to many US grocery options, its almost cheaper to eat the healthy foods here.

Given the prevalence of fresh baked goods and their economical nature I think its a safe bet that I will be moving away from eating breakfast cereal.  Boxed cereal costs too much and with options like I've found so far who would want corn flakes at a time like this?

Laura

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shopping

Howdy

Here in Qatar it is all about time and timing.  Depending on the season, the schools and numerous other factors the hours of operation for businesses vary widely.  Often businesses do not list their hours outside so that they can open and close as is convenient.  This works unless its 8pm on a Saturday night and you work at 7:30am Sunday and you just want to drop off your dry cleaning please.   

So Saturday we tried to visit Souq Waqif , Al Jasra, Doha, Qatar. It is a freestanding market made of many little shops. I can't think of much in the US to compare it to.  In terms of variety I would say it is more like a flea market. Also haggling  over the prices is suggested and encouraged. This would not be typical behavior at a mall. The day that we visited it was very apparent that it was just too hot to be outside. Consequently the Souq is only open from 4-8pm.  We arrived around 1pm and just could not last in the heat until everything opened.  You can see from some of the picture just how desolate the place was. 



It was very quiet at the souq because the majority of shops were closed.  You will notice from my pictures that there are only a few people.  Some of this imagery is intentional.  While photobombing may be common other places, in Qatar it is impolite to take photographs of people without asking since if you ask I assume they would say no.  You cannot just wander around and take pictures of the locals.  While they may seem very unique and fascinating, citizens would prefer to carry on with their day and not feel like a NatGeo special.  Even at the mall below which was quite crowded, I tried really hard to only have blurry people or people so far in the distance that they could not be identified. 




I did see some open shops like this store filled with colorful garments.  Given the heat it was hard to think about what to buy or how to talk the price of items down. The beautiful clothing was in stark contract to the hard working porters and shop keepers who seem immune to the heat but must be sweltering.  We did visit the pet area of the souq.  It is a pet store with lots of floor space outside. It was uncanny to see fish tanks and bird cages out on the patios.  There has been some discussion of this space being changed and the pets sold elsewhere as the heat for the animals could be dangerous.  Ironically souqs are famous for the selling of falcons for hunting but on our visit all we saw were pigeons.  



Since it was too hot to stay outside we drove to another local attraction the Villaggio mall, Al Waab Street, Al Aziziyah, Doha, Qatar. If you have seen the Venetian mall in Las Vegas you have an idea of what the Villaggio look like. The inside is highly stylized to make you think you are outdoors even though you purposefully came indoors to avoid the heat.  The mall has gondola rides, a small theme park for kids and an ice rink for both hockey games and public skating. One store we found really amusing was Snog, and they sell frozen yogurt.  Their slogan is "I Fancy a Snog," which may remind you of TCBY which stood for "The Country's Best Yogurt."  The name made us laugh both times we walked by. 



Enjoy,
Laura

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Turkey Central

Howdy
A friend invited me out for some eating and shopping today.  This blog post is part one which is just the lovely food and later you'll see where we were shopping.  Today's lunch was at Turkey Central, Al Mirqab Street, Doha, Qatar. It is a two story  restaurant in a business area that I would call store of a strip mall.  Turkey Central has basic tables and chairs.  There is little adornment but when you see the tasty food they serve you will understand why. Everything was so delicious although it has only been a day I can barely describe the interior.  I can tell you I nearly tripped getting down the stairs as we left because I think because I had eaten so much my center of balance was off.  We ordered two platters to share and there was enough for maybe two more people.  Of course its insanely hot outside due to the season and not  cool inside because of the kitchens.  The meals are leisurely and the waiters basically leave you alone. 


It's dinner time, I want meat!
Our first dish to arrive was a plate heaped with dips and other condiments. A lot of basic food from the grocery store is very plain so this was a great treat for me.  The Turkish Bread is 2 Riyals or .50 cents.  Its hand made in a giant oven downstairs.  See an image below.  The menu is just names, sizes and prices but no descriptions. Everything tasted amazing but I couldn't  identify many of the foods.  The purple item at the top of the plate was like a cole slaw, creamy and cabbage.  Good but I don't know what you call it.  The red dip is Muhammara, its made of spicy red peppers.  It was zesty but not too hot at all. 


Mint Lemon Juice
We also ordered a mix of grilled meats. The flat breads had a tomato flavor which was super.  Underneath the bread was grilled onions and peppers so let's just say my breath is fantastic right about now.  I believe there was chicken, beef and lamb, all on skewers.  I think we only managed to eat about half. 

My drink was the lemon juice.  If you order lemon juice it is understood that the drink is sweetened and not just a glass of sour juice.  The waiter may ask if you want lemon and mint.  If you like fresh herbs like mint this is a tasty treat and very refreshing. If you've had a good mojito you might have an idea of what to expect from the flavor. The mint soothes the tartness of the lemon a little. Just be prepared that your drink will be green and not yellow as you might expect of lemonade.  I think if you order Coke Light, this is diet Coke.  I had never heard it referred to that way. 

Oven for the bread
The restaurant is upstairs and the down stairs you have more of a deli and take out area.  People will sit outside the restaurant in their cars and just honk their own horns.  Because it is so hot people do not want to come in and order.  They honk until someone from the restaurant comes out to take the order.  The staff must run back and forth with food and the bill.  I don't think I will try placing my order this way. 

I told my friend to stop me if I looked too much like a tourist taking pictures of everything but honestly I think I'm not fooling anyone.

Laura




Saturday, August 23, 2014

Derp

Howdy
All the electrical outlets here have switches so you can turn off appliances you aren't using. It took me about 10 minutes to realize my combination washer and dryer wasn't broken.  No no, it was just turned off.  Yup that would do it.  In my defense, while the washer/dryer is in an alcove across from the kitchen, the switch for the machine is in the closet.  You can't see the switch if you are looking at the washer/dryer so its not quite as intuitive that the light on the switch and thus the machine are off. 

Laura

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Clubhouse Pool

Howdy
So for those who do not know, I am bit land locked at the moment.  I do not have a driver's  license and its too hot to bike or walk very far.  Needless anything within walking distance is very fascinating.  Today I went to the Clubhouse that is part of my apartment complex.  It turns out that you need your Qatar Foundation ID to use the facilities.  However I must have looked quite harmless and I was let in anyway.  




Today I visited the pool.  Its really lovely. Of course the water isn't cold at all.  There is a sauna too so you get in the pool, and then the sauna.  When you get back in the pool, the water feels much cooler.  The pavement is so hot even at 10am that you wear your sandals right to the edge of the water and leave your footwear near the ladder. The pool also has a smaller sections for children and these really charming pool floats made of foam.  The toys all look like animals so you swim with these brightly colored turtle kick boards and alligator rafts, along with many children and adults. 

The Clubhouse also features The Meseika Snack Bar, The Grill by the poolside and the Lebaina Restaurant.  You can get fruits and cheese, coffee, hamburgers with fries and other choices.  Overall the prices looked quite good.  I had coffee and cereal.  They were out of both porridge and muesli so I had cornflakes. The coffee was super, I kept adding more and more cream until I had a latte.  Oddly my cereal came with the milk already on it so the flakes were quite soggy.  The milk in the cereal was warm.  I guess this was intentional.  The milk that came with the coffee or possibly for the cereal was also warm.  It all tasted good but it was not exactly what I expected.  I never thought to ask if the milk for the cereal could be on the side or if the milk could be cold.  Next time I really want to try their plate of local cheese with dried fruit.  I was a little confused about the menu since it seems one restaurant is for the pool area and the other two have inside service.  However the three restaurants have one large menu. A difference I noted about the meal was the staff still used ceramic dishes and metal utensils. Normally at a pool area you wouldn't find breakable items or sharp objects like this, everything would be plastic.  


It was a shame, despite the heat all the servers wear a full uniform of long pants, long sleeve buttoned shirt with a vest.  I don't know how my waiter didn't just evaporate.  I am noticing a trend that many waiters, tea boys, etc wear a similar shade of blue that's perhaps teal.  I don't know if this is significant. Its just that I am used to fiddling with my phone and now I try to be very observant.  You do see more this way.  ;)

Sorry for no pictures, there is a no photography rule at the pool and perhaps the whole club house. 

Laura

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kitchen Answers

Howdy 
I bet ya'll are curious about the kitchen quiz.  We had some good responses. Our first photo was thought to be a food dryer or chicken roaster. Or possibly for shish-kebobs. Was the item a paper towel holder or a dish rack? Turns out, its really a toaster attachment for browning larger items like thick bread or hamburger buns.


Yeah Toast!

Our second item many of you nearly guessed.  First you remove the tan tray and inside are two blue ice cube trays.  You fill the trays with water and add them back to the freezer.  Once the cubes are ready you twist the knobs are previously shown and the cubes dump into another handy tray below.  It's pretty awesome.  

You're as cold as ice.

Laura



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The LuLu Express

Howdy
I have been in Qatar since Friday night and I have been to the grocery store three times.  Its really hard to do a lot of things when you are jetlagged but meal planning is beyond me. I met some awesome ladies who work at The Qatar Academy.  We decided we wanted to go for a little adventure but since none of us could drive the best we could do was a visit to the supermarket.  Attached to our compound via a bridge over the road is a grocery store.  The main stores are Lulus but our store is teeny so its a Lulu Express. Also in this market is a branch of Aramex shipping (its like FedEx), a branch of the Qatar National Bank, a kids toy store called The Early Learning Center which I find interesting since this is what we call the Preschool in Middletown.  There is also a coffee shop and a ladies only beauty salon.  That's right fellas, if you want a mani-pedi you have to go elsewhere.  Salons are single sex only here. 

So anyway this time I was on a mission, I wanted peanut butter.  And oatmeal. Yes I know its 100 before 7am but oatmeal sounds appealing.  I know it looks like a lot of carbohydrates but I still have a fridge full of apples and oranges.  The box in the back that you can't quite see is a 12 piece set of plastic dishes so that I can store food or take snacks to work.  It occurs to me I haven't seen any vending machines here so its a good idea to have treats on hand. My trip cost 159 Riyals which equals about 43 Dollars US.  The best bargain by far was the packet of 3 pita breads for only 1 Riyal. At .27 cents a packet I will definitely buy more of those.  Thankfully many of the teachers here are seasoned travelers and its easy to follow what they do to find bargains.  One of the ladies has lived in Abu Dhabi so she's a trove of knowledge.  

Tonight I cooked my first meal.  Nothing fancy and certainly not spicy since I don't have a fully stocked pantry.  Its ravioli with tomatoes and cheese.  Maybe I can name it Carrefour Pasta after the grocery store the ingredients are from.  

Laura

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kitchen Quiz

Howdy
Nothing says fun like things without directions or things with directions that you are too lazy to read. Imagine you've walked into the kitchen and behold this unusual gadget.  Its not for airing out socks.  Any guesses?  Post them in the comments section below.  Feel free to use the anonymous feature if you are more comfortable with that.



Next scenario, you are putting items in the freezer and you encounter these funny dials.  Normally they are horizontal but you can twist them to vertical.  What magic do you think happens when the dial is turned to the right?  Best guesses will earn you bragging rights, silly suggestions won't get you anywhere.



Bafflement brought to you by
Laura

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sweet!

Howdy
I am pretty sure nothing says welcome quite like candy.  When I started my job I  definitely  expected lots of paperwork.  In addition to forms and photos I received a company themed box of chocolates.  Its almost too cute to eat. Almost. 



 And yes if you look at the cellphone center you can see my reflection.  :)

Laura

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Whirlwind

Howdy
I've been in Doha less than 24 hours and already I have done a lot and seen even more.
Home Sweet Home

 Thankfully I have not had to make my way around the city by myself yet.  A company driver picked me up last night from the airport and today a friend took me on the super scenic route to the grocery store.  Lucky for me the grocery store is in a mall so I was also able to buy household items, a new phone and get proper currency from the atm.  Here is my PSA for today - however much cash you think you are going need, double it.  Or triple it.  Trust me on this. My other tip is to tape the lids shut on some bath products, I had two bottles of the same face wash pop open. Thankfully I had the foresight to put these items in ziplock bags but I still wasted a good deal of face wash in the process. 


I am getting ahead of myself.  Last night after landing, we went to a little grocery store new my apartment.  It has two floors so you take your cart in the elevator.  Remember the first time you went in a super Wal-Mart or other big box store? The shopping centers here give me that same feeling.  I don't know what brand of butter to buy because I don't recognize the brands.  Sometimes the brand you love is there but maybe it costs more.  Also I am not adept at converting Riyals to dollars; dividing by 4 and adding a bit back gets you close enough.  


I do have a new cell phone now in addition to my US phone. I cannot get a Postpaid calling plan like I did at home until I get my resident card. For now I'm using prepaid cards which honestly feels a tad like college. And hey I got my first text in Arabic.  Followed by the same text in English which was much less exciting since it was a note about my phone. 

Guess what they have lots of in Doha?  Pigeons!

Ok no really guess what else they have a lot of?  Roundabouts, my favorite.  They are a little
Carports
scary as cars just sort of whip around and signaling isn't too common.  I find the roundabouts make it a little hard to tell what direction I am going in. 


I just love that help with the heat many of the parking lots provide these enormous awnings that are a bit like umbrellas.  They shade your car all day.  It is still recommended that you use a sun shade in your wind shield and even then you might need gloves or oven mitts to protect your hands from a scalding steering wheel. 

I just thought of another tip, turn out if someone is a professional driver they prefer that you, the rider, sit in the backseat.  Unless maybe they open the door to the front seat for you.  Otherwise just sit in the back and don't upset the applecart.


My apartment.
Sorry if this is a little rambling.  I slept ok on the plane but it was still sitting up sleep which is never as good as in your own bed sleep. Last night wasn't a great nights sleep either as I woke up around 3am and just could not go back to sleep. 

Next on my To Do list are : find the complex pool, find the dumpster, find the van schedule so I can do more grocery shopping. 

I don't have pictures of the inside of my apartment because although I am unpacked its not exactly neat in here right now.  Its been less than 24 hours and there are dishes in the sink already. 

Laura

Signs

Can you tell me how to get, get to Sesame Street.

Or Zmeiem al Bar Court. 

I took a walk around my apartment complex which is thankfully very well marked; all the buildings are tan and indistinguishable. I thought I would test my walking knowledge so that later on I can easily drive this route. The good news is I made my way to the park, the front gate and all the way home again despite the 90 degree weather.  The bad news is I have yet to figure out how one crosses the freeway to reach the community clubhouse.  It has a pool among other amenities that make it sound very appealing. 
Laura

Hi There

A special shout out to people following my blog whom I may have never met but are still taking the time to see what I am up to.

I've had readers from these countries and others; they are in no particular order.

  • United States
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • Qatar
  • Australia
  • France
  • Hong Kong
  • Kuwait
  • Morocco
  • United Kingdom
  • Russia
  • Canada
  • South Korea
  • Switzerland

Laura


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blog Title

Howdy
Because I am a colossal fidget and because I cannot pack anymore, I have changed the name of my blog.  Your email notifications might look different.  My facebook posts and tweets may look different as well.  But rest assured that the content, albeit goofy, remains the same. 

My blog is now One For The Books

The best part of my blog title is it was chosen by goats.  Yes goats.



My friends Cape and Matter Horn chose the name and I really like it, so here's to you friendly neighborhood goats.   

Laura


Friday, August 8, 2014

I Know Something You Don't Know

Howdy
This may be the shortest blog post I ever do, but here it goes....

I'm flying out next Thursday, August 14th!!!

Laura