Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Gardening Leads to a Longer Life

Back when The Fonz was still blogging, he ran this free test from REAL AGE which I took, full of pride because I lead such a healthy life. Man, did I get a bad surprise, the first of many. First the REAL LIFE people told me my body was one year OLDER than my real age because I don’t like to exercise, and then at my annual physical, my doctor looked me in the eye and said I had to make some changes.

I have. I’ve made some changes. One of the changes is I don’t take tests like that any more!

But REAL AGE doesn’t give up on me. They send me helpful newsletters every week, and I have to admit, they really are interesting, and they really do help me stay on track, like eating oatmeal and drinking green tea.

Today they talk about a hobby that lengthens your life – gardening:


The Hobby That Leads to a Longer Life

A hobby is more than a way to pass the time. It may be a way to get more of it.

Know which hobby has probably added years to the longest-lived people in the world? It’s gardening. Okinawans — whose men typically live to age 78, women to age 86 — have a long tradition of working with soil.

Flex Your Green Thumb
The benefits of gardening reach body and soul, according to Dan Buettner and his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. “It’s a source of daily physical activity that exercises the body with a wide range of motion and helps reduce stress,” he writes. So, as the ground thaws and the seed catalogues start arriving, make a pact to plan — and plant — a plot this year.

Grow for Years
It’s not a coincidence: There are lots of other wonderful side benefits to gardening besides the body and mind boost. Here are the other garden goodies Buettner notes in his book:

A veggie-packed life. Okinawan centenarians eat a plant-based diet, often incorporating vegetables that they grow.

A bit of sun. Vitamin D, produced by the body when it’s exposed to sunlight, promotes stronger bones and better health. Vitamin D also helps your body fight cancer.

A dash of spice. Mugwort, ginger, and turmeric are staples of an Okinawan garden, and all have proven medicinal qualities.

Older Okinawans are active gardeners and walkers. Walk your way to a healthier, fitter life.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Cultural, Diet / Weight Loss, Exercise, ExPat Life, Experiment, Health Issues, Kuwait | 5 Comments

Feast Day of John Donne

In church, on Friday, the speaker was discussing Lenten practices, and told us of a woman who seriously committed herself to Lent, but allowed herself respite on the feast days of the saints of the church. She has one coming up today – the feast of John Donne, a great priest, poet and thinker in the church.

His life is fascinating, and when he falls in love and secretly marries the daughter of the rich and powerful man for whom he works, he is imprisoned. When released, he began preaching, and ended up revered for his work with the church, and his fine writings.

He was also ahead of his times. Here is one of the essays/meditations best known in our culture; it is often read at funerals, and says, as many are saying now – we are all connected. What happens to my neighbor, happens to me. In this earthly world, we are connected in ways we don’t even understand, and it is our duty, as well as our own best interest, to look after our neighbor:



[Now this bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he know not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.

The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon eny occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death dimishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarcely any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treaure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick unto death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels as gold in a mine and be no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction digs out and applies that gold to me, if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation and so secure myself by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

You can read his history and learn more about him here: John Donne.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Biography, Character, Community, Interconnected, Marriage, Poetry/Literature | Leave a comment

Apache Sunrise

Just a patch of sunrise this morning, as we awake to more of the same – heavy clouds and it looks like the continued possibility of rain. I didn’t hear thunder and lightning last night, but the roads are damp, so I am guessing we had some rain, if not a lot.


March 31, 2009 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 9 Comments

Daytime Weather Drama

No sooner had I sent the last post than all hell broke loose. The sky opened up and the rain poured down, Qatteri Cat hid under the table, the lightning danced out over the Gulf, two, three strikes at a time, the wind blew, the thunder roared and my camera had a hard time knowing where to focus. I am running around, trying to capture some of the drama, and eventually things start to lighten up. Qatteri Cat has resumed his spot on the table and watches as things calm down.


I download my shots and attempt to upload – only to discover – we lost our Internet.

I run the diagnostic programs and it tells me it is the server, nothing I can do, so I work on other projects and come back – maybe an hour later – to discover I’m back up again.

So here is a little of what we saw:

Torrents – real torrents of rain, sheets of rain:

And here are some drops being blown by the wind:


And all those little white things? Those things you can see against the dark of the trees? Those are raindrops, except they are more like very long drops!


I feel like a little kid. It was fun. It was wonderful. I want more! I want more! More!

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Beauty, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Weather | 2 Comments

We’ve Got Weather!

The Qatteri Cat is going a little wild, there is this weird sound, tap tapping irregularly – his eyes are wide, his ears on high alert – what is this? oh, just wait until he gets to Seattle. He will find out what RAIN really is!

We’ve got weather!

There’s no drama this time, no thunder, no lightning, not even much wind to speak of, but for maybe five full minutes (Whew! That is hugely ‘torrential!’) we’ve had RAIN, serious rain.


I know my friends and family in Seattle are laughing their bottoms off, that I think this is serious rain. In a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water, this is a serious rain, the best rain we have had all winter. You can see the road is entirely wet, not just little plop-lets, and the wheels of the bus are (going round and round, yes 😉 ) throwing up some spray. Ten minutes later, it is still raining. You’d have to live here to know how sweet that sound is.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

There really is a “broken heart syndrome” and a recent study, discussed on BBC, finds it can be treated – and the heart can be mended. Read the entire article here.

Medics can help you recover from a broken heart

US researchers studied 70 patients with “broken heart syndrome”, a recognised condition linked to stressful or emotional events.

All these patients recovered, most after being given aspirin or heart drugs, even though 20% were deemed critically ill.

The American Journal of Cardiology study says the condition is probably caused by a surge in stress hormones.

Broken heart syndrome, known medically as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, was first described by Japanese researchers in the early 1990s.

Even though symptoms mimic those of a heart attack such as chest pain and shortness of breath, broken heart syndrome does appear to be temporary and completely reversible – if treated quickly.

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Aging, Health Issues, News | 2 Comments

Palestinian Handicrafts Cultural Exhibit at Bayt Lothan

Wooo HOOOOO, courtesy of Al Watan another event BEFORE it is over! This time, before it even happens! Woo HOO, see you there. I can hardly wait; I think Palestinian embroidery is gorgeous.

Nonprofit Palestinian Cultural Handicrafts Exhibition at Bayt Lothan
Handicrafts reـaffirm the Palestinian national identity and support needy children and families


KUWAIT: The Palestinian Culture Center will hold the first of its two annual exhibitions for 2009 at Bayt Lothan. The show includes a large collection of textileـbased traditional handmade crossـstitch, as well as pottery from Hebron, books about Palestine in English and Arabic, posters, slide shows, Palestinian food and family oriented activities.

The Palestinian Culture Center is a nonـprofit organization that was established in Jordan in 1993. It aims to preserve the rich heritage and culture of Palestine and help support women and their families in the Palestinian refugee camps become economically independent.

This year was an active year for the Center due to the affects of the global financial crisis placing a further strain on the poor, as well as the violent and aggressive Israeli military onslaught on Gaza. As a result, the Center worked hard to increase the salaries of the 500 or so women who do the embroidery work, as well as pay for their transportation from the camps, and motivate them by granting bonuses for quality work.
Exhibition Highlights

* Traditional crossـstitch embroidery of dresses, linens, shawls, cushions, table runners, cards, coasters, belts, purses, bookmarks and more
* Handmade ceramics from Hebron
* Books, posters, cards, key chains, kafiyas and DVDs
* Paintings from Palestinian artists from Jerusalem and other occupied areas
* Multimedia slideshows on Palestine
* Food sale of traditional Palestinian food such as thyme and sumaq, and on Thursday only baked goods and other traditional plates

Palestinian embroidery using needles and silk thread is a manifestation of the Palestinian identity as it has evolved over the ages. An age old art, all Palestinian ladies, young and old, would spend hours embroidering their trousseau, dresses, shawls and cushions. Using geometrical shapes at first, and then evolving to depict images from nature surrounding them, the dresses are famous for their flowery designs and bold natural colors of indigo and red. Symbols of the ubiquitous cypress trees surrounding the orange groves, roses, jasmine and the famous olive tree are typical motifs in these dresses.

The exhibition is being held at Bayt Lothan in Salmiya, which is next to Marina Mall and facing the Arabian Gulf Road.

It will be held for four days starting Monday, April 6, 2009, through Thursday, April 9. It is open to the public from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm on Monday through Thursday.
The Palestinian Culture Center thanks Bayt Lothan for their generosity in providing the premises free of charge.

Last updated on Monday 30/3/2009

March 30, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Charity, Community, ExPat Life, Fund Raising, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Shopping, Women's Issues | 6 Comments

Drama Drama Drama

Last night, around one, I could see the flash of lightning reflected through the curtains, and hear the loud thundering boom, and I couldn’t resist getting up to see all that was going on. Wow! Earth in all her glory, a truly magnificent thunderstorm, with sound and light and magnificent bursts of rain – drama drama drama.

This morning, we have a wonderful sky, full of light and shadows, a day that can go either way – or both ways!


The day is dramatically cooler from yesterday, and the rest of the week is also supposed to be cooler, quite a change from earlier forecasts.


You can see all the way to the horizon today. The air is clean and breathable. My newly washed windows are spotted – there was a lot of dust brought down by this storm, thanks be to God. I can breathe!

March 30, 2009 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, sunrise series, Weather | 13 Comments

The Next Five Years in American House Trends

Consumers stay at home more, and housewares industry takes note

By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — As the recession takes a toll on most businesses, the housewares industry is actually expecting to see some benefit as more consumers eat, entertain and generally spend more time at home in order to save money.

In a presentation earlier this week, Mirabile pointed out several home trends he’s expecting for 2010. Below are five trends he predicts for the kitchen and beyond:

The live-in kitchen. Consumers spend three to four hours in the kitchen every day, not only cooking there but using it as a place to entertain, work, craft and spend leisure time, Mirabile said. The kitchen is being reinvented as a second living room, he said, as appliances are camouflaged and functional objects are hidden or minimized, allowing people to create ambiance in the room.

Living within our means. The recession is changing long-held opinions on how we spend our money. Consumers are looking for quality and durability in products — a shift away from disposable consumption, he said. They’re canning food more and growing their own herbs, they’re brown bagging lunches and they’re shopping in bulk at warehouse clubs or stocking up during grocery store sales to save money.

The green kitchen. Americans continue to make their lives more environmentally friendly, but they’re increasingly confused and frustrated about what is really “green,” Mirabile said. While they want products to be eco-friendly, they’re not going to pay much of a premium for it either — they expect retailers and manufacturers to deliver green products at competitive prices.

The wellness kitchen. Buying local food and/or growing your own often means it will be fresher and free from pesticides and preservatives — in short, more nutritious, he said. Today’s consumers are also interested in purifying their water and air.

Cooking for fun. We’re a nation of foodies, Mirabile said, quoting a Nielsen survey that found one in every five households has a “budding gourmet chef.” It’s not just women spending more time in the kitchen, either; “gastrosexuals” are men who consider cooking more of a hobby than a household chore, and use kitchen skills to impress friends and prospective partners. The popularity of the Food Network has helped to inspire a new love with food and cooking, and he expects consumers to continue to search for new recipes, techniques and cooking tools.

Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago.

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Cooking, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marketing, Statistics | , | Leave a comment

Geraldine Brooks: People of the Book

I love the way Geraldine Brooks writes. I got hooked when I read Nine Parts of Desire and then again when I read Year of Wonders. You can read my review on her award winning March here. So I could hardly wait for People of the Book to come out in paperback, so I could read it. (Those hard cover books hurt too much when they fall over if I fall asleep, and are too heavy and bulky to carry on airplanes.)


Here is what I like about Geraldine Brooks. Her books are not easy to read. They make you uncomfortable. They make you think. They give you another perspective, and that perspective challenges your assumptions.

The heroine, Hannah, is not very likable. She is cold, she makes poor decisions, and she has a very uneasy relationship with her mother. She is, on the other hand, a master of her craft, which is stabilizing and restoration of old books. She is the specialist called in by museums to help preserve masterful works, and to identify forces at work which can cause grave damage to these books.

While this is a work of fiction, it is based on an actual book and some of the history surrounding it. The Sarajevo Haggadah, a Jewish holy book, is a real book. Some of its history is known – including the fact that it was twice saved from destruction by Moslems, one a very brave librarian in Sarajevo who rescued and preserved it risking his own life, the fact that it was saved from destruction during the Italian inquisition by a Catholic priest. From tiny bits of physical evidence, Geraldine Brooks weaves an entire book creating a story how all the individuals and forces that might have been involved in the creation and preservation of this one special book.

People of the Book is a mystery – Hanna goes in and in the process of evaluating and analyzing the book, gathers tiny bits of “evidence” – a tiny grain of salt, a hair, wine stains. As she investigates, lab results come back, filling in missing pieces of how this book might have travelled from Spain of the convivencia (Medieval Spain) to modern day Sarajevo. Slowly, slowly, Brooks reveals to the readers the real (fictional!) people behind the tiny pieces of evidence.

The plot is interesting. What grabbed me from the beginning, however, is that this is a real book-lovers book, written by a woman who loves books. We learn about how books are created, how book conservators know, from looking at the origin of a sheet of paper, where a book was created and about what time period it was created. We learn about different treatments of paper, we learn about inks, we learn how pigments are created, and we learn about illustrations.

I was captivated by all the love of book-creation present in this book. Most of all, I love it that she dedicated this book to the librarians of the world, those unsung heros who devote their lives to the preservation of information. It was definitely worth a read – and, as an exception to most of my rules, it will probably be worth a re-read.

A friend recommended a video of Geraldine Brooks discussing this book at a book-talk at Northeastern University. It is a little long – you will need about 38 minutes of your time if you want to listen to this amazing woman:

March 29, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Community, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Financial Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Technical Issue, Women's Issues | 3 Comments