Monday, December 22, 2014

Here a Wadi, There a Wadi...Dog That Is.

My husband and I were hugely unsuccessful at dog ownership here in Salalah. First, honestly, I don't like them very much. They have hair, and they smell and need a lot of attention. They chew things. Lots of things.

But he likes dogs. And dogs like him. Fortunately they often give me a wide berth, sensing my disdain. A year ago, we saw an advert for a six month old dog who needed a new home. I went and got him. Why? Because I love my husband, and he really wanted a dog. It was hell. The dog reverted back to peeing and pooing all over the house, and while I was in America, got into my things and destroyed a school picture of my daughter (it had her little handprint on it!). I never forgave the dang thing. 

I am softer than I act though. Last Spring, we saw a tiny puppy lost in traffic. Of course we stopped and brought her home. She had a bath and food. After acclimating to the house, she started barking. Her bark was a high, piercing bark that made our neighbors wish to strangle us along with the dog. Warnings were issued by the owners of the complex, and we had to find new homes for the dogs. I try not to think about it. Ever. Dogs are easily heartbroken, and I'm sure the older dog was deeply traumatized. Moving with a dog wasn't an option...we tried. No Omani landlord will accept tenants with a dog..not that we could find.  Jako even had to move up north, after unsuccessfully living on this family's farm. To this day, I feel sick over it. I didn't want Jako, but I didn't want him to suffer either. 

Enter Tita. We live in an apartment building now, and the other morning I opened the door and saw a puppy of about 10 weeks sleeping on the doormat. We've heard a dog crying sometimes in the alleyway as local children torment any puppy they find. Omanis, for the most part, absolutely loathe dogs, taking cultural Islam to extremes. Wadi dogs are shot for fun on the beach, kicked, and beaten. Puppies on the farms are put down, because packs of wild dogs here are a real problem for farmers. They go after goats and calves, even baby camels if the pack is big enough. I think there is a huge difference though between shooting wild dogs because they are a danger to your livestock and just hurting them for fun. 

So the new puppy. Mehdi said to feed her. I did. The upstairs neighbor brought down a steel bowl and two cans of dog food. Her ears are twizzled when they walk by. I vowed the dang dog was NOT coming in the house. Two days ago I went and bought more dog food. Saturday night she went on a merry jaunt in the truck to the Oasis. Last night she went to Lulus and waited for me with the husband.  I looked at the dog while she perched up by the window, tail wagging, then sleeping happily with her head on Mehdi's leg. Things have come to a pretty pass haven't they? And guess who slept on a nice blankie last night INSIDE the house? Yeah. Tita. I'm doomed. 

I booted her out the door this morning and closed the door to the building. I have my limits. I can't get attached. She/he (believe it or not I can't tell an inny from and outy on puppies) has to keep some of her wild flair, because I'm not walking a dog. I'm not. I am not going to worry if she's gone for several hours. I'm not going to jump up if I hear crying in the alley to see if the neighbors are hitting her. Yeah. No way. I'm too tough for that. How she knew from down in that alley that she would find a dog loving Arab in apartment 3 is a mystery. Bugger. 


Luckiest dog in Salalah. Eatin' off me fine china.

Like I said, I made four cakes Saturday. I also made a cake the day I posted my thoughts about Peshawar, but couldn't bring myself to talk about it. Since I didn't get pics of the four amazing cakes Saturday, I will give you my recipe for chocolate frosting from last week. It's a nice frosting, light and easy to make. If you find a ganache or dark chocolate frosting too rich, this might be the frosting for you. It easily makes enough for a double layer cake. 

(stolen from Mel's Kitchen)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened but still a bit cool
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (6 oz) good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

Whip the butter on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and continue whipping. Drizzle in the melted chocolate and continue whipping another 3 minutes. 

Frost cake. Voila!

My pictures are horrid as usual. I made two single for home and one for a friend. 

I am trying my best to blog, but my laptop isn't connecting. Anywhere. I do what I can at work, but it isn't really enough. Rest assured I am thinking all the time about topics, and bake much more now than I write about. I'm just not eating them. 


Felicia El Aid

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Today's post was either going to be about the dog that showed up on our doorstep, or abalone diving here in Salalah. Instead many people here are stunned by the news that the Taliban murdered over a 130 children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

We have a large, varied population of Pakistanis here in Salalah, from educated professionals to underpaid and undervalued laborers. I promise you, every one of them is in pain. We know that children die every day all over the globe. Syria and Yemen, for example. Unfortunately all this death becomes an abstraction as as a result of so much information. I don't watch the news anymore. It's a form of cowardice I know, but it makes me cry. I tune out so much that when a dear friend changed his profile picture on Facebook to reflect his sorrow about the tragedy in his homeland, I went "huh" and had to start googling.

I almost wish I hadn't. It's heart wrenching. I am sure it's all over CNN back in America, but as awful as it looks on the news to my American friends, not a lot of the people I know back home are part of a Pakistani community. I look around here and wonder if the fellows walking along the street in their tired kameezes know someone who lost a child. It seems so close to home you know? This wasn't a monsoon or a natural disaster, difficult as those are to endure, but grown men slaughtering children. What the hell were they thinking?

The Taliban (a large amorphous group, not all of whom approve of this action it seems) released a statement to the effect that the massacre was retaliation for the Pakistani army killing THEIR children. Well that makes sense doesn't it? Who was it that said if we follow the "eye for an eye" edict then the whole world will be blind? Ah..right. Ghandi. Now Malala has weighed in condemning the attacks, and honestly I wish she would just keep out of it. She is certainly beloved by Western media and celebrities, and is surely a composed young woman, but her input for the Pakistani community is divisive at best.

The proud avengers? Come on.

Words fail.

I haven't said anything in this post terribly profound, or anything that adds to the discussion. I am simply very, very sorry for the pain my Pakistani friends are in here, and abroad. They have been good to me. I am sorry for all of it. A friend of mine, an Indian friend, is going to the police tomorrow to see about a permit for a flower vigil outside the Pakistani school. No flags, no politics. Just a candle or a flower. I think it's a laudable idea. Assuming the permit comes through, we can meet after Isha prayers on Friday. If you do not live in Salalah, I think a moment of silence for ALL the wee bairns killed as collateral in an escalating global conflict would be nice. Don't you?

Honestly, I did make a cake. I just don't think today is the day to write about it. Tomorrow there will be time for dogs and cakes. But not today.


Felicia El Aid

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The End of Hafa

On December 15th, the water and electricity will stop. The demolition will, supposedly, begin shortly thereafter. Tenders have been submitted and money will be made. Hafa, former quarter to slaves and Salalah's poor, will be torn down and rebuilt. Rumor has it a Starbucks is coming. Well how about that?

I don't know how I feel about this. I grew up in Hawaii before it was the land of Aloha and millions of tourists changed its landscape forever. As a young woman, I saw newscasts of old men weeping as they were evicted from banana plantations that were destined to be golf courses. Hawaii isn't the beautiful place of my childhood. It's gone, an homage to commercial development and angry Hawaiian nationalists. It's a real mess. I've also lived in Hafa, above the Cafe de Paris. I liked seeing the Omani ladies sitting in groups on the beach at night, chatting with friends and tapping on their mobiles and iPads. Omani men sit in a circle and play cards in the sand. Indians play cricket and boys play football. It's hard to picture that continuing after hotels are built and upscale coffee shops like la Starbucks arrive.

Hafa is a crumbling mess though. It is prime real estate, and in a country that needs to diversity before the oil runs out, it makes economic sense to develop the area. I can't but feel that it will lose some of it's funky charm though. The government has arranged for everyone to move to new shops elsewhere in the city; they have tried to do things right. However, the goofy souk with the hawkers, perfume vendors, and Pakistanis fixing sandals by hand (and feet) won't look quite the same elsewhere.

Also, on December 15th, my Bengali cleaner will join 5000 displaced laborers. Housing was arranged for them, but "far." He and his two mates pay 35 omani rial a month for a room above a tailor shop, and they've lived there for years. They will be hard pressed to find something like that in the city (I think) and may have to join the squatters. For a lot of workers, the porta-camps set up are just too far from the only work they have. It's a pickle for them isn't it?

I bleed liberal blood I admit. Just gush it. My Hawaii upbringing has given me a distinct anti-development frame of thinking. But I get it. Salalah changes every day. Roads are torn up and widened. "Flyovers" are in the works to connect Saada to Auqud. The new airport will be finished soon, and more flights mean more business. More commerce comes in and out of the Port of Salalah all the time. In ten years, Salalah will be unrecognizable from the dusty little city at the bottom of Oman it was two and a half years ago when I arrived. I hope to be here to see it. Then I hope to leave, memories of my nights looking from my rooftop intact, seeing the lights of Al Baleed, listening to the waves, and watching the ladies of Salalah gather without care on the beach.

From the roof of my old place in Hafa.

The cake of the moment was actually a crumble. A regular customer wanted something a little different, and though he would prefer rhubarb, that wasn't available this week at Lulus. I went with apple. Here is my recipe:

Felicia's Apple Crumble

Grease a 9x13 pan with butter and set aside. 

Peel, core, and slice 12 green apples. I use green because I like the apples to be a bit tart. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and cup of sugar. Pour a cup of water over the lot of it, and stew for about 15 minutes. You want some chunks remaining, so don't stew it into a total mush.

Let cool for a bit while you prepare the topping. Preheat oven to 350F/180C

Mix 2 cups of oatmeal, a cup of flour, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Cut in a cup of cold butter. It helps to cut it into small cubes. I use my fingers to make a coarse mix. 

Pour the apples into the prepared pan and sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Spread the oatmeal mixture over the apples and bake for 30 minutes.

Delicious with vanilla ice cream!

Yeah..this isn't my pic either. I get tired of whinging at my husband to take a pic and send it to me.

The husband asked me today if I am still doing cakes. I said I am, but this week has been light on butter. Shopping tomorrow though! I feel a mango bundt cake coming on...hooray!


Felicia El Aid

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What Wives Want

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST IS MEANT TO AMUSE, NOT REFLECT ANYONE'S PARTICULAR SITUATION. Sheesh. Honestly I am laughing while I write. Seriously. I'm not trying to sound like Alanis Morissette.


What is it that we want from men anyway? I have done loads of research and have lots of empirical data to cull in order to answer this question.

Nah, not really. I will take a stab at it though.

We want your time.

مرة. A lot of it. Women want your undivided, devoted, time. We want you to sit and watch television with us after dinner and the kids are put to bed (assuming there are any). We want you to hold our hand while you do it too. And talk to us in a meaningful way. Even if it bores you crudless. And we don't think it is too much to ask. We will even watch this with you while you hang with us:

Or something equally unfathomable.

We do not need this:

If your wife demands a lot of jewelry and gifts, then you picked the wrong woman. Good luck with that. I am talking about normal women. We want companionship. Camaraderie. I DID take a poll on facebook and got the following from women: kindness, love, respect, humor, listening, support, feeling valued, a best friend, and from my aunt I got "a man who loves his family more than his own life." My aunt did get that in my Uncle Cony by the way, and they've been married yonks and still actually LIKE each other! I got time as an answer as well.

Know what I think men want? Dinner. I think they want dinner. Or that other thing that is not dinner.



Now Dhofari women? The don't need a revolution. Not over this anyway. According to my informant (cool anthropology word of the day), women in Dhofar really have it made. They are busy with other women all the time. They go to parties and gatherings. Many of them have maids, so they can sleep and eat and relax as they please. Some husbands are simply an afterthought. Of course not all Omani husbands are an afterthought....come on. My point is local women have a community and family structure that supports them even if their husbands can't be bothered. My Omani friend said, even in the case of divorce, here in Salalah a father will cut a cow or a camel and have a feast and declare thanks to God that his daughter is returned to him. 

How fun is that? I put great effort into building community for myself here, but it is an effort. I find people with whom I can spend time. Many women here do not have the support of the family and community with which they grew up. So we have to make our own. Because here is the thing. Men see us as demanding and needy. THEIR responses were along the lines of  "limits" and "more." Men..I swanee give me strength.

I guess the upshot of it is, I think wives want their husband's attention. We do want your kindness and your love and your loyalty. We want it all, and we don't think that is too much to ask. In return, we make you comfortable, bear your children (and lose our figures because of it), and keep you company when you need it. We are here for you. We are your shelter from the storm. 

I think my daughter nailed it best of all when I asked her. She said everything. We want everything. Tous. We want it all. So just give it to us k?

On to today's cake. I got a request from a new customer for a "turtle cake." A turtle cake is a chocolate cake smothered in chocolate and caramel sauce and laced with pecans. We don't have pecans here in Salalah that I can find, so I went with walnuts. Walnuts are also yummy.

This is their cake. 

I modified the recipe to double it. I've learned that these pics are NOT the small layers the recipes make. I was correct. A doubled recipe mak)es a gigantic three layer cake.

Turtle Cake

2 eggs
2 c. buttermilk (or 2 c. milk with a teaspoon of vinegar)
1 1/3 c. vegetable oil
4 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. sugar
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2  tbsp. baking soda (this was too much, just do 1)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. freshly brewed hot coffee (my customer didn’t want it…I used regular hot water)

In a stand mixer, blend the eggs, milk, oil, and sugar until creamy. It will be very liquid. Add sifted flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. While mixing, slowly pour in hot water. Mix 2 minutes.

Divide into three 8 inch GREASED AND FLOURED cake pans. Bake 20 mintues at 350 (180C). If you cannot fit all the pans in one oven, refrigerate the other layers. I skipped this step, and shouldn't have. The acid from the baking soda built up by the third layer I think. Not sure, but there were bubbles in the batter. 

Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and cooking completely. 


The chocolate sauce

12 oz chopped chocolate or chocolate bits
1 c. cream

Bring the cream just to the boil. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Do not give into temptation to stir it. It makes the chocolate grainy. Bring to room temperature. Drizzle in gobs over the cake layers. You will probably have extra left.


3 cups of brown sugar. Light is better than dark, but all I had was dark. meh
1 c. cream
squeeze lemon juice
6 T cold butter, cut in chunks

Stir the brown sugar, cream, and lemon over low heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil about five minutes, until sauce is thickened. Don't boil it for too long, or you will have candy that is impossible to spread. Remove from the heat, wait 10 minutes, then incorporate the butter. When the caramel is at room temperature, whip until smooth and creamy. This recipe makes a LOT of sauce, more than needed for the cake. Refrigerate the leftovers for ice cream or something.

A CAUTION: This cake is too big. Just don't do it in three giant layers. Take the recipe back by half and make a two layer cake, or three short layers.

My cake. The family that ordered it will all require trips to the dentist!

I enjoyed writing this post and all the fun discussions at work that went with my "research." I do remember an elderly lady who frequented a salon where I worked as a younger woman. She advised all of us not to let our spouses get lonely. "A lonely husband is not good ladies. Neither is a lonely wife."


Felicia El Aid

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Freakin Wind Is Here!

I can hear it howling outside the window now. I heard it howling around my classroom yesterday. The wind has arrived. Dirt sifted onto stairwells, sand and dust in every crevice of your house, and a fine grit ground into your skin, tear ducts, ears, and.....oops. Never mind. For those who don't wear a hijab, hair gets coated with grime too.

I love it. It's my favorite time of year. Know why? Because it means cool weather is here. It actually gets down to the low 20s! (That's Celsius Americanos....70s F). Tis glory. So good. We get to cool off without the constant mist that accompanies kareef. Sometimes, I am actually cold.

It's winter in Salalah. East Coast Americans read it and weep. I am cold at 70 degrees with a light wind. You are freezing your bazoombas off at below 0. Hah! Ha ha ha.

We celebrated the coming of winter by going to Faziya beach. If you haven't been there, you really should. For readers abroad, it's worth the trip to Salalah. Truly it's hard to find a beach like this anywhere in the world. One has to drive into the mountains (and they ain't foothills either) then down 6 km to the beach below. You have a long stretch of rather isolated beach hemmed in by ancient desert cliffs. Shockin beautiful.

Barbecued fish and burgers, a fire, and walks and talks with good friends make life livable away from home. I've been terribly homesick the last few weeks and it was a gift to walk down the beach and talk with my girlfriends. I looked at one of them, and her husband doing silly dances by the fire, and felt grateful for the moment. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to get through it all right?

A still clean Faziya. Let's keep it that way.

On the way

Like swimming on the moon eh? However, I didn't bring cake.These are pictures from other trips...I didn't bring a camera this weekend. 

The cake of the day was Vanilla Bundt Cake by I Am Baker. The woman is out of control, but making good money with her blog cum website now. Her work is beautiful and her recipes reliable. The only modification I made was to throw in about a cup and a half of chocolate chips.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream the sugar and butter in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, creaming thoroughly between eggs. Add the milk and vanilla and continue mixing for about 2 minutes. Sift the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and blend into the batter.

Pour into a WELL greased and floured bundt pan and bake approximately 30 minutes, until a toothpick tests clean.

Let the cake rest 10 minutes before flipping onto a plate. Cool completely before glazing. I didn't wait the full 10 minutes as SOMEBODY was rushing me out the door. But really. Wait. If you don't, bits of the cake will stick to the pan and it won't be very pretty.

For the glaze, I mix about a cup of confectioners sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and about 3 tablespoons of cream. It should run down the sides of the cake, but not too much. Mine was a bit thick, so it kinda gobbed on the top. Again, A CERTAIN PERSON was rushing me. Fortunately, my regular customer said it was the best one yet. Hooray!

Joy the Baker's cake. Come on.

My cake, without glaze. Note what happens when you don't wait 10 minutes.

A new week starts tomorrow. Classes are almost finished and exams are right around the corner. Before I know it,  it will be June and my third teaching year in Salalah will be over. Alarming how fast time goes by isn't it? I also feel like my blog post today is a little weak, but I can't be a genius every dang time, can I? 


Felicia El Aid

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


You know what Salalah is replete with? Large women. Glorious, black-swathed big ladies. I feel like the smallest cow in the pasture. Seriously. Squishy bodies here are more acceptable than anyplace I've ever been in my life (except for, perhaps, certain bars in Livermore Falls, Maine).

For most of my life, I've felt a bit overstuffed. Some years have been more overstuffed than others. Salalah was a revelation. Although diet centers are an exploding business, local ladies are NOT going there to lose weight for their looks.

They are going because being huge is killing them. They are going because doctors are telling them they can't bear children safely anymore. They are going because they are diabetic. But they aren't going in order to look prettier or more attractive to men. Here, Omani ladies have beauty all under control at size 20 and up. I once mentioned to an Omani acquaintance that I thought I should lose some weight. He shook his and said, "No. Not good." He wasn't being cheeky; he's much too respectable a guy for that. Just honest. Of course I am the queen of the overshare so perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it all. Ok...I definitely shouldn't have mentioned it. Let's just say I was testing out my theory that lots of Arab men prefer a lass with a generous badonkadonk.

When I traveled to India after being in Salalah for a few months, I wasn't there twenty-four hours before I felt, well, fat again. I was again aware of my overstuffed nature. It irritated me that I, a reasonably smart woman, felt so influenced by the society around me. I couldn't wait to return to Oman and resume my loose flowy clothes and my casual attitude about being plushy.

I hope it doesn't change too much in the coming years, but change is coming nevertheless. The younger girls I teach talk about being slim and dieting a lot now. Indian and Western advertising is finally having an influence here as Dhofar modernizes. So they are drinking the kool aid. I sure hope they don't change completely, so that they become like Americans and admire bodies the size of swizzle sticks.

Do I want Omani women to be healthier? Of course. Diabetes is rampant in the Gulf. Walk into Lulus and Nutella isn't a few jars on a's an homage to chocolate butter in a giant pyramid. Never mind that I want to hug all of it. Check back with me in ten years. Maybe I will no longer be the smallest cow in the pasture. I ain't changin a whole lot though...let the world spin on. I have Nutella to eat.

Loathsome creature.

I am in no way implying this resembles local women. Or myself. 

It is actually very difficult to find pictures of Dhofari women online. It is even harder to TAKE a picture, and even if I did, I wouldn't post it publicly. It just isn't on. Instead, you get a picture of a chunky belly dancer. Enjoy.

The cake of the day came in a box. I know. I'm sorry. I did a box cake last time, but I DID do homemade frosting. I had to. A neighbor left a box of Betty Crocker cheesecake mix at my door. Just like a baby in a basket. I opened my door, looked down, and it was staring up at me.

So I made it. They are fairly respectable as far as box mixes go. Can a mix compare to cheesecake made from scratch? No. But they are pretty tasty anyway! I don't have a picture of the finished product. Once again my husband was doing that inconvenient job thing. I am too cheap to go buy another tablet/phone thingie after dropping the last crap tablet and breaking it. Ah well. 

Isn't this exciting? I will give you a hint. They don't look this thick in real life. You need two boxes for that. Cheaters. 

I have two cakes to make today. For money. You may have noticed I no longer make a cake a day. As I explained, it's just too dang expensive. I also modified my blog description to say a year of cakes. Just not every day. It's like it never happened! Isn't the delete button wonderful? 


Felicia El Aid

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hot Town Thursday Night In Salalah

I missed it all. Another rockin night in lala land. First the Oasis had a bbq with open mic night, so any expat with delusions of grandeur, too much beer in the belly, or MAYBE even actual talent, could get up and sing. Then, the Hilton had one of it's occasional beach parties, with DJ Bassom justa pumpin' out the tunes. He's a great guy, don't get me wrong, but unless it's old school music, I can't bring myself to move away from my shisha and dance.

And oh how I love to dance. I really do.

I just couldn't do it. I couldn't go to either party. Something deep in my soul rebelled. Another party night in Salalah? Nope. Can't do it for awhile. I suspect you know the feeling. You've lived here for awhile. There are only a few places to go that serve "western" food and...let's say it...booze. The Oasis even serves pork, utterly unheard of anywhere else in Dhofar, except the military base. Somehow, after a couple years, the luster of an expat club wears off. I know some people who still go every Thursday, some who go just about nightly, and many who don't bother anymore.

I wanted something else. I wanted what I can't have. I wanted variety. I wanted choice. I wanted to go for a drive and try a new restaurant. Anything but the same thing. The Rotana won. We had a nice meal, amid the caterwauling of Omani babies and children running pell-mell around the restaurant. I cared for about ten minutes about the kiddos, because I have that New England Puritanical thinking that children should be seen and not heard at restaurants, then I got over it and ate seafood until my jaws hurt. It was lovely.

See we can't have variety here. That's just how it is. Time to get over it right? Time to be thankful there are lots of nice people where ever I go here in Salalah, who know me and wish me well. Time to be thankful it's ISN'T an anonymous city with thousands of options. If you walk into the Oasis, or the Hilton, or the Crowne on a Thursday night, the waiters know who you are. Friends will be there. Gossip will be shared and drama observed. Who is with who now? Who's zooming who? What's the scoop? At the Hilton, clothes will be tight, eyebrows perfectly penciled, and the Arab women dressed like it's prom night every night.

Come to think of it, what was I thinking? I missed it! I didn't see any of my buddies become Salalah superstars at open mic night! I didn't see the fabulous ripped jeans painted over awe inspiring hips, sparkly blouses, or any of the full length gowns and high heels worn at the Hilton. I didn't see my Filipino friend of a certain "orientation" tell me I am a FANTASTIC dancer! I missed it all. Sob!

Ah well. I had a good meal. Know what? One good thing about Salalah is if you miss it one night, you can surely catch it the next time around.

Beach Party (used with permission)

This cake was a box cake with Twinkie frosting. A Twinkie is a revolting American mass produced pastry. I did think the frosting using Marshmallow Fluff (available at Lulus) would be great for people with strong teeth. It also makes a pretty cake.

To make this, prepare a two layer box cake of your choice of flavor. You can certainly make a cake from scratch if that is your preference. The frosting recipe is really for a three layer cake, frosted as you see it in the picture. On two layers, it's a shocking amount of frosting!

Twinkie Frosting
(forgot where I found it)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 t. vanilla
2 cups Fluff
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

In a mixer, blend the butter and cream until creamy. Add the fluff and whip. Add the vanilla and blend. Slowly add the confectioners sugar and whip on high until light. Frost your cake.

Clearly I am no longer doing a cake a day, but I still make a lot of cakes, usually to order. I hope this one is satisfactory!


Felicia El Aid

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Muslim Grammy

Being a Muslim at Christmas time presents a quandry for me. What is a loving grandmother to do this time of year? I grew up with Christmas, for crying out loud. It's a deeply embedded piece of my cultural milieu, so to speak. For years, I really couldn't be bothered. I stopped decorating and ordered gifts for my grown children over the internet. The whole Christmas thing creates so much pressure for so many people. Too much money is spent, too many people place so much emphasis on every moment being joyous that they don't have much joy at all. That was kinda me. However, my daughters love Christmas, and all the wonderful decorations that come with it.

But I'd had enough. When I converted to Islam, I really let go of the pressure. Now I have this:

 Complete game changer.
And I want to buy this:

Or something equally tacky!

Opinions vary on this topic. Can we celebrate Christmas if we are not Christians? Welp, millions do it every year, to the annoyance and sometimes outrage of devoted Christians. Christmas is part of the cultural makeup now, and for many people it's a celebration separated from Christianity. For Muslims who grew up in countries where it is a non-event, this seems pretty odd. UnIslamic even. I spoke with a friend, another convert to Islam, who said he tried not to "do" Christmas, but simply couldn't bear it. It goes too deep into the psyche to ignore. His Arabic wife is understanding, and now even though she could not care less about December 25th, they observe it in a small way.

This year I am going to put up a few decorations. Not doing so simply depresses me. You can get a few things here. Carrefour has a small collection of decorations put in the farthest corner possible. Lulus is more overt. Home Centre has a display at the front of the store as you walk in, with several delightfully tacky artificial trees and enough ornaments to make a respectable display. I also have my eye on a Santa cookie jar. The lack of hoopla is a decided relief after suffering through months of excess back in the States, I must say. And as we speak, I am checking out the selection of baby girl Christmas dresses for my little buttercup back in America. Her parents, who are also decidedly not Christians, will go haywire this year celebrating the holidays. As I said, we have a game changer now. I can't do otherwise. 

As for cakes, I made my own recipe again. Once you make 20 cakes from other recipes, you start to get an eye for what is wrong with someone else's directions. I made another brown sugar cake for my regular client, but changed a few things.

This is the cake, without frosting

I would have done a simple glaze, but the client wanted chocolate frosting. No pic for that!

Brown Sugar Amaretto Cake
(with halal alternative)

1 1/2 cup butter, softened but cool

1 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed

5 eggs

1 cup milk

1/4 cup amaretto liquer OR 1 t imitation almond extract for halal cake (if using extract, increase milk by 1/4 cup)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F or 180 C

Grease and flour bundt pan. Place chopped walnuts in bottom of pan and set aside. Sift dry ingredients and set aside. On medium, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Add the milk and flour mix alternately in thirds, mixing just to incorporate. Blend in amaretto or almond extract. 

Gently spoon over walnuts and smooth. Bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick tests clean.

I really like the brown sugar sponge. It has a caramel taste that a white sugar frosting lacks, and tastes more homely with tea than white cake. 

Bon appetit as my beloved Julia Child used to say!


Felicia El Aid

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The day is almost upon us and really, I am fairly well bummed out. Thanksgiving is a puzzler to people outside America (and possibly Canada). It isn't a religious holiday; it is a day to be thankful for what you have. It is a day to eat shocking amounts of food, possibly go shoot a deer, and watch a football game. And no, I don't mean a soccer game.

My kids will be rounded up at tables heaving with food. There has to be a turkey front and center. Stuffed, and not with any weird tasting, Saveur magazine recipe crud. Gravy is critical, as is pumpkin pie. My mother used to make candied yams, a truly revolting mixture. Picture yams (already a questionable vegetable) smothered in small marshmallows, then baked. She also made some yacky thing from the 1950's with whipped cream and cocktail fruit, and MULTICOLORED mini marshmallows called "ambrosia." Twasn't ambrosiac atall. We wouldn't eat that either. We teased her mercilessly about cutting up the turkey innards into the gravy (called giblets) until I just took over the whole process.

My mom worked her butt off at Thanksgiving, once she moved back to Maine.We ate off paper plates at the table...none of the fancy china for our crew. Washing up was too much work. Of course we helped, but it was her show. Then my mother got a little tired. Then she got cancer. She recovered from that cancer, and planned a move to Florida. We had a last Thanksgiving dinner at her place, after she married her high school sweetheart (long past the point when he was sweet I might add) and I waved goodbye to her in Clinton, Maine on a late November day, I think it was. She seemed fine. One the way to Florida, she suffered a massive stroke. My siblings and I flew to Florida in shifts, and during my turn, once she was out of the hospital, she tried to cook a turkey.

She put it in the oven raw and frozen the night before, and cooked it for a couple hours. Then she left it there, thinking she could finish it the next day. I'd just arrived from Maine and she was really excited about her sister and brother in law  coming over for a very late in the season turkey dinner. What do you say to someone who is brain damaged, and can no longer cook the dinners she's done all her adult life? I quietly called my aunt and we went out and bought a couple pre-cooked chickens, and I teased her a bit about trying to kill us all, just to make her laugh it off.

Mom got a little better, but now has Parkinson's disease, lung cancer, and dementia related to the Parkinsons. She has a great outlook on her situation much of the time. I suppose having dementia helps, in a perverse way. And here I am. I honestly try not to think about it very much. I haven't had a real Thanksgiving dinner for a few years now. I've tried. An American friend and I had a fun Thanksgiving last year, with friends from all over the world. My mom and her husband went to Cracker Barrel. I guess I am thankful that Thanksgiving isn't a huge deal here. I am insulated from all the stresses the holidays bring; unfortunately I am also insulated from much of the joy.

By the way, my mom knows how to cuss. If she knew about this cake challenge, she'd tell me I'd gone bats**t crazy!

My mother's youngest sister, me, and Mom, at 20 years old.

Tonight's cake was a special order, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I have a yellow cake recipe on hand, which you can double. Even better, go buy a box of cake mix. Hah! I've also figured out another angle these cake makers use. The cakes pictured are three layers, not two. When the heck did three layer cakes become the done thing! Crimanitly. (Pronounced crime-ah-nit-lee). 

Her Cake

1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder

  1. Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  2. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
  5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
This recipe really does make a great deal of frosting. You can frost three layers with this, and not be stingy with the coating. I will post my pic later. I dropped my crappy tablet and it broke to smithereens, so we will all have to wait until my husband returns home. It really looks yummy.


Felicia El Aid

Monday, November 24, 2014

Football? That Ain't Football!

I never watched football before coming to Oman. You know what football looks like to an Americano? This:

Go Patriots!
Oh wait. This is football:


The other stuff is soccer. 

Just a tad different. Bless them.

The problem is, nobody here gives a crud about football. Er...American football. Outside America, everybody watches football. Er...I mean soccer. Sweet heavens it's confusing for a Stateside girl. I listen to people scoff about my football. It's a ridiculous game, I've heard, with all that padding and the constant penalty calls. Hardly worth watching at all. Honestly, I don't understand half of what I'm seeing either. I still love it. Yeah, I understand that soccer is a game with more finesse. I get that it is "real" football. I just can't connect with that game the way I connect with football. Football is violent and exciting, and the best players are American gods. We know nobody else cares about the Green Bay Packers, or the New York Giants, or the New England Patriots. But any given Sunday during the season, we care. We care a lot. We care about Friday nights, when we go to the local high school in our hometowns and watch the boys play the game. It is the quintessential American experience. Yes, American students play soccer. You know who goes to those games? Their mothers. 

But I live in Salalah now. I adapt. I watch football games with my husband sometimes, and I tuned in to the FIFA games with my son in law occasionally so I could stay lateral with my Oman buddies. It's cool enough. But it ain't football. 

Moving on to cake, last night's cake was a simple yellow cake. I planned to get all crazy cooking a three layer pumpkin cake with marscapone frosting, but someone wanted a simple, inexpensive cake for tea. So that is what I made. It was boring. It was so boring, I forgot to take a picture. 

1 cup flour 
2/3 cup sugar 
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 cup shortening 
1/2 cup buttermilk 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 egg 

Preheat oven to 350? 
Grease an 8 inch square baking pan. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add shortening, milk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat for 30 seconds more. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Allow cake to cool before frosting. 

As for a cake a day, it would take a miracle. I calculated the cost over a year (perhaps should have thought that one through at the start) and figure it is about 3000 usd. No can do. I will continue to bake for my standing order on Wednesdays, and for loved ones, and a challenge cake weekly. Something like that. I can always write, and perhaps eat cake the other days. Haha. I will think of something.


Felicia El Aid. aka Epic Cake Challenge Failure

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Garbage! Garbage Everywhere!

Let's talk about trash shall we? When I came here from India, which unfortunately has gigantic amounts of trash, I thought Salalah looked pretty clean. It isn't. It gets dirtier all the time. There are easily accessible dustbins all around the city, yet trash is flung from cars and left on the beach with disregard that leaves me breathless.

And grumpy. It makes me grumpy as all get out, as my dear old grandma used to say. Yes, we have people who routinely pick through the trash as they look for enough plastic and cardboard boxes in order to piece together a meal. It certainly helps, though not the way a good recycling center would. Back home (and how I hate it when we all whinge on about "back home"), but back home recycling is almost like a religion. Tin cans and glass containers are separated and put into different bins. Paper goes in another bin. If you are like some of my family, food leftovers are composted for a garden. Obviously that particular aspect of life is dying out as people give up gardening for their own food, but it is part of the mindset. Fanatical recycle-rs used to annoy the crud out of me. I kinda get it now. You know what my epiphany was? I went swimming in a cove in Mirbat the other weekend.

I had to get out of the water. As I waded out, I saw that my legs were surrounded by soda bottles and potato chip bags. It was gross. Gross and discouraging. What's next? Faziya? I have watched families on beaches bbq, then simply leave all their junk right where it was. The good news is there is a movement afoot to clean up Oman. Alhamdulilah.

I will be the first to admit my carbon footprint stinks. We consume too much water out of plastic bottles; we throw away a lot of stuff. Honestly, I'm not sure I can easily become one of those people who sorts everything into a separate bin, to be collected from the side of the road by the trash patrol, to be taken to a recycling center. However, "back home," it's the law. You can't even drop a cigarette on the ground without getting a fine should a passing police officer sees you. Society doesn't like it either. Someone sees you leave a butt on the ground, or your doggie leaving his digested dinner in a big pile on the sidewalk, and they will correct your behavior. People freak out over trash.

Even India is trying to change, despite the shocking level of trash created by a large population living in very tight quarters. Plastic bags are losing favor quickly. Shop keepers are likely to wrap your goods in a newspaper. A entire cottage industry exists now of  smarties making bags out of newspapers! Last time I was in Kerala, I felt I saw a difference. I can't say for sure, but it seemed cleaner. Bravo. I hope Oman continues to be the place where "Beauty Has An Address."

Photo taken from a Times of Oman article

Jumping from trash to's that for a transition...I triumphantly announce I made a cake that is my very own recipe. I took a few clues from the pound cakes I've already made, and modified this and that. I am quite happy with the result. I reduced the sugar, increased the baking powder, and used cream instead of milk. It's delish. I even woke up this morning and saw a wee nibble taken from it, with the slice tucked back into the cake. 

Felicia's Pound Cake

1 c. butter, softened but cool
2 c. sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
3 c. flour, sifted
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c. whipping cream
1 t coconut extract
1 t almond extract
1 t vanilla

Be aware that pound cake lends itself to any old flavor extract you have on hand. It's that awesome.

Beat butter and sugar in a mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and continue beating until light and creamy. Add extracts and blend. 

Sift dry ingredients and fold into sugar mix, alternating with cream. Pour into a greased and floured bundt or loaf pan. 

Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick clean. Do not preheat the oven; start the cake cold. I don't know why this works better, but it does.

I did add a glaze later to the mutilated cake. 

Welp, thanks for sticking with me. The cake goes to work tomorrow because I don't need to weigh more than my already awesome....yeah no. Not telling you how much I weigh. 


Felicia El Aid

Gimme That Shisha!

I now have my own pink shisha pipe. For the uninitiated, it's kind of a hookah pipe, like the caterpillar smoked in Alice in Wonderland. Before moving to Salalah, I thought these pipes were used for nefarious substances (such as the aforementioned caterpillar smoked). They aren't. Instead, they are filled at the top with lovely carcinogenic tobaccos, flavored with apple, mint, watermelon, grape..all kinds of things.

It's brilliant. How I love it. I never used to touch the stuff. They looked difficult, and the women smoking them far more exotic than myself. Beautiful Arabic women, makeup always exquisite, sitting and smoking a hookah and chatting about...whatever. It's still mostly gibberish to me. I smoked only occasionally and usually knocked the pipe over in front of everyone, because I am basically a graceless dolt. And I was warned. A Lebanese friend told me if I smoked very often, I would want to tap a vein. Woe unto me, how right she was.

It happened when one of my besties from England came to visit. We went out with the husbands just about every night, because showing her a good time during her visit was priority one. I had a shisha every time. People, it's like crack. Erm..not that I would actually KNOW what crack is like. But I've heard. After she went back home, I started jonesing hard. Oh my dear heavens. It's been a trial and a tribulation for my husband. I beg. I plead. Finally, I got an overtime check from the college and had to go buy my own. They aren't that expensive...just kind of needless. My husband accompanied me, and advised. I insisted on a big one with a pink and blue one and a matching blue wand, because with my new eyebrows, I am all about style baby. All about style. And here I sit, huffing away like near professional, little plastic smoker thingie clenched between my teeth while I write to y'all. My heart could just burst with joy.

According to the CDC (that bastion of joy crushing) smoking hookah tobacco isn't any better for you than cigarettes. The charcoal carries all kinds of crap to your lungs, just like cigarettes do. There is still a high risk or oral, bladder, and lung cancer. I get it. Honestly, it appears it's even worse for me than smoking a pack of cigarettes. But I love it. I love sitting with my Arabic friends and listening to them chatter, then they translate to me the latest Salalah gossip. And now, I am going to sit on the roof in my thobe and watch Mehdi barbecue some fish for dinner. Life is good people. Life is good, if perhaps now a bit shorter. Peace out.

Rock on with that, rock star.

The cake of the day was a white cake flavored with orange blossom water instead of vanilla. Orange blossom and rose water are very common flavorings in the Middle East, and I wanted to see how that would taste. I heard the cake was fine. I sent it to a friend as a late birthday cake! I have another cake in the oven...I have kept to my cake a day, but due to epic fails with the internet, I didn't do a blog post yesterday. Meh. I will double up on recipes tomorrow. I know you can't wait.

1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 egg whites
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 3 (8-inch) round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper, and grease and flour paper.
2. Stir together milk and vanilla.
3. Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift together flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
4. Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form; gently fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pans.
5. Bake at 350° for 20 to 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; discard parchment paper. Cool completely (about 40 minutes).

Their cake. Not gonna happen. Maybe someday, but not today.

I love bundt cakes. So this is what I did with the batter. The glaze is a simple mix of confectioners sugar, cream, and almond extract.

I realize I am not challenging myself too much with the latest cakes. Perhaps tomorrow. Once I get in a groove, maybe I can approach layer cakes again. Right now, not so much.


Felicia El Aid

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Candy Crush Salalah

If you play Candy Crush, there are people out there who want to strangle you. Yeah, you.

I'm not sure if this game has taken over life in America, but it certainly dominates the adult world here in Salalah. Eating at a restaurant and no one at the table is talking? People looking at their mobiles? Yeah...they're playing Candy Crush. Me? I've been on level 87 for over a year. I just couldn't take it anymore. The stress of getting stuck on a level, the braggadocio among "crushers" (my name for them) as they state what level they have achieved, and the scornful laugh of others who eschew the whole thing just became, well, not fun.

Wives gesture at their husbands now as the man sits glued to his phone and just says to others, "Candy Crush." People kind of laugh with understanding. If they are also married to a crusher, they understand that she has become worse than a golf widow. Candy widows? Yeah, Salalah is full of them.

According to the Guardian, Candy Crush is played by about 93 million people, more than a billion times a day. What! Why? Ok, it's free. It doesn't take massive amounts of time. I know it feels like it takes up loads of your crusher's time, especially if you are a crusher widow, but it really doesn't. Just look at the hours hardcore gamers spend locked in front of a computer or television screen, doing all that fancy multi-player alien killing stuff, and you will see that the five lives given by King enterprises doesn't take much time at all. And most people won't pay for extra lives. So relax. Truly it could be worse.

It could also be better people. Not to get all preachy, but the world is cold enough without all of us spending time around a table glued to our smart phones. My daughters don't do it. The Nintendo their grandmother gave them spent most of the time on top of the refrigerator. There was a handheld Nintendo thingie kicking around the house for awhile, but since I didn't allow them to hit the crack pipe of gaming at the beginning, none of these things actually "stuck" with my kiddos. Not to get all superior on you all, but I made them pick up a book. Or go play outside. Weird, old fashioned things like that.

So yes, keep playing Candy Crush oh lala land peeps. But put your dang mobile down tonight when you have dinner with your mates and talk. Even if it is just to swap Candy Crush hints. I won't listen though, cause I am too busy playing Farm Heroes.

Today's cake was a Cinnamon Roll Cake. I wanted to make my friend something that would lend itself to a caramel sauce, something he likes a lot. It didn't work out very well, and I don't recommend this recipe. I really don't think it was me this time either. This cake is just...too heavy. meh

Their cake. 

1 1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 T butter, melted
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T cinnamon
2/3 cups nuts (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar
5 T milk
1 tsp vanilla

With an electric mixer or stand-up mixer, mix 3 cups flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Once combined well, slowly stir in 4 T melted butter. Pour batter into a greased 9×13″ baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix the 2 sticks of softened butter, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons  flour, cinnamon, and nuts until well combined. Drop evenly over cake batter by the tablespoon and use a knife to marble/swirl through the cake. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out nearly clean from center. Place powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake. Serve warm (we like it straight out of the oven) or at room temperature.

I don't have a picture of my cake yet. Probably a good thing. I delivered the cake before taking a pic. But hey...if he send me one, I shall post it!

Seriously? Got the pic! At least they are eating it. But that is another fugly cake.


Felicia El Aid