Jillian R.
I was in the shower when I thought of this story and thought I would share. Yeah, I don't know why the shower, I guess I'm always thinking about things in the shower because I always do everything in the same order so I use the time to reflect on y'know, things...

I was kept in the hospital for 24 hours after giving birth to the baby. I gave birth late in the evening so I was all pumped up with adrenaline (or excitement or happiness, I don't know) and didn't sleep a wink that night. Eric paid for a cot and slept in our room, he slept like a baby, along with the real baby; Scarlett. Hence, I spent the whole night reading articles online on my slow mobile internet and oh, Facebook. Thank God for good ol' Facebook, there's always someone around.

The next morning however, the adrenaline wore off and I was finally feeling drowsy. Eric had to drive home to pick up some items for me and the baby because I was admitted so suddenly that we forgot a lot of things - like a baby blanket, poor Scarlett spent the night wrapped in a terry cloth towel.

So I was dozing off when the nurse came in to give the baby a bath. I was more than happy to let her bathe Scarlett because I didn't know how to bathe babies and was relying on my post-natal; doula to show me when we all got home. Anyway, getting to watch and learn right there in the hospital was great.

However, the nurse turned out to be really nosy, and I wished I had just stayed in bed and pretended to be asleep!

First of all, it's almost a daily occurrence that Filipinos here just assume that I am one of them and start speaking rapid Tagalog to me. Since moving here three years ago, "Are you Filipino?" has quickly become one of the most popular questions Filipinos ask me. I don't get it though, why do Filipinos assume that every Asian is one of them. Asian friends in other countries tell me the same thing, we all share the same feelings about the phrase "Are you Filipino?". There's nothing wrong with being Filipino, I just can't understand why they never ask "Where are you from?" instead of just assuming. There are even some who ARGUE with me where I come from (why does it even matter?!).

The Other Person: Are you Filipino?
Me: No, I'm Malaysian
Person: But you look Filipino

No, I don't.

Anyway, the nurse came in and the first thing out of her was "You Filipina?"
Me: No, I'm Malaysian

So she tells me she was there to bathe the baby, I said okay and as she was setting up the bath;

Nurse: You look like Filipino
Me: Yeah, I've been told (I don't. Not even a little)
Nurse: Your husband is Malaysian?
Me: *Thinks "Omg, really?" * No
Nurse: Where is he from?
Me: The States
Nurse: Do you work?
Me: *REALLY??* No
Nurse: Housewife?
Me: Yeah
Nurse: Your husband work?
Me: Yeah
Nurse: What is his work?
Me: Is the water warm?
Nurse: Yes, where do you stay?
Me: *I told her the area where we live* (I don't know why I told her, she wore me down!)
Nurse: Is it near *quotes a random place on the other end of Abu Dhabi*?
Me: No, it's on the other side
Nurse: I don't know it

I walked back to my bed, if I hadn't her next question would probably be when do I get my periods!

See! So annoying, I felt like I was being interrogated! Some people have no boundaries! The interrogation (and probably judging) continues after the bath.

Nurse: Do you have clean clothes for baby?
Me: No, her father went home to get some (we brought only one onesie thinking babies don't get dirty within 24 hours - they don't). The one she wore is still clean, just put her in it.
Nurse: How come you don't bring clean clothes?
Me: ...because her father is bringing some now!

She then reluctantly dressed Scarlett and left us alone. The same nurse tended to me a few more times but Eric was there and strangely she never asked me any more questions. 

Probably scared off by the sight of a bald, scruffy guy who hadn't had enough sleep in two days!
Jillian R.
I thought the Maid from Hell (MFH) chapter has been concluded, but I was wrong. Here's another "gem" of a story.

First though, we now live in a community. It is no longer city living where it's every apartment for themselves and people suffering in silence should anything go wrong until the problem goes away (although it hardly ever does). No, we are now in a large community with a closely moderated Facebook group where people here rant about anything from parking problems, to reporting nannies with unattended children, asking about where to buy organic artisan bread to classifieds.

So after my ordeal with MFH, I posted on the group warning people that there was a very unreliable housemaid/nanny working within the community and should anyone need or be interested in more information to message me directly and I would release her name. I must have had at least 20-30 requests within the 12 hour period that I had the post up until one woman (who probably is a maid herself) had to ruin it for everyone - I won't get into that, I don't want to offend.

To the people, mostly women who were interested, I sent MFH's name and only that she was late every day the first week, two hours late throughout the second and third week and not even showing up sometimes without so much as a courtesy call. No, I didn't say anything about her folding my glossy cookbook nor her below-standard cleaning methods.

Apparently, that was enough.

Two days after the group post I got a call from her - so her phone works after all!! She sounded like she was crying on the phone, otherwise that was some pathetic voice she made up to get sympathy.

Then the lies started.

At first, she asked if I complained about her on the group, because several of the households she was working for asked her what she did, and one of them apparently wanted their key back (I never gave her our key, thank heavens!). I said I did, and then launched into a long-ish lecture about how she can't treat people this way, all I wanted from her was a courtesy call if she was to be late or can't show up for work.

She apologized and said everything was her fault - which was nice of her I suppose, instead of arguing. It was the lies that I couldn't forgive! Here are some of the things she said to get me to remove the post (which was already removed at that point)

- Cited personal problems; "It's all my fault, I have a lot of personal problems
(Then she shouldn't have bitten off more than she can chew, I think she was working for at least eight households in our community)

- "My phone dropped into the toilet on Thursday (yes, just mentioned a random day!) so I couldn't call you"
(I didn't know what Thursday she was talking about, but she got all my messages fine and still had my phone number so that was an obvious lie, like I said, this girl isn't very smart!)

- I was saying she was late every time and sometimes not even showing up. She said "...but I thought you didn't want me to come"
(WHAT? Then why did I tell her time and time again that I waited for her without her turning up? Another desperate lie)

- After all that, here was the cherry on the cake! "If you need help, I have friends that I can recommend to help you, madam"
(To which I replied "NO! I don't want any more help from you!)

- Then seeing that I wasn't buying her lies, she tried to turn it on me; "but you told me not to come"
(Yes, yes I did, but that was the day she was already an hour late and got herself fired)

She went on with a few more lies but I was no longer listening. I did hear that she was barred from coming into our community (we have guard houses at all the entrances). I felt bad for a second before I reminded myself that someone could possibly waited for her to babysit and having her not turn up and consequently miss an important meeting.

At that point, Scarlett started crying so I told her I hoped she learnt her lesson, good luck and hung up. 

I think she has effectively put me off all maids. Well done!
Jillian R.
As promised, here's my account, or at least what I thought (everything happened so fast and sudden, it still feels quite surreal to me) was baby Scarlett's journey into the world.

Scarlett Sarai R. 

In my previous entry, I wrote that two weeks or so before I gave birth, I went to my OB/GYN who told me that my baby might come that night itself or within the next couple of days as I was 2.5 cm dilated. I immediately panicked as our baby shopping wasn't completed just yet. So, we went home, grabbed my already packed bags (mine and the baby's), threw them in the car and waited for the labor pains to start - and as you all know, nothing happened. Every other day after that, we went and see my OB/GYN who checked me and said "few more days habibi (which means darling, I think), go home and wait!".

The days leading to October 1st rolled by normally, well sort of. I would feel a mild contraction now and then which I dismissed as another Braxton Hicks. It was uncomfortable, but not to the extend that I was immobile or anything. I was still vacuuming, mopping, washing the balcony with buckets of water, cooking and walking my dogs. Little did I know that I was in labor the whole time! Yes, I was in labor for two weeks! A very slow, gradual, painless labor!

On the day of delivery, we went to the OB/GYN for what I thought was another routine check up and would be sent home, again. In fact, I had a pot of fresh, homemade soy milk cooling on the stove. When we got to the doctor's, she told me that I was already 4 cm dilated and I needed to go to the hospital immediately. The fear and shock on my face was apparently quite obvious because she called the head of the anesthesiology department to prep me for my epidural. Yeah, I've been quite a baby about pain my entire life (and always will be) and had been bugging her with lots of questions (some quite unnecessary, I know now) about pain management throughout my pregnancy.

So I got to the hospital at about 5.45 pm and was immediately sent into the delivery room. By the time I saw the anesthesiologist, I was shaking (again, unnecessarily) and I remember asking him what if I moved as he was injecting the epidural needle and become paralyzed. He was a very cheerful chap and told me not to worry. I still worried though, until he said that the first needle is only as thin as an insulin needle, that was KEY! I relaxed considerably because I watch Eric, a diabetic, inject insulin everyday!

After that, I don't really remember what happened; besides shaking violently like I was having a seizure (effects of the epidural), watching "My Cousin Vinny" - which happens to be one of my all time favorites, and texting my family on Whatsapp. At about 6.30 pm; I remember craning my neck to look at the clock which was behind me because I made them put my phone away because I was afraid that the signal would interfere with the baby monitor (I was in labor, nothing I did or say needed to make sense), my OB/GYN came in and told me I was 10 cm dilated and that I was ready, the baby was coming!

I felt nothing! No pain! The relief I felt was enough to get me through the last bit of it all!

Then came the difficult part. Pushing the baby out. I guess because English is not their first language, my midwife and doctor didn't use key words such as "hold your breath then push" so I wasn't pushing right. This was when Eric started guiding me. He was such an amazing birthing coach and by 7.45 pm, baby Scarlett was born!

The pain? Honestly I thought it would be a thousand times worse but it wasn't. I always knew I wasn't brave enough to ever attempt a natural birth without drugs, and I was right, thank god for the epidural! I never felt any pain from the contractions and the baby popping hurt just a second.

After what seemed like the longest time, they cleaned the baby up and placed her in my arms. I did feel all euphoric but not for the reasons that people often tell me about or show on TV, I felt euphoric because I did it, I gave birth, I never thought I could do it.

More to come on how the baby has (or hasn't) changed our lives soon!

Oh yeah, the soy milk had to be thrown out because it sat out for two days and was curdled when we got home :(

Jillian R.
After posting my last entry, I went to my OB/GYN for a check up and was subsequently sent to the hospital to give birth. Baby Scarlett was born on October 1st, a happy, healthy baby. I will post a separate entry about her incredible journey into the world very soon.

For now, here's the conclusion (I know, many of you don't want the saga to end!) to my Maid from Hell (MFH) entries.

In my last entry, I mentioned that I was getting ready to wait for MFH to come clean the house. Well, guess what? She never showed up! We left for the doctor's office about three hours after she was scheduled to show up.

Fast forward two days later, while I was recovering from childbirth, I got a text from her saying she was sorry for not turning up and the reason was, surprise surprise! She was not feeling well! Every time she hasn't turned up so far was because she has a cold, or has severe backache, or hip ache. I don't know, maybe she isn't fit for physical work or something, but let me just say that this girl is 24 years old! I'm 28 this year and I've been cleaning after not one but two furry dogs every day and I don't see myself having such severe back or hip aches!

Anyway, from my hospital cot, with stitches from popping out a human being, I texted her back telling her the baby was born and asked why she didn't even call or text to inform us that she wasn't coming. In the same text I also said that was very unreliable of her. Her response? I'm going to write what she replied verbatim because it's hilarious!

"Congradulation madam. If you think like that its up to u madam. I was on bed all the day yday and didn't get energy to even text to u. Was really sick. When do u need me to come? sory for didn't come yesterday. Thanks. Take care!"

Funny, right? I mean, I just gave birth, and I had no trouble texting. Was her ailment so bad that her fingers were too weak to type a few words?

Anyway, I thought the house had not been cleaned for a few days and we were bringing the baby home, so we might as well have her come in, clean then quickly look for a replacement if necessary. So I told her to come today, 9 am. She agreed. However, she later texted back saying she had another appointment that she had forgotten about (see, she FORGETS appointments!) and could not make it at 9 am, and was 11.30 am alright? See, again, it's like she's the boss, she dictates whatever time she wants to come and work!

Well, in the end I told she could come today at 2.45 pm. She never showed. No text. No call. She got fired via a text message from me. The end.

I think I've had it. I've been running up and down the stairs already anyway, I think I am going to save myself and everyone around me the trouble by just cleaning my own house like I always have. I kind of like to clean anyway.
Jillian R.
This is it, the final entry for the month of September. I'm actually quite proud of myself. In the midst of all the moving, unpacking, pregnancy and maid drama, I managed to squeeze in five entries this month. 

Here's just a quick update on the baby.

My actual due date is in 10 days. Yes, 10 days!! I'm going through a roller coaster of emotions that I can't even begin to describe. Besides fearing the pain of childbirth - which I STILL don't know why every mother tells me that I will forget once the baby is in my arms; I mean, how can you forget the pain of another human being coming out of you when it's not easy to forget the pain of the morning after a very spicy meal (you know what I mean?)?

Anyway, yes, besides fearing the pain of giving birth, I'm afraid of all the usual things, will my baby be allergic to my dogs? Because there's no way we're giving up our dogs. It's not even a thought that should enter anyone's heads that they should give up a pet, whose basically family just because they are having a baby. You find ways around it. There's the fear of not knowing what to do with the baby (although we have engaged a post natal doula) and a myriad of other concerns, some crazier than others...

A week ago, we went to my OBGYN who told us that the baby was coming either that night itself, or within the next couple of days - 19 days early. Now, I honestly don't know why she would say that and get our hopes up and not to mention sending me into a panicky frenzy. So we came home and got prepared for the birth. So that was a week ago, up till today, no baby! It's been getting a bit tiresome driving in the city every other day, and like I said before the doctor just sends me home to wait some more.

This is it for today. I have to go shower and get ready for the Maid from Hell's arrival. I have some heavy household chores for her to do today which I really shouldn't be doing myself in my condition. And yes, do not worry, any incompetence shall be well documented in my next entry!
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Jillian R.
First of, some pregnancy updates. I had mild contractions all night, and during the more intense ones I'd go "this is it!" but they either faded away or made me want to go pee again. So, slept through the discomfort and woke up at 3.30 am like every other night and couldn't go back to sleep until 4.30 am - like every other night.

Now, an update on the post yesterday about my Maid from Hell (MFH). In her text to me 10 minutes before she was supposed to show up for work, she asked if instead of her usual afternoon shift, she could start work at 8 am this morning. Oh yeah, she just sets her own work time and then asks me if it's alright. Since I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon and having her work in the morning is really more convenient anyway, I agreed. I was also hoping to get our money that she owed and my cookbook back.

I really wasn't expecting her to arrive on time, and just like I thought, she arrived 10 minutes late. And here's where it gets a little funny. She told me she had the cold yesterday and was still not feeling quite well - to be fair, she did sound like she had the cold. She said she dropped by to pay us the money and return my cookbook but was it okay if she skipped work today. I said alright. Then, she adds "I'll come tomorrow at 12.45 pm". Really, it's like, she's the boss, deciding when she shows up for work; but what was I supposed to do? A person with the flu (if she really has it, or else she's quite a good actress) drops by, pays me and says she doesn't want to infect a pregnant me with the cold and I fire her? What kind of monster would I be?

Anyway, I agreed to let her come in to work tomorrow afternoon - but I don't really know what will be left for her to do.

See, I had wanted her to clean my balcony in our bedroom, which has no hose. So to clean it, one would have to carry a bucket of water from the bedroom's attached bathroom out there and rinse it. I really didn't want to be carrying buckets of water but I thought if I waited for my MFH, it will never ever get done. So I did it myself. It is now all sparkly and clean. The "winter" season is coming up in the UAE (which is not really winter, it is more like a warm fall) and we are planning to sit out on the balcony sipping tea!

I then went outside and hose down my backyard too. Every thing is pretty much done. What's left for the MFH to do?
Jillian R.
I'm 38 weeks pregnant and am swollen, achy and in pain almost all day, every day. Every other day, we drive 45 mins (it used to be a 20 min drive from our apartment, then we moved) into the city to see my OBGYN who checks up on me and tells me to go home and wait for my cervix to dilate some more. I was 2.5 cm dilated last week. At this point, every time I see her, I beg her to induce labor but every time she says it's better to just wait. So I reluctantly come home and wait. Not. Happy.

Anyway, in spite of all the pain and discomfort I'm going through, I have to deal with my maid from hell (MFH).

To understand my predicament, allow me start from the beginning. When we moved into our new villa, we had to sell our two year old range cooker which I really, REALLY love because the villa already comes with one. My range was so new and clean even at two years old that if I put it back in the store you wouldn't be able to tell that it's been used.

On her first day of work, while showing her around, I happened to casually mention to MFH that we were selling the stove and how upset I was because the landlord's stove has a ceramic top (I've always preferred a range with a gas top but an oven that is electric) and is a bit smaller than mine. Also, it needed some elbow grease. It was then that she mentioned that she and the husband were moving into a new place and were looking to buy a range cooker. I was a bit reluctant to sell such a big appliance to her at first because I felt like we should be paying her, not the other way around, plus we had just met and this will be a cash transaction after all, so it might not be a very ideal situation. However, after discussing with Eric and spending the day with the MFH, a deal was struck. We were to hold the stove for her till the end of the month (today!) and she would cart it away and pay us. Win-win, right?

A week in, even though her work was far from satisfactory, I really wanted to give her a chance because she seemed like a nice girl and looked like she had (fake) initiative when I tell her things. One evening she called and told us that they happened to have a truck ready and if they could cart the stove away then and that she would give us a third of the price first and pay the rest with her wages. Call us nice, or gullible (I can't decide anymore), we agreed.

Now, there are many reasons for me to let her go, here are just a few;

- Showed up 15 mins late everyday, EXCEPT on the one day that I expected her to be late like all the other days, and jumped in the shower, she showed up on time and I had to get out of the shower dripping wet to let her in, risking falling down the stairs (I was very careful though).
(We now established that the later time is the time she is supposed to start)

- She normally comes in the afternoon, but there was once she said she would come at 8 am. I get up at 6 every morning, so that wasn't too early for me. The problem was, instead of going through my "morning stuff",  I showered, got dressed and waited for her - let me just say that I am not the kind of person who just lays around in jammies while the maid cleans around me. I get up and help her, since I need the light exercise anyway. She never showed up. It was until about 2 pm that I got a text from her saying that she was sick. Correct me if I'm wrong, but even being sick, one could still text on time, not six hours late!

- And it's like I never ever learn! MFH saw one of my cookbooks and asked to borrow it. I let her. Two weeks later, I got it back and it was dog-eared to heck! And I mean, deep, deep lines that you can't unfold. 10-15 pages of ruined, GLOSSY paper. I can't even look at the book now without feeling like having a good cry. She apologized but apologies cannot unfold glossy pages. I was so shocked when she returned the book in that state that when she asked to borrow another glossy cookbook I just weakly nodded while Eric sort of rub-pat my back to console me. I told her never to dog-ear my books. I haven't gotten the second book back yet. We shall see.

- Today; I guess I should take it as an improvement, 10 minutes before her work time is supposed to start, I got a text message from her saying she was sick. This was AFTER I spent the morning giving her a head start by vacuuming the house. I thought at least she could just mop and tidy up. Easy day. Not.

See, now I'm in a pickle. I need to get rid of her but she might just disappear with the rest of the money she owes us. Her wages are nowhere near the amount - with her being sick and not turning up half the time. Plus, I want my second cookbook back.

I really didn't want to have a maid in the first place, but Eric, the ever loving husband that he is, convinced me that having help during these last few weeks of pregnancy would help tremendously. I thought so too, except this is more stressful and aggravating than helpful. The MFH did help me unpack boxes while Eric went to work every day though; without her which I wouldn't be able to do because I'm not allowed (and can't) lift heavy things.

I really need to see how all this plays out. I'm sure I will have more updates soon. So don't go anywhere.
Jillian R.
After yesterday's long rant, I will try my best to keep today's entry as short as possible.

To get a clearer picture of today's story, let me show you my backyard.

This was our backyard when we moved in

And this is the backyard now

After getting quoted all sorts of ridiculous prices from a few maintenance and landscaping companies for cutting up a few overgrown branches and to sweep up some leaves (a lot of leaves actually, about 2 ft deep), Eric went to the hardware store and bought a bow saw and cut the branches himself. Quoted price, 300 AED ($80). Bow saw was 25 AED ($6), rake (a good retractable one too), 65 AED ($17). We paid someone 100 AED ($27) to rake up the leaves. We saved a total of 110 AED ($30). It was about an hour's job. 

$30 might not feel like very much, but think of it as 110 units of money. 110 units of money buys quite a lot, doesn't it?

Now, the problem is getting the cut up branches and leaves to the dumpster, because there is no garbage service in our community that picks up "big" pieces of garbage, say a stained mattress or a torn up couch, we all have to either lug our own garbage to the dumpster located outside the guard house (which in our case is just a 5 minute walk away) or pay someone (there are "services" like that) a ridiculous amount of money to drag it away for us.

Anyway, our branches and leaves made about 5-6 boxes and we left it outside the house not knowing what to do with it. We can't exactly pack it into the back of our car or drag 5-6 boxes to the dumpster, because these are cardboard boxes (which we moved in with) which will probably tear after 10 feet of dragging or so, and we can't exactly carry them because they're too big! We asked around and nobody seems to know the number of the "service" to call. So there the boxes sat since last Friday. It's been a week.

Today, the security guard came knocking on my door saying that there had been complaints about the boxes, which were a bit of an eye sore really, but we didn't know what to do with them!

I asked if he knew who I should call to get rid of them. He said he didn't know, but he asked if I'd be willing to pay "something" for a gardener to remove it, I said yes. Then it was like magic, a gardener appeared from nowhere, really, out of nowhere! I had looked before, because I had the same idea, to ask if a community gardener could remove the boxes, and I'd tip them well, but I've never spotted anyone nearby! So, this gardener jumped out of nowhere and wanted 100 AED ($27) for him and his buddy to take the boxes to the dumpster 5 minutes away, they had carts, so it wasn't that hard! It's a one-trip job with a gardening cart!

I insisted that I wouldn't pay more than 50 AED ($13), because REALLY, 5 mins of pushing a cart to the dumpster for a hundred units of money is a bit much! The guy started making a pitiful face saying how poor he is. I get it, they don't earn very much, but they have to be reasonable! In the end, I didn't want to stand outside arguing about money so I agreed to give them 60 AED ($16).

10 minutes later, they came knocking on my door again to say that they were done. They did a good job I must say. Not a single leaf was left behind. So I thanked them and expected that to be it, then the guy said "Madam, JOOS?"

I said, "What? I don't have any juice, sorry". I really don't keep any bottled/boxed, sugary juice in the house, but the guy was relentless! "Madam, joos?" He wasn't about to leave so I gave them a couple of bottles of water. Only then, they left.

Jillian R.
I looked at my last entry dated June 10 and am absolutely shocked that 3 months had zipped by. I really meant to write more but life sometimes get in the way. 

I'll run through some updates quickly; we went to Penang for a three-week visit, it was hot as hell every day whilst we were there then cooled off during the LAST three days of the trip, just to mess with me. I found myself sweating profusely ALL the time and running through a pack of tissue a day (which I'm not very proud of because tissues aren't exactly environmental friendly, are they?). Then, we came back to Abu Dhabi, expecting to move within a week but of course, just like most things in this part of the world, moving got delayed and we were stuck in our old apartment with boxes everywhere for an additional three weeks, the whole time worrying that the landlord would kick us out before our new place was ready, while I'm 8 months pregnant!

So finally, after all that we managed to move in to the new place just fine. It's in the 'burbs' so to speak, it's out of the city, away from people who hate dogs and walking them has been nothing short of normal - nobody barked at us or screamed or taunted them and of course, no crazy person tried to run us over with his motorcycle. Instead, we have street gardeners who actually smile pleasantly, people on the street who wave and kids who stop and ask what are the dogs' names. I know these are normal things to you, dear readers, but trust me, it certainly is NOT here. Apart from the people, it's a great community with beautiful greens and landscaping, not an easy feat in the middle of the desert!

Anyway, moving into a new place this late into the pregnancy meant that I would need lots of help unpacking and making the home baby-ready. So we're forced to hire a housemaid to help me while Eric goes to work. We found a nice girl who started working for us for about two and a half weeks now. The first week she came every morning and helped me put the house together, which I'm really thankful for because there was no way I was able to do it myself with my belly in the way. Plus lifting things probably wasn't a good idea anyway.

My issues began the second week of her working for us. I have very high standards when it comes to cleaning my home. First of all, I have two dogs, which means there is fur everywhere and with the baby's impending arrival, the need for everything to be clean is even more crucial than ever! I never wanted to be the kind of person who stands over her maid and watches her every move, so I told her what needed to be done and left her to it. Then last weekend, I decided to vacuum and clean my house myself - which was when I discovered the most horrendous things (apart from some of the horrendous things I already saw her do while working)!

- She never vacuumed or mopped under the bed
- The vacuum dust bin (I use a bagless vacuum) was never emptied, so it was filled to the brim with fur, so I have no idea how it managed to suck in more fur and dust
- I see her mopping in circular motions and although I didn't think it was an issue before, after I mopped, my mopping water was the color of milk tea. So the floors were never really cleaned
- I also happened to see that instead of the half bucket of water I told her to use for mopping, she uses a QUARTER of an already small bucket, so the mop was never submerged fully in the water
- She never rinsed out the bucket, so it was covered in a layer of sand and dust
- The wet rags she used to dust and clean were left to fester and breed bacteria although I told her specifically never to leave wet rags to fester and breed bacteria

... among other things.

I really can't afford the time to train another maid so I've decided to just stick with this one and provide her better training. So when she came by last Monday, I gave her a notepad and a pen and told her very nicely of course what needs to be done, all over again. While she appeared to be paying attention to the things I was saying, she NEVER TOOK ANY NOTES!! Then, here comes the icing on the cake, before she left, she asked me if I wanted her to put my vacuum cleaner dust bin, y'know, the one with all the dust, sand and fur remnants INTO my DISHWASHER once a month or so to clean!!! I get it, she means well, but really?! Dust bin, dishwasher?!! All I could say at the time was "WHAT? Why? NO!!" Oh, she apparently does it in some of the other households she works for.

This is my vacuum cleaner by the way. The bin has a total of THREE parts - the bucket, a mesh filter and an inner HEPA type filter, one just needs to rinse it with soapy water, and voila, done! Why does it need to go into the dishwasher?! I just washed it myself, it took all of TWO minutes.

I must be honest, I'm very disturbed by this. Will update again soon, with I'm sure, more misadventures.

Note: I feel that I have to clarify, I don't feel as if just because we can afford to a hire a maid (whom I'm not very proud to say, are quite reasonably priced here), she has to cater to my every whim and fancy, I don't think it is unreasonable to want a certain level of cleanliness and hygiene in my own home. Having said that, despite all my ranting I still treat my maid with respect, and I always made sure that her well being comes first.

"Don't you know how hard it is to find good help?" - Adrian Powell, Devious Maids

Jillian R.
I find that on the days that I have classes (they're in the late afternoon) I turn into this super productive worker bee! Maybe it's due to the fact that I know I don't have all day to laze around.

What I've done this morning:

Got up at 6am, lazed around a bit - had my morning coffee, cooked some delicious sweet and sour sauce which I poured over fried eggs; the baby had a craving I suppose, and took my doggies out for a short 20-minute walk. Summer is in full force here in Abu Dhabi and as early as 7.15am the humidity kicks in and it turns everyone (exposed to it) into a lethargic zombie when we come back in. Although my zombie-fied dogs wouldn't be shuffling around the apartment (unlike their mommy and daddy), they lay listless on the cold tiles with tongues hanging out and that makes me feel extremely guilty.

So, everyone got back safely in the cool apartment and I started making a batch of doggie biscuits;

which only uses healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour, rolled oats, flax seed and parsley. Sometimes I throw in some wheat germ but the doggies have been doing their #2's right on schedule so they don't need it this time.

At the same time, I made a batch of doggie treats as well so that I can throw those in the oven - saves energy! All the dog treats in our house always happen to run out at the same time.

While those were baking, I made some sausages in onion gravy and threw those in the crockpot so everyone gets fed for dinner. Like I said before, even on the busiest of days I'd rather spend some time in the morning (or the night before) making something which I could throw into the crockpot so that we don't have to order take out. Fast food had long been banned from our systems and good quality food are either really hard to come by or they charge SOOO much for a plate of badly cooked pasta that I'd rather make it myself. Living here, I find that for decent food, one has to go to hotels or restaurants on a higher end of the scale.

Anyway, by the end of all of that, it was only 9am!

And I even had time to write this quick entry. Go, worker bee! Now it's time to do work on some assignments while still in bee mode!
Jillian R.
Those who thought that I've forsaken this blog, well, I kind of have - but with good reasons. Since my last post a few exciting (okay, some not) things have happened;

a) we found out that a little Jillian + Eric baby is baking in oven (!!)
b) I've started taking another professional teaching course
and c) there's no (c), I've just been pretty lazy about posting new entries.

Anyway, between freaking out about every little thing which I always think is abnormal about the pregnancy and working hard on assignments and lesson planning for the course, there's very little time left to split between spending time with my little fur-babies, the husband (who's already feeling neglected most of the time) and making healthy food - finding healthy food is hard around here, so cooking is not a choice; I just happen to love it! Of course, I have two crockpots (Yes, two! One little one and one LARGE - couldn't find a medium one all over the city so we gave up) that help a LOT!

Before I jump right back into blogging and writing about the little bun in oven - there WILL be posts on it, so check back soon; I will leave you with this little bundle of cuteness that is my little Jester (who's already playing big brother to all the kids in our area!)

I was walking past our guest room and saw this lump on the bed,

and because he does it quite often, usually to hide (though not very well) from our other dog Ginger, I knew he was in there.

So I doubled back and lifted the sheets, and there he was

not just under the sheet, but under the mattress cover as well!

We love our little fur-babies to bits. People have already started telling us the classic "Oh, when the (human) baby comes you will not care so much about your dogs" - which I think is BS or people who "stop caring" about their dogs as soon as a baby enters their lives are well -- I don't want to say. You get what I mean. People somehow think the amount of time spent with someone/something equals love. Yes, I might spend a lot less time snuggling and cuddling with the dogs but I will NEVER EVER love them any less just because we have a baby in our lives. People should stop thinking this way.

Okay, I guess that's all for now, back to vacuuming fur off the floor - it's shedding season.

Remember to check back soon for more rants and updates.

Jillian R.
I've been making my own non-dairy milk for the past year. Homemade milks are very economical and you always know every single ingredient that is used (or not; namely preservatives).

I've made many successful batches of soy milk, oat milk, almond milk and very recently, chocolate hazelnut  milk.

Soy Milk; growing up in South East Asia, fresh soy milk is available everywhere - street stalls, hawker centers, restaurants; you name it, they got it! As a result, I never got used to drinking bottled soy milk. Making it myself is the only way to go

Oat Milk; very low in fat (1% of cow's milk), provides the body with complex carbohydrates and loads of other goodies which our bodies will thank us for - Source
 (The doggie paws belong to our Ginger)

 Chocolate Hazelnut Milk; it's like drinking Nutella, need I say more?

Unfortunately, I just realized that I don't have any pictures of the batches of almond milk that I've made. I will update when I do.

Anyway, the soy and oat milks are extremely cheap to make; a 300g (10oz) bag of soy beans makes about 2 liters (70 fl oz) of milk and and costs a little less than a dollar per bag. And rolled oats (never instant!), well, they cost what they cost - which is not very much.

As I was making my latest batch of hazelnut milk; Eric stood beside me and started stealing handfuls of the pressed hazelnuts. He also told me to save him some after I was done so that he could eat it later.

That was three days ago. This morning, I saw the bowl of pressed chocolate flavored hazelnuts in the fridge and decided to make a cake out of it. 

This Chocolate Hazelnut Cake turned out be one of the best cakes I've ever had - and I don't even like cakes OR nuts*!

I guess, technically this is not a cake but a torte as it contains no flour. Truth be told, I never liked homemade chocolate cakes which are made "chocolatey" by cocoa powder. Whenever I make the mistake of trying some, it is always dry and/or smeared with too much frosting to hide its dryness. Whenever I make chocolate cake, it HAS to be with real chocolate. This torte is not only very moist, the hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico) really makes the flavors pop. It's so delicious that this torte does not need any frosting!

So, I think we will be having lots of Nutella milk (yes, it's what we're calling the hazelnut milk) in the future; since it really makes me feel good about not wasting anything, and there's cake to go with it! I know Eric will be very happy - my husband is a bee, don't you know? 

*I have a weird love-hate relationship with nuts. I like the nutty flavor, but I've always hated the texture. I couldn't eat an ice-cream with nuts sprinkled on top unless I scrape it off. However, if the nuts are ground and mixed into the ice-cream, I'd love it!
Jillian R.
I made these more than two weeks ago, but due to procrastination, I never got around to writing this entry. Now, 2013 had rolled in and I just couldn't put it off any longer.

When I was a little girl, my family lived with my grandmother. Every year, before the Chinese Lantern Festival, my grandmother, mother, aunts, and us kids (my cousins and I) would get together in our big dining room and rolled tang yuan; which are glutinous rice balls. Because I could not make balls which were round, my mother made me leave the ones I made on one side of the tray so that she could "fix" mine later. I have fond memories of making tang yuan, because it was the time of the year when my father would take me to the lantern shop and I got to pick a new lantern. I suppose in a cooler climate, these lanterns could be reused the following year but in hot and humid South East Asia, the glass paper becomes out of shape quickly and we would have a really odd looking lantern after a few weeks. 

While some of the other kids in the family (my siblings included) used to get paper or battery-operated plastic (scoff!) ones, I always got proper wire-glass paper ones - because I was the eldest kid, so I guess, I knew not to drip candle wax on my hands...

(Glass Lantern. Picture Source: Flickr)

Anyway, every year, my mother still makes a small batch of tang yuan, but ever since moving out from my parents' house (4 years now), I haven't had any.

This year, I decided to be brave and make my own. After all, I think I am able to make round balls now...being 27 and all.

My rice balls ALL turned out shaped like footballs (the American kind!), and I had to press them slightly so make them round. I guess some things never change.

The balls were then boiled. When they floated, they were ready!

Tang yuan is usually served in a sweet syrup, but I thought I would try them with a little soy milk.

I eventually ran out of soy milk so I served it the traditional way. Not a bad first try I would say. Maybe next year I'll make some filled tang yuan. We'll see! 

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