Saudi Life Series Volume 1

Something new and exciting on Blue Abaya.. I decided to start a series of posts, kind of like a photo challenge of day to day life in Riyadh after some readers have been asking me to share more family photos and to show what the everyday life is like in Saudi Arabia.. . Many of you have been waiting on me (for ages, I know…) to share some recipes of the food I’ve posted on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, so this will be a great opportunity to share some of those as well!
Another common request is to share some tips on how to keep toddlers entertained, cool toys we discovered, fun craft projects we made or favorite family outings in Riyadh. Also in store some recommended restaurants, new interesting finds and products I’m going to review for you..So stay tuned for more of these. I’m actually quite excited to start this because I know it’s one of my favorite things to see on other blogs, just the day to day stuff and how people are living all around the world, so I’m sure others will like it too!
I’m going to tag these posts under a new category “Saudi Life’.

toddleranddaneWe missed our dog so much while we were in Finland during the summer, she’s about 8 months old now and pretty huge but still considered to be a puppy I guess :) We first called her ‘Blue’ because she’s a Blue Great Dane and had the most beautiful baby blue eyes when she was little. For some reason my daughter began calling her ‘Misu’ which actually means something like “kitty” in Finnish. I thought it was so funny and so we stuck with it!

I met up with some of my Finnish friends at their hospital housing complex  for a book club meeting and some great food.. we had to “smuggle” the kids in under abayas because there’s a ‘no kids allowed’ rule. We had a lot of fun and exchanged books, all in Finnish language!


My kids have nicknamed one of my friends “mummi” which means grandma in Finnish, even though she is nowhere near grandma age, but they think she’s just as cool as their real grandma so she should have same name. So mummi came to our house and my daughter played manicurist for her. Result was fabulous! She even gave my friend a face painting with the nail polish as a bonus :)IMG_7559.JPGThe past weeks have still been way too hot to go out during the day and during August it was well over 115F (45C) each and every day. We’ve been stuck indoors for most part of the day for 6 weeks, which totally sucks! The kids are literally going off the walls after having spent 90% of their time outdoors during our Finland vacation. Such a drastic change. Sometimes it makes me feel the kids are missing their childhood and I feel guilty for not being able to give them a more happy and normal childhood playing outdoors.

Things were not much better inside the house when we came back from holidays. We have central A/C, which dates back to the stone ages I think, because it was 95F (35C) upstairs with central AC blasting on MAX and 90F downstairs! Needless to say it felt like we were going to melt. On top of that the water from shower is burning hot during the day because we have a water tank on the roof which is not covered from the sun. I’m sure many people have the same problem and can relate.

So in order to try and lower the indoor temperature to something more bearable, we had to install two extra split units and put fans to blow the cooler air around. The coolest result right next to the AC unit, with all these gadgets blasting is now 77F, 25 C. Better than before and at least I can wear some clothes now instead of going around half naked!

chaThank God we live close by to some of the most beautiful parks you can imagine, with streams of water that cool and kids and the dog can play in. It’s a blessing, and at least we can go in the evenings when the sun is not going to burn us alive.


A recent awesome discovery at the Panorama mall: The Candylawa store! It’s not just a super cool candy shop, but they have a cafeteria and DYI sweets stations such as make your own lollipops or marshmallows and then this section which interested me the most, arts and crafts supplies! Not easy to find in Riyadh. They also had crafts classes for kids and possibility to have private parties hosted in their party area. They are located behind Hamley’s toy store in Panorama mall.candylawa riyadh dyi lollipops

Something our kids love to do for hours on end is playing with water and what a better way to try and cool down during the hot summer days. I’ve come up with several super simple and fun games for them to play with in the kiddy pool on the patio. This one is “animal fishing” which is as simple as: Through all animal shaped bath toys and small plastic animal figurines that you can find in the pool. Run the water from the hose so the water keeps circulating the toys around the pool as if they’re swimming. Give the kids fishing nets (ours are from an aquarium store) and start fishing! Each kid gets their own bucket to where they can place their catch. When everything has been caught, they love dumping them all back in from the buckets. bucket catch

kiddi poolThe simplest of games are sometimes the most fascinating to kids! While playing they practice hand eye co-ordination skills, fine motor skills, learn counting how many animals they have, and of course naming the different animals! If you can’t get your hands on fishing nets, substitute them with kitchen utensils like a ladle, skimmer or even a pasta spoon will do! Be creative and use your imagination!2014-08-07 12.54.58

Ok so on to the recipe which is Finnish Macaroni Casserole, I’ve seen some people call it the Finnish version of Mac n cheese too. This is a very typical Finnish “everyday” food called makaronilaatikko which I make from time to time because it’s a favorite with the kids. This is a great opportunity for us sneaky moms to hide vegetables in the food :) I normally grate carrots or some other mild tasting veggie I have at hand to make it more nutritious. Since the prep and cooking time for making the macaroni casserole is long, I always make two at the same time and then freeze the other one for later.
makaronilaatikkoThe recipe I use as the basis can be found here  (in Finnish). The following makes for one large portion so if you want to make more, then double the recipe.

Finnish Macaroni Casserolemc n cheese

500-600g elbow macaroni

400g lean minced meat

1 large onion

2 tsp salt

rapseed oil for cooking (or any oil you like to use)

200g Philadelphia cheese or other similar cheese

2-3  carrots grated

ground black pepper

ground all spice

paprika spice

3 large or 4 small eggs

7 dl milk

on top approx 200g grated white cheese such as emmental

Boil the macaroni as per package instructions, rinse, drain and then pour back in the kettle. In a saucepan sautee the onions, add the meat and melt in the cheese, mix in the  grated carrots. Add spices according to your liking but make sure the taste is strong enough so it won’t be “watered down” when you add the filling. Pour the sauce in with the macaroni and mix gently until it looks the ingredients are evenly distributed. Now pour the whole thing into a greased oven pan, I prefer to use the clear or white glass pans. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the milk, mix until clear. Pour on top of the macaroni mix, make sure you pour it evenly throughout. Bake in oven 200c for about 30 min on the lower rack. Take out of the oven and add the grated cheese on top, then continue baking for another 25-35 min until the cheese on top is golden. Before serving let the casserole sit for a while so that it settles, the next day it will best for cutting off “pieces” from it like cake :) Kids enjoy eating this with ketchup and husband’s prefer hot sauce :) Enjoy!


Sometimes I make three because I make one dairy free version for my allergic son. I replace the milk with soy milk and leave the cheese out too.

And finally a beautiful quote ‘I love you more each and every day’. So true! i love you more

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  • Susie Johnson KhalilSeptember 20, 2014 - 9:34 pm

    Love your new series. It’s fun and informative!ReplyCancel

  • Fatima GeerSeptember 21, 2014 - 3:56 am

    Very interesting! Waiting for more! Thank you.

  • naouel bouyacoubSeptember 21, 2014 - 6:56 am

    Interesting and amusing in the same time!ReplyCancel

  • Teresa MertensSeptember 22, 2014 - 5:16 am

    Great snapshot of life in Ksa you are a great mom. Thanks for the recipe! I’m trying it ! ReplyCancel

  • RebeccaOctober 26, 2014 - 7:38 am

    If your husband is Muslim, how are you own a dog and keep it in your home? I thought Muslim’s believe that dogs scare angels away?ReplyCancel

  • Alison Rue CoverJune 25, 2015 - 12:19 pm

    Thanks for this post. My husband is considering a job in KSA so I am on the hunt for as much information as I can :) We have a 4yo and 6mo, so this post is fabulous! Happy to have found your blog.ReplyCancel

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