Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mrs. MopeyPants

I have had trouble finding something fun and interesting to post the past few days.  I have come to the conclusion that this is because I am beginning to feel the first pangs of homesickness.  So far this has felt much like I'm on a vacation - including the month of July which I was job-free throughout but still in the States.  This morning I called my loving mother and talked to her for about a half and hour.  It was wonderful to hear her voice and talk to her like I would if I were still in Iowa City.  After we got off the phone I started thinking about all the things I missed (great idea, I know), and realized that despite my best efforts, I am succumbing to stupid homesickness.  I was determined to avoid this....

I miss:

My awesome friends!
My bed
My couch
My condo
Carpet (are apartment here is all tile)
My vehicle
Target
Hy-Vee
Stuffed crust pizza
etc.

Most of all, I miss my mom.  This morning reminded me, after draining all of the money Ben had put on my phone yesterday (it is pay as you go), that I can't talk to my mom as much as I'd like.  We would text and talk on the phone at least once a day when I was in IC.  I miss getting/initiating phone calls to brag about getting an iced coffee or to complain about silly things and laugh together.  Ma even mentioned the first week I was here she missed having a text when she would go to break at work.  I sure do love that woman.

On a happier note, things are going well with Ben and me.  On his first day officially back to school I made supper in our new crock pot for him, Casey, Naomi and David.  It was beef stroganoff (I know - gross, right?), but I added a different few things to it to make it tasty.  I even made my very own egg noodles since they were unavailable at the store.  Unfortunately they didn't dry in time so I'll have to use them later.  For dessert I whipped up some chocolate chip cookies that were rather delicious.  I spent the whole first day of Ben being out cooking.  It was quite enjoyable.  Everyone seemed to enjoy supper, so I think it all must have tasted ok!

I have applied for a few jobs and am hoping to hear back from somewhere.  A couple people Ben works with have also been very helpful and telling me of openings or requesting my CV to pass on.  If I don't find something within the next couple of weeks, I think I'm going to take my mother-in-law's sound advice of volunteering at Ben's school.  I am enjoying the Holly Housewife thing right now, but I think I'll tire of it shortly. 

I am already starting to put together my birthday/Christmas list to give to Ma.  I have also started putting together ideas for gifts for people at home.  There are so many neat things here that would make unique gifts.  I was recently given a small bottle of Arabic perfume and it is fantastic!  It lasts longer than regular perfume, too, because it has a higher concentration of the oil.  It is rather inexpensive as well, so that's a plus.  I went to the Dragon Mart with Naomi last week and they had some interesting things that would make great gifts (for me and others!).  The Dragon Mart is like a huge indoor flea market but they are actually set up stores instead of just booths.  That is where I got our crock pot!  There is so much in there that it is kind of overwhelming, but I am excited to go back once I do have an income and get a few things for our apartment.

Well....to make me feel a bit more at home I am going to throw in Harry Potter and paint my nails.
 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dinner by Ben

Last night was my turn to make dinner. This is Ben speaking, making my premier on the B&L blog.

I really enjoy cooking. I was saying to Lyndsey last night as I was making the dish I prepared that one of my favorite things to do is put on Nat "King" Cole or Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, grab a glass of wine (red or white doesn't matter to me) and go nuts in the kitchen. This is specific to cooking only. I'm not a baker...too much at stake at getting the exact amount of ingredients in the bowl to make it come out right. I like the freedom to throw stuff in that I think may help enhance the dish.

"This needs a little more kick? Let's add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper."

"This just needs more salt..."

There is a freedom that you get from cooking, while listening to the classic romantics sing about love and regret back in the day...

Smile though your heart is aching....

Defrost the chicken and prepare to cut it up, and get all of your veggies out and prepared. This of course takes the most time and this is where the wine comes in.

This is, of course, better when you're cooking for someone else. This has already proven to give me greater incentive to cook this year as opposed to last. I cooked a lot for myself, and followed this same pattern, but it just wasn't the same. Now, I occassionally hear Lyndsey's voice mixed in with my own, since we share a liking for this style of music, and it's nice to call out "Hey, would you like some wine?"

It's definitely not all lovey-dovey though. I just can't get enough of that big band sound. Take "Day In- Day Out" performed by Nat. Before the man even starts singing you just get the brass cry out "ba-bwaaaa" and you just can't help yourself, you've gotta dance along.

So, nothing finishes off this thing like good food, prepared and made to perfection by you. Yesterday's menu was "Curried Chicken with Rice".

Serving 4:
2 1/2 lbs. chicken breast
Olive oil
3 tsp. curry powder
1 jar chutney
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/8 cup chopped green onion, for topping
1/4 cup chopped peanuts.

Rinse chicken and cut to your preference (I cubed mine last night). In a large skillet heat oil until almost hot. Add the chicken (and watch yourself because the oil tends to jump up and bite you) and cook until done. Add curry powder, chutney and pepper. Simmer 30 minutes over medium low heat.

Cut lime into wedges, chop onions, and peanuts. Serve, adding lime, onions and peanuts as you wish as topping.

Put over rice and enjoy.

Notes:
- I substituted the red bell pepper with an orange bell pepper.
- Chutney is an interesting thing (I've never used it before) but its like a jelly like substance and is flavored. I chose the mango flavored and I got the smooth (you can get a chunky kind as well). This is also why I chose the orange pepper, because of the mango chutney, I thought it would be better together.
- I added the onions and peanuts to the mixture all together so the flavor would get mixed in, instead of as a topping and it worked out well.
- Next time I will add steamed broccoli to the mix, because that would make it just heavenly.

Now, I've had curried chicken (living in the Middle East, it's hard not to eat quite a bit of it) and this did not taste like curried chicken from my memory. This tasted more like Sweet and Sour Chicken but Lyndsey and I both agree it was delicious, and well worth it.

I hope you are all doing well, and that you enjoy!


Ben

"Shitter's full!"

Lesson on this whole toilet/bidet thing.

Bidet, shit sprayer & toilet.
 
 
Last night I learned what everything in this picture is.  I found it rather disgusting so I'm sorry if this poo talk makes you lose your appetite. 

We were sitting at Trader Vics enjoying a drink and somehow we got on the topic of bathrooms and poo and how it is different to take a poo in this country.  The water level in the toilets here is much lower than in the States.  There is a little at the bottom of the bowl, which the tubey thing that sucks all the stuff down is a bit deeper than the toilets in the States.  (If you have been overseas you likely know what I'm trying to say).  Anyway - if you don't have perfect pooping aim you will likely get some dooty on the porcelain portion of the toilet.  That being said, the sprayer thing that we are accustomed to having as a kitchen sink accessory is used to spray off the inside of the toilet.  This was news to me - I thought that you used the sprayer thing to spray off your hiney and you do that while hovering over the sink like bidet next to the toilet.  Shocker to me!! 

I was informed by Ben that you are to sit on the bidet much like on the toilet and you turn on the faucet and it is what cleans your hiney - not the power hose.  Ha. 

For the comments that could come from this blog (Marcus!) - NO I have no tried to use any of these extra bathroom accessories.  I just thought I would share this newly learned bit of information with y'all.  I was unaware of how everything worked, so I figured maybe someone else was equally as unaware!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guac Talk

I have recently discovered that I like avocado.  This revelation comes after YEARS of hating it, although I don't think I had legit ever tasted it.  The first time I ever tried avocado was with sushi (it was also my first time of sushi).  The flavor which I disliked in the mix of things was what I now know to be wasabi.  I didn't put this together until trying avocado again this summer when Ben was eating a burger with a ton of guac on it and realized that crap is pretty good. 

To celebrate my new found liking of avocado (growing into love - I still can't get over the fact that I hated it for so long. . . ridiculous) I decided to make my own guac and it turned out superbly!  I definitely cheated - I simply mashed up an avocado and mixed it with salsa - but whatever!  It tastes friggin' delicious!  I highly recommend my incredibly complicated recipe to anyone who wants a quick chip dip.  I used one jar of salsa and one avocado.  Of course if you get a larger jar (mine was one of the medium sized - sorry, already threw it out so I can't check ounces) you're going to want to up the avocado.

Having successfully made my first batch of guac, I decided to take the pit and grow my own avocado tree.  Ben and I are in desperate need of plants in our apartment, so why not give it a try?  Unfortunately, after much searching, I was unable to find toothpicks to hold up the pit so I went with forks instead.  It is working quite well at the moment, but on our next grocery run toothpicks may be on the menu.  I am usually pretty good at killing plants, so my hopes are not high for this pit, BUT fingers crossed.

While Ben is at school working on getting his room in order and figuring out things for the year, I am working on the job hunt.  I have sent my resume to three different firms, although none of them listed any current availabilities.  One of the teachers Ben works with also got me in contact with an attorney in Dubai and I have emailed back and forth with him a bit hoping for a job opening.  He passed my resume onto HR, so here's hoping! Ben has five days until he starts school so I would very much like a job to fill my time and our bank account!

Another good thing about getting a job - aside from stimulating my mind and $ - is the potential to go through my employer for my Visa.  Yesterday Ben and I made a trip to talk with one of the women who makes the Visas happen at his school and she informed us that we need an attested copy of our marriage license.  It has to be attested by the U.S. AND by the U.A.E.  ALL the research I did when looking into being sponsored by Ben said we needed a certified copy of our marriage license - which we have and brought with us.  This is a new snag that we are working to figure out.  We will have to go to the U.S. Consulate and have them attest the marriage license, then go to the U.A.E. people who do their thing, then we can go back to this lady and have her send in our paperwork.  This may not seem like such a horrible process, except it takes 10 years to do one simple thing here.  What I just described is an all day, if not two day, excursion to complete JUST to obtain the attestations.  Oye.... So, needless to say, it would be a bit less of a headache to have a Visa through employment.  We'll see how the dice roll.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Differences

Since arriving in Dubai I have of course encountered many things that are different than the life I am used to in the States.  For one, my husband seems to fart a lot more than he did prior to marriage, but I suppose that is to be expected.  he he.

A few things I have noticed thus far:

-  The chicken and beef taste a lot different.  The beef comes from strictly grass fed cows in New Zealand and isn't the delicious corn fed beef we have in Iowa.  It isn't horrible, but it isn't the same.  It has less flavor in my opinion.  The chicken tastes completely weird - I don't know for sure where it comes from, but it reminds me of old chicken that has soaked up some weird flavors after sitting in the fridge for too long.  As long as it is with something it is tolerable.  I don't think I would ever want to eat just a chicken breast - marinade or not.

-  The heat.  This is obvious - I have moved to a desert.  What surprised me is that while it may say 110 degrees, it might not feel any different than it did in Iowa.  Then there are days like yesterday where it was around 103 and felt like 120.  Oy vey...  The humidity is ever changing like Iowa and there are times you can see condensation on the outside of the windows because it is so humid out.  It really hasn't bothered me that much though.  As I said to Ben, "It's not sweat, it's condensation."

-  Clothing. You have to wear lots of it.  When it is one of those days that feels like 120, you'd like nothing more than to walk around in the smallest amount of clothing you can manage, but that is not an option.  Shoulders should be covered and dresses/shorts/capris should all come to at least your knees.  This is especially important to observe if you are going to be in the more conservative parts of town if you do not wish to offend anyone or attract stares from strangers.  It hasn't been hard to comply with the customs of this country, but when you are condensing (see previous joke above) so much that you have already soaked through your clothes it is hard to keep on that soggy cardigan.  TMI?  Honestly though, there have been a couple of times Ben and I were walking around and I took off my cardigan to catch a bit of air.  I didn't receive any stares or judgmental glances - mostly because we were in the tourist section of the city and 90% of the people around had on much less than I did.  (I was still wearing a maxi dress with a conservative top to it.)  I do wish to respect the culture of this country and will maintain a conservative wardrobe.

-  Restaurants.  Water is not bottomless - you have to pay for it.  Boo to that when it is hot out and hydration is necessary.  Also, pop comes in cans and you get a glass with a small amount of ice.  At one restaurant we went to, the waitstaff was continuously reaching over our shoulders to refill our glasses if we had pop left in the can.  That worked my last nerve - stay out of my space!  I also have a very large bubble, so take that at what you will.  I just found it annoying that every time they walked by they felt the need to reach over me while I'm trying to enjoy my meal and I have to sit back and wait for them to be done. 

-  Darling little Grover has differences in his life as well.  His favorite after potty/walk treat is not available for purchase - Pupperoni.  Ben and I did find some treats he happens to like, he is very picky, called "Ben".  Funny.  There are no rawhide Busy Bones for him to chew, so he has had to take a hiatus from his favorite chew treats.  They DO have his brand of dog food which is a win because he has such a sensitive stomach that switching him to another brand would have been a small nightmare. 

Grover must also endure more baths than normal.  To maintain green grass and living plants here, they water daily with what Ben has coined, "shit water".  It is absolutely disgusting - it smells like, well. . . shit.  The smell comes from the desalinization process they put it through, but I'm not exactly sure what all that entails.  Anyway, Grover daily has to walk through grass that has been watered with this disgustingness and it makes his paws dirty and smelly.  Poor puppy.

Silver thing is trash shoot. Seriously people?
Sign on door to trash room.














-  I have never been very tolerant of laziness, and I have noticed much of that in this country.  Mostly this muchness is found around the trash shoot in our building.  Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where Rachel takes the pizza box to the trash shoot and Treeger (the super) makes her cry for not shoving the pizza box down the shoot (he had just spent forever fixing that very problem)?  That is the kind of trash shoot we have.  I walk by the shoot daily to take Grovie out to potty/for a walk and it never fails that someone has left a bag there.  How LAZY do you have to be to just drop it there instead of taking TWO SECONDS to open the shoot and drop it down?  Instead, they leave it to smell and impregnate the air with foulness.  SO aggravating.

-  Another thing with food:  Last night I made homemade pancakes (the boxed crap people make is DISGUSTING) and they tasted different than when made at home.  The eggs are different here - the yolks are much darker than in the States.  The milk is different, but good.  Their milk either comes in whole milk or low fat, so no skim, so it is a bit more rich than I am used to.  I'm not sure if those are the only factors that changed the flavor of the pancakes or if the sugar and flour have a different taste as well.  They were still oober delicious, just different.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

On another note, I was just on CNN and saw that Diana Nyad had to end her attempt to swim between Cuba and Florida.  She made a comment that I absolutely loved:

Photo off of CNN's website.
"When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, 'I'm going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I'm going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I'm going to adopt a child. It's not too late, I can still live my dreams,' "

What a fantastic woman to be so adventurous later in her life.  Flippers off to her!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Domesticated


New duvet - yay!
Ben and I have continued to settle into our apartment. As mentioned previously, we made a trip to IKEA last week and picked up a couple of things.  While we have been trying to be very frugal, I am thrilled that we went ahead and purchased a duvet and side table for the bed/bedroom.  It has really made a difference in the room and makes it feel more warm and homey.  You can see a more full view in the picture below.  I really like that the windows in our apartment go all the way to the floor.  Grover enjoys it as well because he can easily see out and growl at everything - birds, people, his reflection, etc.

View of our room.
We have also done a bit to the bathroom in our room to make it a bit more attractive.  Last year when I came to visit Ben, there was only a clear plastic shower curtain that I wasn't exactly fond of.  The snob in me prefers the cloth shower liners with an attractive, decorative curtain for show.  Before leaving the States, I picked up a gender neutral shower curtain that just so happened to match the bathroom (unintentional).  With that up and a couple of shelve things under the sink for storage, I think the bathroom looks pretty good.  Unfortunately our shower leaks buckets of water allllllll over the floor every time we shower.  We have bathmats to soak up some of it for the time being and we are going to figure something out soon in the near future to get this problem to stop.
Another issue we have with the bathroom is the plumbing.  While it gets the job done, you can still SMELL stale pee and poo.  That may be TMI, but it is something we have been dealing with.  Yesterday we picked up a couple of those clip on toilet bowl cleaner things hoping that the scent from that would mask the disgustingness and it has for the most part.  I haven't really noticed it today and it leaves bubbles in the toilet after you flush.  Bubbles are always fun!

Stinky



Garlic bread
Prepare avgolemono



















Ben and I have made Saturday our official "date night".  Last week we went to the marina and ate out and had juice.  This week we decided to grab groceries and cook something for ourselves and stay in.  I grabbed a cookbook off of the very, very high shelf in the kitchen and sat down to plan.  I love making soups, so true to form I chose a soup for us.  We made out our grocery list, went to the store, still grabbed a fresh juice, and headed home.  The soup we were getting ready to make is called avgolemono.  According to the cookbook it originated in Greece.  It is very easy to make and has a very rich and delicious flavor. 

I also grabbed a loaf of cheese bread at the store and made garlic bread with a very different recipe than I had ever used.  You simply crushed garlic and put it in the center of a piece of tin foil, drizzled some olive oil on it, sprinkled on sea salt, then placed the bread on top of that to cook in the oven.  The flavor was more in the bread rather than slathered on top of it.

The recipes for the soup and garlic bread are as follows:

Avgolemono

You  need:

1 1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 egg yolks
7 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cup rice
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1/4 lemon juice (or to taste)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To do:

Stir the milk and cornstarch together until smooth.  Beat in the egg yolks.  Set aside.  Bring the stock to boil in a large pot, and add the rice.  Cook, covered, over low heat until the rice is puffy and tender, about 25 minutes.  Remove the soup from heat, and add the milk and egg mixture very gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps forming.  Put the soup back on the burner and continue to cook for a moment, stirring, until it thickens.  Remove from the heat again and add the butter, chopped parsley, lemon juice and finely grated lemon zest.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir once more and serve immediately.  Serves 7-10.


Garlic Bread

You need:

1 head garlic
olive oil
sea salt
1 large loaf of good rustic bread

To do:


Finished product!





Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Crush the head of garlic and place it (skin and all) in the center of a large piece of aluminum foil (large enough to encase the loaf of bread).  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt.  Place the loaf on top of the garlic, fold the foil over to create a parcel and bake for about 5 minutes (long enough to allow the garlic flavors to permeate the bread).  Serve warm.  Serves 4-6.






Both of these recipes are from 500 Mediterranean Dishes by Valentina Sforza.  I have many more recipes from this cookbook that I would LOVE to try!!  While deciding on what we wanted for supper, we ran across a couple recipes that had ingredients such as rose water, that we hadn't ever used in cooking before.  When we came across things that were unheard of to us, we thought that if we could find them at the store then maybe we would make them.  We are both so used to doing grocery shopping in the US and not seeing these different ingredients unless you go to a specialty store, so we weren't holding our breath.  When we were at Geant, the grocery store, we were walking down one aisle and there Ben pointed out rose water!  Then it dawned on me - and this is total common sense I guess, but I still didn't think about it - we are getting recipes out of a cookbook based around dishes that would be common in this area.  DUH they are going to have the ingredients we would need at the grocery store....

Aside from getting settled and cooking, Ben and I are also getting out and seeing people as they return to the country.  We went with the K's to meet Sue and her daughter Zoe (2 years old) for lunch the other day and caught up with her.  The food was pretty good - I had a fruit plate with cottage cheese and coffee and Ben had a tuna sandwich and coffee - and the company was even better.  Zoe has gotten much bigger since I saw her last when I came for a visit in January.  She is adorable!  We also have had the K's over for dinner and games and went to the K's for the same. 


View from my lounge chair!
Ben and I have made it a point to go to the gym semi-regularly.  It has been difficult because of Ramadan (you aren't allowed to eat or drink in public, which means no water at the gym), but we have gone several times.  The main attraction for me is the pool!  It is very nice and cooled so that it isn't like stepping into a hot tub.  Ben and I have been working to improve our different strokes by swimming laps.  It is also an execellent source of exercise for the whole body, so that is a bonus!! 

We will keep you updated as more happens!  



Friday, August 17, 2012

You've Got Mail

As an FYI - here is our mailing address in Dubai:

Collegiate American School
Attn: Benjamin Jackson, Music Department
P.O. Box 121306
Umm Suqeim
Dubai, U.A.E.


There is no country code or anything - this is how you write it out.  If sending a letter, there is extra postage than just the normal $0.44.  It takes about a month to reach us.  We do not have a mail box here at the apartment located in Discovery Gardens, but Ben can receive mail at his school. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Month of July - July 9th through July 13th

July 8th Ben and I arrived in Minneapolis to spend the week with his sister Jamie, her husband Keith and their two girls, Kara and Nina.  We arrived to good food and good company our first night, with much in store for the following week. 

On Monday, the 9th, Ben and I had an appointment to pick up our marriage license.  We woke up, grabbed some coffee and headed out the door.  I had previously scheduled an appointment at the recorder's office so that we would not have to wait forever in line, but ended up waiting about twenty minutes anyway.  It was a weird feeling applying for the marriage license - surreal, really.  It was the most grown up thing I had ever done.  I had been dreaming of my wedding for my entire life and it was insane that I was FINALLY there.  Insane, and completely wonderful. 

After we obtained our marriage license, we went back to Jamie and Keith's to spend time with Kara and Nina.  Ben's college friend, Andy, brought over pizza for a late lunch and to catch up with Ben.  I had heard much about him and was excited to finally meet him!  For supper, Drew (lived with Jamie and Keith) made us "Paccino"for supper.  It some sort of delicious seafood soup that I have been craving ever since we ate it.  It was absolutely delicious - we enjoyed the meal outside on the patio since it was such a beautiful night.  I was surprised at how much Kara liked the soup.  She has a very diverse pallet for such a young girl.  Or maybe I have always just been so picky that I am easily surprised? 

On Tuesday, the 10th, Ben and I woke up early to check out all of our vendors/venues for the wedding.  We started the day by going to Stillwater, MN to check out The Aurora Staples Inn where the ceremony was to be held.  We also made it a point to scout out some potential picture taking locations.  We had an appointment with the photographer at 1 p.m., so it was back to Minneapolis.  We met Rachel at her studio and discussed everything about our approaching big day.  We left feeling very confident in our decision in hiring De La Vue for our wedding. 

Wednesday, the 11th, we spent the day watching Kara and Nina while Jamie and Keith were at work.  We had a blast with those adorable girls!  Kara enjoyed playing hide and seek, playing puzzles and coloring.  She had me read her two books before nap and was very excited for her popsicle when she woke up.  Nina enjoyed anything, really.  Either laying on her play mat, walking around (being held - us walking), or watching her sister play, she was easy to please.  She is the perfect baby - so happy and sweet.  Both of those girls are perfect.  That night Ben and I made supper - we made Carribbean style chicken salad (mentioned previously in the blog) and a friggin' delicious brownie dessert of my own making.  It was a brownie bottom, then a layer of cream cheese with fresh strawberries on top!  Everything went over great! 

After supper Ben and I sat down with Keith to plan out how we wanted the ceremony to go and the script.  We had an idea of what we wanted, so we were able to get things hashed out fairly quickly.  When the girs had gone to bed, Keith, Jamie, Ben and I sat down in the living room and discussed anything and everything.  It turned out to be a great conversation and we all learned about each other. 


On Thursday, the 12th, Ben and I volunteered to have the girls again.  We couldn't get enough of them!  Ben's brother, Jon, and Bri arrived around lunch so Ben made them something to eat and caught up.  That night Ben dropped me off at the hotel we had reserved for guests and he stayed with his family.  Ben and his family had supper and drinks around the fire. 

I had a wonderful night myself - my bff Elyssa came up for a girls night!  I was excited for her to arrive and was really hoping she would be up for a night of junk food and movie watching.  After a couple weeks of running, I was spent!  True to form, Elyssa showed up with a bag of junk food! We are basically the same person and it works in our favor pretty much always.  After a short discussion, we decided that fast food (McDonald's, don't judge) and more junk food sounded GREAT.  I had also discovered that you could rent The Hunger Games off the TV!!!!!!! (It had not yet been released to DVD).  Elyssa was IN.  We went on a bit of an adventure to get our McDonald's and junk food, and then headed back to the hotel for our awesome movie!  Elyssa was very sweet and wrote a maid of honor speech that she read to me prior to our feast.  We both shed a few tears cheered ourselves up with artery clogging crap.  The Hunger Games was just as awesome as the three times we saw it in the theater and when it was done, we decided it would be a good idea to watch it again!!  We were both pretty tired and fell asleep part of the way through, and before we knew it, it was morning and Elyssa had to leave.  :(

The morning of the 13th I said my goodbyes to Elyssa and went back to bed for a bit.  I later met up with Ma and Clif to go to breakfast.  Clif ended up going into downtown Minneapolis to pick up some new shoes for Saturday, so Ma and I enjoyed a mother-daughter breakfast at Hazel's.  We indulged in the drunken banana french toast, eggs and bacon.  There are a few cute shops on the same block as Hazels, so we window shopped a bit and then Ma needed to go pick up Clif.  I was exhausted from the last couple of weeks and staying up late/waking up early the night before, so I went back to the hotel for a nap.

An hour later, and only about 20 minutes after I'd fallen asleep, Ma called and asked if I had gotten rested up and wanted to go get mani-pedi's.  I was still very exhausted, but decided sleep-schmeep, I'm going to be pampered.  We headed out to get our nails done and again some mother-daughter time.  We went to a place Jamie suggested and were very impressed.  We ended up getting spa pedicures, which were awesome, because we couldn't understand what the guy was asking us.  They did such a good job! 

At Luna Rossa
When our nails were done, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the rehearsal dinner.  Ben had already arrived at the hotel since he would be getting ready with me and going over together.  We were running short on time, so I quickly showered, got dressed and did my makeup, then Ben and I went to visit my dad and his date who had arrived a couples hours earlier.  They were going to follow us to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, so we packed into Ma & Clif's rental car and headed for Stillwater.  Since we were running late and the traffic was intense, we were unable to pick up the folding chairs for the wedding (the place closed at 6), so we added that to our list for the morning of the wedding.  We arrived at the Aurora Staples Inn for a quick run through of the ceremony and then headed to Luna Rossa to meet everyone for supper.  The restaurant was beautiful and charming.  We had a room to ourselves and Glenda and Bill had wine already waiting for us on the table.  Everyone said hello and was introduced to one another before appetizers.  Ben's dad gave a very sweet and emotional speech prior to supper and we all toasted to our families becoming one.  Supper was delicious and there were these tasty eclairs for dessert that had some sort of cold custard filling.  Bill was especially taken by the eclairs.

After supper, dessert and drinks, we all parted ways for the night.  Ben and I returned to the hotel to get a good nights rest before the big day.  We spent the drive back discussing how things were going to go the next day and mentally preparing and organizing ourselves.  We passed out as soon as our heads hit the pillows and dreamed sweetly of the day to come!

Feeling Sentimental


Last night I was watching season six of Sex and the City, the episode where Carrie says goodbye to Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte to go to Paris with Alexander Petrovsky.  I couldn't help but tear up a bit thinking about the amazing friends and family I left behind in Iowa.  I truly am blessed to have such wonderful relationships with truly wonderful people. 

I hope you all know that I miss you very, very much already and cannot wait until I see you again!  It saddens me to think of the things I will miss throughout the next year or two, but I am excited to hear of your many adventures as well as share with you some of mine.  You have been a huge part of my life and have made me a better person by just being yourself.  I love you!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IKEA Love

Today Ben and I made the trek to IKEA with the K's (Casey and Naomi Koschmeder - the couple previously mentioned).  Ben had been a couple of times last year and picked up necessities for him then, so we don't really need much of anything, but I thought it would be fun to get out of the apartment and do a bit of window shopping.  I had never gone to an IKEA and I think I like it.  Yes, everything there is mass produced and you don't get anything that is one of a kind (I looove antiques), but it is convenient and has so much to choose from!  Plus, they already have every room of a house set up so you can get some great ideas. 

We definitely saw some things that we added to our "when I get a job" list, such as a couch, rug and a lamp or two, but ended up with a couple treasures to take home.  We were in desperate need of a duvet.  The comforter that was provided with Ben's apartment is not very attractive (plain white and gross and doesn't fit in the washer), so we picked out something we both liked.  I of course went right for the floral pink duvet and the pink/white striped duvet, but Ben was not so keen on those.  We ended up choosing a cream colored patterned duvet with a tan back so that you can have it on the bed either way.  It is now washed and in the dryer!  We also picked up another bedside table so that both Ben and I can have a table and a lamp.  We tend to read before bed each night and sometimes one of reads longer than the other, so a lamp on either side is ideal.  A few kitchen things made our goody bag as well - a spatula set (I love baking!), pizza cutter and two wine glasses. 

Currently it is Ramadan so we are not able to eat or drink in public.  Most restaurants or juice/water places are closed during the day until 7 p.m. when Iftar, the breaking of the fast, occurs.  This being said, after IKEA we were all rather hungry, so we headed home.  Ben and I ate some leftovers and watched a few episodes of Friends.  We then decided to take a nap around 4:40 p.m., which Ben is still doing.  He has been unable to shake his cough, so the extra sleep is much needed.  I think in trying to adjust to the time and get up earlier in the day, he is rejecting what his body is telling him it needs to get better - rest. 

Next week will be my official start on the job hunt.  I'm hoping to find something and start around when Ben starts school on September 2nd.  That gives us the rest of his break to do some things around Dubai as well as time for me to adjust a bit more.  It would be awesome if I could find a job close to where a bus or the metro passes so that we don't have to rent/buy a car.  If I am able to get there using public transportation, I think we will stick to not having a car while in Dubai.   Plus, driving in Dubai is crazy.  I don't want to venture into it.  I have heard from multiple people that I will be able to find a job fairly easy.  Let's hope they are right.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's the Little Things

So far in this new country and apartment, I have found it is the little things that are making it feel more like home. I'm sure having my wonderful husband and pooch here makes a large difference (I can't even imagine how Ben felt moving here alone and the homesickness he must have felt), but there are other things, some more material than others, that are comforting as well. 

Ben cooking kebbah.
The last few weeks Ben and I were in the States, we ate out quite a bit.  We were either on the road or socializing with family/friends and we were both ready for some delicious home cooking.  We have been doing just that since we arrived in Dubai - we have had chicken and rice soup ( a la Ben), tater tot casserole (a la me), kebbah (a collaborative effort), spaghetti, pancakes, eggs and toast, and left overs of course.  We did have a date night where we enjoyed some out-of-house cuisine, but we both agreed that was much needed since we hadn't ventured very far from our dwelling since arrival.  Ben enjoyed a chicken panini with fries and I had a margarita pizza.  For dessert we went to our favorite juice place, HutSpot, which is right by the beach, for some delicious fresh fruit smoothies. 

One thing I did not mention is that we enjoyed mac and cheese with cut up hot dogs for supper one night.  THAT is one of the little things that has made me feel a bit closer to home.  The mac and cheese was some weird off brand, but still scrumptious.  The hot dogs were actually Oscar Mayer (turkey dogs) and were delicious.  Judge all you want - I love hot dogs!  Yes, I know they are made up of leftover disgustingness of animals.  I don't care.

Food of the gods.
Since we are on the subject of food, I am going to take a minute to complain about the sugar.  It is much larger grains than in the US and I just attempted to make no bake cookies for dessert tonight and they have a certain crunch about them because the sugar did not mix in like at home.  I couldn't simmer it longer in the butter and cocoa though, because the cocoa was beginning to scorch.  They are still tasty - they just have a different texture than usual.  Disappointing.  Luckily, when Ben and I were at the store I picked up some 7 Day Croissants.  These things are AMAZING, folks.  I lived off these when I went to Bulgaria.  (Mostly because everything else in Bulgaria made me violently ill).  I was OVERJOYED when I saw these tasty delights in the grocery store!!!  Ben had passed the aisle and I literally screamed "BEN! COME BACK!".  I quickly explained what I was soooo excited about (he remembered my many, many references to this heavenly dessert) while jumping up and down, not kidding, and threw two bags in our cart.  While we were walking away I excitedly drummed on his arm to which he replied jokingly, "NO touching!" I seriously think I could cry I'm so excited.  You wouldn't understand until you tried these. 

Aside from food, Ben and I have also started the process of making "his" apartment into "our" apartment.  The morning after we arrived, Ben ran to the store to pick up the essential groceries and I stayed at the apartment to begin the unpacking process.  Instead of hitting the suitcases, I decided to set up our living room so that we had a place to relax and feel more at home.  Ben approved of the set up upon his return from the store.

Before (From Ben's first arrival in Dubai pre-me)
Before (From Ben's first arrival in Dubai pre-me)

NOW - Our elephant we picked out during my visit in January.


The wall hanging is Ben's favorite building in Dubai - the Burj Al Arab
U.S.A.



 The furniture set up was what was completed when Ben returned; he had to help decide where and how to hang everything.  NO WAY was I able to come close to reaching up high enough to hang the wall things myself! 

What has proved to be a great item to bring over was my comfy purple blanket that I love so very much.  It is so soft and snugly and makes the small love seat more bearable to try and lay on.  Grover appreciates the blanket as well, and has quickly become very at home in his new abode.

Awwwwww

On another note, Ben has learned how to play SkipBo and Phase 10 in our first couple of weeks in Dubai.  I taught him SkipBo and even taught him strategies, even though he could potentially use that against me.  That is growth on my end, I would say.  I am not a happy loser and really am a sore winner as well.  I laugh at him when he loses.  Not nice, I know, but it's just so funny.  Tonight we had Naomi and Casey (co-workers of Ben's and a married couple close to our age) over for supper, stir fry, naan and hummus, and no bake cookies, and we enjoyed a game of Phase 10.  Namoi was the winner by five points.  Both of those games were definitely worth the weight and space in my suitcase!

And now, as Grover sleeps on the couch, my husband has retreated to dreamland and I am quickly losing my wit, I will bid you adieu! 





Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Month of July - June 30th through July 8th

**This turned out to be longer than expected.  Sorry for the novel!**

I would like to include the month of July in this blog and because it was so jam packed with awesomeness, I am going to break it down into multiple posts.  I am actually going to start with June 30th, because that is the day I got to pick up Ben!!  Which seemed to be the longest. day. ever.  I made the smart decision to plan a few appointments throughout the day to keep myself preoccupied; Grover had a vet appointment and I had a hair appointment.  The hair appointment was a great way to try and relax - my stomach was in knots because I was crazy excited and good nervous to see Ben.  We hadn't seen each other in 3D for almost 6 months, so after my usual trim I had my stellar hair chick, Shannon, curl my hair so I could be perty for my love.  Per usual, I conversed with Shannon about the happenings of my life and the fact that Ben was going to be back in the States within hours.  I think she was nearly as excited as I was.  Anyone who would walk by she would tell, "Guess what?!  Her fiance is coming back into the States who she hasn't seen in almost six months! *pause* AND they are getting married on July 14th!! *pause* AND they are moving to Dubai at the beginning of August!"  It was entertaining to see others react to her excitement and somehow that helped to calm me.  It's like she took some of my stress upon herself.  Or maybe it was the awesome scalp massage you get with every shampooing? 

After the hair appointment, I hit up Starbucks for a grande soy iced caramel macchiato and three petite vanilla bean scones for a pick me up.  It seemed as if there were a million hours between me and the airport, but the time finally did come.  Luckily it was a nice night out since I had the glorious Geo to drive to Cedar Rapids.  The Geo has only one kind of air conditioning - 4x65.  I waited at the airport, reading a book and people watching, until I saw Ben's head bobbing among the handful of other people arriving at the same time.  I can't even describe my happiness at that time - I was completely overwhelmed with joy.  My eyes were set on him, we both had huge smiles and we finally got a real life hug after so long without!!  Best. Hug. Ever.  We collected his bags and headed to Iowa City where we had planned to spend the night and next day to ourselves so Ben could have some down time.  Or so he thought...

During the day we had of just us (July 1st, 2012), we put together our wedding programs and favors (tees) which was no small task.  We had planned a date night that evening to keep Ben up and moving so he could work through jet lag.  We got ready for our date which was to include eating at Saloon and checking out the Jazz Fest happening in downtown Iowa City.  Before we were going to leave, Ben seemed kind of off, so I asked if I was trying to get him to do more than he was ready for.  If so, we could cancel the date night out and stay in and watch a movie and I could cook.  He insisted he was fine, and we went out.  We grabbed a table at Saloon where we both had the fish tacos (AMAZING--they put green tomatoes in them and that really makes the difference.), Ben had a margarita and I had a white wine sangria.  Ben wasn't exactly talkative at supper, but I figured it was because he was tired.  I later found out his quietness was due to nervousness.

After supper, we walked towards the Pentacrest to find a place to sit on the lawn and watch the remainder of the Jazz Fest.  We walked past the main stage and I asked Ben where he wanted to sit.  We were almost to the end of the block so I asked if he was wanting to sit all the way out here for privacy or if he wanted to sit where we could see the stage/band.  He suggested we turn around and see what we can find closer to the stage.  When we reached the center of the Pentacrest, straight down from the Old Capital, he thought it would be a good idea to take a picture.  I naturally agreed & we scouted out this nice older woman to take our picture.  Since Ben has a schnazy camera, he took a second to explain how to use it.  We positioned ourselves and she snapped a picture.  At that time, Ben turned to me and I didn't understand what he was doing - we were wasting this woman's time.  So, of course I asked, "What are you doing?!", in a hushed, urgent tone.  He then dropped to one knee and said, "Lyndsey, you are my best friend.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  Will you marry me?" He was nervous and shakey, I was trying not to cry, and of course I said YES!  We received applause and congratulations from those around us.  We even had a guy come up and thank Ben.  The guy said something along the lines of it was great to witness something like that and thank you.  It was nice.  Unfortunately, camera lady took zero pictures.  She didn't let the camera click, so we don't have actual documentation of the proposal.  My bff Elyssa was sitting close by, though, and she snapped a reenactment photo:

Reenactment of proposal!

She also snapped a picture for us to send around to family and close friends saying "WE'RE ENGAGED!":

WE'RE ENGAGED!

After the proposal, we watched the remainder of the jazz fest and decided to go for a celebratory drink before heading home for the night.  We ended up at Share where we both had a martini - Ben a lemon drop and me an apple martini.  They were nice enough to give us one martini free for our very recent engagement and the waiter commented, "You both are just glowing.  Now I know what that looks like.  I hope I have that someday."

The next day (July 2nd, 2012), Ben went to Cedar Rapids to spend time with our friend Marcus and I went to my friend Marissa's for lunch and practice makeup for the wedding.  Marissa and I enjoyed delicious sandwiches and playing dress up, as well as playing with her sweet daughter, Bluma.

Miss Bluma & me!

Ben mowed the lawn at Marcus', ran errands and enjoyed each other's company.  Later that night, we had a get together at Marcus' for our group of friends to get together and see Ben and celebrate.  We had jungle juice (which I will not be drinking for a long, long, LONG time), played bags and had a delicious supper.  We sat outside at the patio table and enjoyed drinks and each other's company.

At cookout with friends.

On July 3rd, we headed back to Fort Madison to spend time with our family.  We stayed at Ben's parents each night and had some delicious meals, great conversation and an all around good time.  Somehow we remained insanely busy during the rest of the week getting stuff together for the wedding and meeting up with people we hadn't seen in a while.  On the 4th of July, we enjoyed a steak supper and caught the fireworks in Ft. Madison.  They were really good, but there seemed to be  a lot of people not out.  I remember it being more crowded at the fireworks in the past. 

On the 5th, Ben and Andy went golfing and I grabbed lunch with my niece, Kennedy and ran errands in Burlington (which included an iced coffee from Java Shack!).  For supper that night, Glenda made Caribbean-style chicken salad from a recipe I had and it was absolutely delicious.


At The Ivy
The 6th is my Mom's birthday, so after her morning hair appointment Ben, Glenda and I met her at The Ivy for lunch and dessert.  The Ivy is one of Mom's favorites and we don't get to go there too often, so it was a double treat.  After The Ivy, we went back to Ben's parents and napped/watched TV until it was time to get ready for our engagement pictures at 4.  We met Devan at The Ivy, where Sue made us fresh coffee for our photos.  We took pictures in the Ivy, around downtown Ft. Madison, and went out to Ben's parent's land.  Devan did an AMAZING job and we are thrilled with how everything turned out!!

At The Ivy


At The Ivy





At Ben's parent's land




At Ben's parent's land
At Ben's parent's land


At Ben's parent's land




At Ben's parent's land
"Best Couple That Never Happened"award from high school.  Voted by our peers.


The 7th we returned to Iowa City to do laundry and repack to head to Minnesota the next day.  We had Chinese with my roommate, Elyssa, and watched a movie.  The next day (July 8th) We headed off to Minneapolis, MN to stay with Ben's sister Jamie, her husband Keith and their two girls, Kara and Nina.  Andy, Ben's brother, was gracious enough to let us use La Fonda (Andy's car/Ben's former car) for the drive to MN, do all the wedding junk and to use through the end of our mini-honeymoon.  The car was much appreciated since the previously mentioned Geo is not exactly the most reliable car.  And the no air conditioning sucks.  We made it to MN safely and Ben was able to meet Nina for the first time.  Kara was shy towards both of us at first, but warmed up by the next day.  The night we arrived, Keith made Pad Thai that was to die for.  WAY better than any restaurant you could go to.  We both devoured a large helping and ended the night watching The League and enjoying conversation.




Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Travels of Le Pooch

Be prepared for crazy dog lady to surface in this post.

My darling Grover made his way to Dubai to live with Ben and I during our time here.  We arranged with two services, one in Dubai and one in the US, to let us know what we need to do and to get things ready so Grover can make it safe and sound.  Well, success!  Ben and I were both very pleased with the companies we worked with, despite the cost, and Grover is here and snuggling next to me at this very moment. 

We had to jump through quite a few hoops to get Grovie here.  Mostly multiple trips to the vet and a trip to Des Moines to get a signature and seal from the USDA saying Grover is ok to fly.  With the Help of Animal Land Pet Movers and Dubai Kennel & Cattery things went very smoothly.  Ben and I made a trip to Chicago to drop Grover off with an agent of Animal Land Pet Movers who would take Grover to the airport and get him checked in.  Animal Land had arranged everything for us, i.e. the flight, so it was a very smooth process.  We were sent text and email verifications at Grover's every stop.  He flew from Chicago to Amsterdam where he made a stop at the Pet Hotel and was taken out of his kennel and had his water and food refreshed.  He arrived in Dubai safely where the DKC picked him up and boarded him for a couple of days. 

When Ben and I arrived in Dubai, it was too late to get Grover.  The DKC was kind enough to deliver him to our apartment the next morning.  We met the guy in the lobby and Grover was SO excited!  He was whining because he wanted out of his cage to greet us.  When we got him upstairs and opened his kennel door, he was so excited he peed a little.  Oops.  Luckily we have tile flooring.  :)

Shortly after Grover's arrival to the apartment.

video
Since his arrival, he has been doing pretty well.  He does have The Big D, which is rather unfortunate for both him and us, but we're working through it.  The time change doesn't seem to affect him much, although he wakes up around 4:00 a.m. and needs to go out.  He has warmed up to Ben quite nicely, which is a big thing because he is a bit of an asshole.  He even snuggled with Ben most of last night. 

Grover is used to getting walked for at least a mile everyday, so he has had some extra energy.  Ben and I took him for a walk a couple days ago when it was about 109 degrees.  He was quite the trooper although he was ready to nap on the cold tile floor when we got back.  I bet he's glad we got him groomed before we left the States!!

Speaking of grooming, here is a couple videos of Grover getting groomed.  He is such a baby sometimes....




video

Friday, August 10, 2012

Serious Jet Lag

I am currently suffering from a pretty serious case of jet lag and am using the time to catch up on my social networking.  Great use of time, right?

Ben is lucky and is in dreamland, although he has had a cough since we left the states which has continued to get worse.  It wakes him up at night and keeps him tossing and turning but he claims it is getting better.  Hopefully.

Our travel to Dubai really wasn't all that horrible.  We got to the Cedar Rapids Airport fairly early so we had plenty of time to check our bags before our flight was scheduled to leave (3:30 p.m. ish).  Ben had packed lightly for his visits to the states, so I took up most of the suitcase room.  We had 4 suitcase and 3 carry ons.  Both of our large suitcases weighed about 7lbs too much, combined, so Ben's dad, Bill, grabbed an airport bag and we threw some things from the overweight suitcases in.  (I later noticed in London that Ben had strapped two of my portable reusable grocery bags to his backpack.  DUH moment.)  After checking our suitcases and going through TSA, we had to say goodbye to our parents.  I was surprised at how much I DIDN'T cry.  Yes, I was incredibly sad, but I was able to hold it together which I think was good for Ma.  I can't imagine how Ben did this the first time he went over to Dubai with no one there - I was very grateful to have my loving husband to make me feel better while waiting for the plane.

Once in the airport and to our gate, we found out we would have about a 2.5/3 hour delay.  There had been a pretty epic storm prior to our arrival in Cedar Rapids that was headed towards Chicago, which was the cause of the delay.  When we arrived in Chicago (only a 35 min. flight from CR to CHI!) we found our gate and grabbed some McDonalds (lack of options).  The plane arrived to take us to London, but we were delayed two hours for maintenance.  This delay would cause us to miss our flight in London to Dubai, so Ben talked to the airport rescheduling people while I grabbed a couple complimentary meal vouchers and grabbed coffee.  When we finally did take off for London, we hit the jackpot on seats.  We were in two seats that were at the end of the column so we could lean our seats back and not worry about ticking off someone behind us.  Glorious.  I didn't sleep very well on the flight, but Ben was able to.

When we touched down in London, there were two ladies at the end of the jet way who had tickets ready for us to go to Dubai.  We previously were led to believe we would have an 8 hour layover in London, but NOPE!  We were upgraded to the Emirates Airline and only had to wait a couple of hours.  They gave us a couple more meal vouchers and we grabbed more coffee and waited it out.  We boarded and headed off for Dubai, where we landed, got through customs and grabbed our luggage (ALL THERE!).  It was then off the apartment to pass out. 

We were really lucky in our travels.  We had seats together on each flight, only had to pay for one meal the whole time, and were able to pass on our extra meal vouchers on to other people. 

The Family/Friends Blog

The purpose of this blog is to keep our friends and family informed of what is going on in our lives.  Since we are currently residing in Dubai, it can be difficult to talk with everyone on a regular basis.  This blog will help keep everyone informed as to what we are doing and hopefully spark conversations either via email, Skype or just in comments with the people we care about. 

The idea to start this blog came from my lovely sister-in-law, Jamie, who keeps a blog regarding the happenings of the Edwards/Jackson household.  Her blog gives family and friends the opportunity to feel closer to her, Keith and their adorable little girls, Kara and Nina. 

There will hopefully be many posts to come!  I am going to try to be loyal to my posts and also post videos that Ben and I make.  We figure since we're in an interesting country, we might as well take you for a bit of a tour!