Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fun with Elf on the Shelf

I previously wrote a post asking friends and familiy to participate in Elf on the Shelf for a bit of Christmas fun.  We had two particpants and loved the photos we received!!  We hope to make this a bit of a tradition and get even more people involved in the years to come! Below are the wonderful pictures!  Thank you to Joni and Jamie, Keith, Kara and Nina for participating!  Seeing your photos helped us to feel a bit closer to home this holiday season.

# 1 - Joni Luke and her Santa! 

Joni with her Santa!
Hope Santa doesn't shoot a reindeer!

#2 - Kara and her elf named Merry!

Our sweet niece and her Elf on the Shelf book.
Kara with her elf, Merry.
Merry was present at the birth of Jesus, too.

Merry the musician.

Keeping a close watch.

Just hanging around. . .
Kara stayed in her bed all night!

 AND last but not least, our elf Tinsel:

Searching for a good Christmas movie on Netflix.

Snuggling up with Grover.

Hope everyone was good and Santa brought all kinds of goodies!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Time in Berlin

Because we are unable to be home with family this year, Ben and I chose to spend our Christmas in Berlin, Germany.  We left Dubai in the early hours of December 21st and arrived in Berlin around 1:30 pm.  Our flights were mostly uneventful although we weren't able to accomplish much shut eye. After landing we made our way through customs, figured out the train system here and made our way to our hostel. After we checked in around 3:30 pm, we decided to take a nap prior to exploring and finding something to eat.  We set the alarm so we would wake up after a couple of hours which turned into 16 hours.... Oops....

We awoke, showered and headed out into the city early the 22nd. Many, many places were still closed even though it was after 8 am, but we did find this cafe that had a large selection of German pastries and good coffee. Ben had a cherry strudel and I had some delicious thing that I cannot remember what it was called.  After breakfast we continued exploring on foot and purchased tickets to a few of the museums.  There were displays from Germany's past, as well as Egypt, Rome, and Greece.  Since it was about 27 degrees and we are used to thinking that 70 degrees is cold in Dubai, we were happy to get out of the cold for a bit.  I found the museums to be a bit lack luster since most of the cool looking things only had descriptions in German...

When we were finished at the first museum, we decided it was time to check out the Christmas markets.  We went to the closest market and the first thing we grabbed was a warm mug of gluhwein, or mulled wine.  Holy bajeezes it was delicious! It tasted like adult Christmas in a cup! The tasty nectar of the gods came in actual mugs which you pay a 3 Euro deposit for the first time and then continue to have the same mug refilled as you go.  You can have additional alcohol added, such as rum, but we chose the traditional wine sans the rum.

Next it was time for food! The Christmas market had many stands with traditional German food for us to choose from. Ben and I decided to share a bratwurst so that we would have enough room to try other foods as well. The brats were cooked on this large circling grill over an open fire and the guy spun the grill himself.  The brat was hot and delicious and the bun was very fresh.

There were many stands with yummy treats and I was drawn to the candied almonds.  They had many flavors to choose from including chili, rum and Baileys. The woman at the stand was very kind and allowed me to try most of the flavors and I purchased a small bag of the Baileys almonds for munching.  We also tried traditional Berlin lard cookie things and a pretzel covered in cheese - both we're outstanding!

After going through one more museum we headed back to the hostel. We stopped at another Christmas market where we tried chestnuts that were actually roasted on an open fire! They are so tasty! Ben thinks they taste like a potato with butter and I think they taste similar to edamame. Either way they are delicious! When we got back to the hostel we talked with the K's and decided to go see Stomp.  We jumped on the train and made our way to the theater, purchased our tickets and went next door for supper. Ben was excited to have a good beer and we were both excited for pork and sauerkraut. Ben had a brat with sauerkraut and I ordered the shank which turned out to be a huge chunk of meat still on the bone and incredibly hard to eat (but was still good).  After supper we went to Stomp which was AWESOME and then headed back to the hostel for the night.

My favorite part of the day was being able to enjoy the snow. It began in the morning and continued throughout most of the day. It helped to make Germany feel a bit more like Christmas even though we were away from the people we love.

Monday, December 17, 2012

'Tis the Season

 It is hard for me to believe that Christmas is just a week away.  I think the warm climate has something to do with it, but this year also seemed to pass in a blur.  It's crazy to look back on the year and see how many HUGE life changes occurred.  Ben and I got engaged, I quit my job, got married and moved to another country.  Big year.

My new look.  I think green is my color.
I am lacking in holiday spirit and I think a big part of that is being away from family. I miss my mom and hate that I can't be there to wake up on Christmas morning and have our delicious french toast casserole (a tradition we started a few years ago).  After our breakfast we normally open a few gifts together and listen to Christmas music.  The time we spend together is one of my favorite parts of Christmas.  We also started a tradition of wearing ugly Christmas sweaters while opening our gifts and we each have a hat (my is a reindeer and hers is Santa).  Grover has a hat, too, but he doesn't keep it on very long.  Sometimes I make homemade hot chocolate with a candy cane garnish for the present opening as well.  If we're going to load ourselves up on calories we should go big or go home, right? 

I miss my dad.  We do our Christmas on Christmas Eve. Dad and I normally open our presents on the couch and he tries to find clever ways of wrapping my presents.  He is a good source to get the practical gifts.  For example, I normally ask for rock salt or things such as jumper cables or a shop vac.  One year he wrapped a few pieces of this square type salt and when I opened it he said it was candy.  The taste test proved it was definitely NOT candy.  After opening presents we generally tend to ride the snow mobile if there is snow.

I miss my brother.  We work out a time that Shane is free to come to Ma's and we have yummy eats and treats.  We usually play the game Boxers or Briefs and laugh until we cry.  The poor people who join us have to deal with the three of us laughing and them not really knowing why we think something is so funny. Popo Jijo knows why, though.

I miss Elyssa.  We usually celebrate Christmas with hot chocolate, Harry Potter and some sort of take out food. We are very classy.

I miss my in-laws.  I am excited to eventually celebrate Christmas with them and join in their Christmas traditions.

Despite missing everyone and feeling a bit homesick, there are things I am very thankful for and that bring cheer to the season.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband.  I am thankful we both have jobs and are able to travel for Christmas.  I am thankful for our "Dubai family" and the time we spend together.  I am very thankful that despite all of the horribleness we seem to hear about these days, that our families are all well and able to be together despite our absence.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Men v Women: Who are the Best Drivers?"

Newspaper article from 12/12/12 in 7Days - UAE.

Men v Women: Who are the best drivers?

UAE Survey states guys are more dangerous but the girls are too cautious and can't park.

The argument about whether men or women are the best drivers has rumbled on for years and a survey by authorities in the UAE has only added to the debate.
Male and female drivers across the Emirates were polled and the findings show the gender divide on who rules the roads is as wide as ever.
Nearly 750 (375 men and 375 women) motorists surveyed - 44 percent believe men are better drivers, with only 10 percent insisting women are better behind the wheel.  Forty-six percent believe gender does not play a role in driving standards. 
However, male motorists should stop and think before bragging as they're also considered the most dangerous on UAE roads - 67 percent of those surveyed said men are more reckless and drive too fast, while 59 percent said women are too cautious.
In the survey, conducted by the 999 magazine, a UAE Ministry of Interior and Abu Dhabi Police publication, 63 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that women are bad at parking, 17 percent disagreed.
A magazine spokesman said: "the survey shows there is a perception about men versus women in driving skills.  Although nearly half of the UAE residents believe gender does not play a defining role in determining who is the better driver - a fact reflected in official statistics - a big portion of the public remains divided on this."
Lt Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Hinkdi, editor-in-chief of 999 added: "Official figures do not show a skill gap between men and women.  Driving skills depend on personality, awareness and experience, not gender."
So are the finding on the finer points of motoring a true reflection of life on the open road? Lesley Cully, founder of UAE road safety campaign group Buckle Up in the Back, said: "It's interesting that these results were from a balanced base of men and women respondents.  If you asked my husband then me, you'd probably also get a very different opinion!  I, of course, am amazing at parking and directions whereas my husband is not then I'm sure he'd tell you otherwise!  Seriously, though, it's up to all of us to become less aggressive on the roads and more responsible for our driving."
Bobby Easow of Drive Dubai driving school, which opens for business today, said: "Your driving attitude is what makes you a good driver.  There is a common notion that men are more aggressive while driving and that women are too careful.  This is not true."  "
Driving attitude is something that is unconsciously absorbed and cultivated while driving on roads."  he added.  "In countries like India where most city roads have no clear lane markings and minimal lane discipline, you will notice drivers giving way to lane-cutters and even pedestrians.  You will also notice a low number of accidents in spite of the lack of proper infrastructure and 'chaotic' driving.  This is in contrast with the driving in the UAE where many cases of road rage and aggressive-driving related accidents have been recorded even though the quality of the infrastructure.  A higher emotional intelligence with the right attitude is what makes a better driver."

Women vs Men

Who are more prone to accidents due to using mobile phone while driving?
Men - 23%
Women - 21%
Gender doesn't play role - 56%
Who are more prone to accidents due to changing lanes without indicating?
Men - 37%
Women - 21%
Gender doesn't play role - 43%
Who are more prone to accidents due to speeding?
Men - 69%
Women - 9%
Gender doesn't play role - 22%
This seems to be the never ending battle!  I agree with the article that a lot of our driving skills have to do with our attitude.  I also think a lot of it has to do with where you are from.  There is obviously going to be a varying range of skilled drivers in each culture.  Combine all of those cultures and those varying skills and you get a whole mess of crap.  Dubai is one giant melting pot of drivers and each person thinks they are in the right.  I do not hold myself above this - I, too, believe that we Americans have it right when it comes to driving! That attitude is exactly what makes driving here dangerous. 
When it comes to driving in our family - Grover sucks.  Ben is very good in high-stress situations whereas I am not.  I am a good driver but parallel parking is not one of my strong points. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

This is how we roll. . .

Because who doesn't have a scarf-wearing camel sticking out of their vehicle?