November 27, 2008

Desert Duning with Captain Schwab

Yesterday Tim and I were invited to go out to the desert for a picnic with some Lonergan family friends. We had A BLAST! We literally drove to the middle of nowhere. From all directions all you could see was red sand. We saw this mate along the way! Tim told me to watch out he might spit on me...but he behaved and posed nicely for the picture!

Mr. Schwab was our leader, the expert. He's had years of experience of using the stars for
navigation, and for rescuing cars that get stuck in the sand. After driving for about 15 minutes through the sand dunes we found our spot. When the car drives over the sand it skids back and forth, it's the strangest feeling, kind of like floating or almost like a boat on water! About 2 minutes later, the other car got stuck. Have no fear, Larry Schwab is here!

A few minutes after this Larry tried pushing the car from behind. When Brian hit the accelerator, the back tires spun and sprayed sand ALL over poor Larry, and the car didn't move an inch! After deflating 8 tires and using a tow rope, Larry got it out!


This is the car that was safe: (looks pretty remote right?)

We had a little campsite, barbecued lamb and chicken, had hummus, moutabel and labneh. The sunset was beautiful, and then we built a fire. Larry showed us Venus and Jupiter, which were shinning bright! It was so beautiful out there!

At around 10:30pm, it was pitch black, Larry navigated us out of the desert, and he didn't even look at his GPS. It was very impressive!


Off to our Thanksgiving party now! Gobble Gobble! :)

November 26, 2008

Thank You Lord!

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday. I love the meaning behind it, I love the cooking, and I love celebrating with family and friends. It's a universal holiday that can be shared with and understood by people all over the world. The last two years, Tim and I held our own little Thanksgivings in Christchurch and Wellington! This year we'll be giving thanks with 75 other from all across the globe here in Dubai! I love sharing Thanksgiving with those who've never celebrated it, and also with new friends!


Some things I'm thankful for this year:

1. My sweet husband who is patient and kind (and funny!).
2. Our loving families. This year I got married, and I now have two families, and I love them as much as my own and I'm so grateful for all of them. I even have a Kiwi Grandmother! I'm thankful for supportive and understanding parents who are willing to take their adult children back into their home!
3. All of our friends across this earth! We are so thankful for having friends that have opened their hearts and homes to us on this trip, I am still in awe over all of our friends who traveled across the globe and country to attend our wedding, we've appreciated seeing all of you, as always!
4. Our health...I have to swim with long sleeves in the ocean now to avoid the bad UVA and UVB rays, but I am thankful that my family and friends (and my Grandtex) are healthy!!
5. Lastly I'm thankful that we get to spend Thanksgiving with new faces and meet new friends during the last little leg of our amazing race!


PS: I thank YOU if you're reading this ;) xxx M
November 24, 2008

Abu Dhabi Goes Cultural

The other day Tim and I drove about 125 km south of Dubai to the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is like Dubai's smaller kid sister. It's half the population (900,000) and looks tiny when you've come from Dubai, but owns 90% of the UAE's oil reserves, has all the money, land and power. As a result of the current global recession, the word on the street is that Abu Dhabi is buying up Dubai's big property developers and companies. During Dubai's big building boom, Abu Dhabi has been sitting back, watching the show, and learning from their mistakes.

The current action happening in Abu Dhabi isn't anything like Dubai World or Ski Dubai or Atlantis, but the building of museums. It is a gigantic project that involves developing a huge cultural district. The president of the UAE for over four decades, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, had the vision of cautiously modernizing the country, avoiding exposing his people, while trying a global interactive approach. After his death in 2004, the newer generation and power has become more open and quicker to change. The goal still remains the same, not to just boost tourism, but to develop a new education, broaden cultural heritage and traditions and to create a universal civilization. They aim to link the East and the West, and to help integrate the worlds different cultures. The country has succeeded in bringing in some of the worlds best talent to collaborate on this project.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan

"The real wealth of a country is not in its material wealth, it's in its people. They are the real strength from which we draw pride and the trees from which we receive shade. It is our firm conviction in this reality that directs us to put all efforts in educating the people."
- Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan


We were so lucky because we stumbled upon this exhibition at the Emirates Place Hotel on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District! Frank Gehry is designing the Guggenheim Museum for contemporary and modern art. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is being designed by Jean Nouvel. There is a performing arts center, a maritime museum and a national museum all in the works as well. Even New York University has plans to open a campus by 2010.

I loved seeing the evolution of Frank Gehry's designs from the very first idea to his final model of the building. His designs are truly fascinating and look completely 'unreal'! It's one of my dreams to visit the Guggenheim in Bibao Spain, his vision has created some of the worlds most innovative architecture. If you want to learn more about Frank Gehry, rent "Sketches of Frank Gehry" an excellent documentary film by Sydney Pollack. One other side note, his designs for Tiffany's are also amazing. I bought a huge wooden cuff bracelet in Bali because it reminded me so much of something he'd design! I'll have to post a picture of that later!



This is the model of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Looks amazing right? From all angles it's incredible! Tim and I are going to be taking a trip back to the UAE when all of this is finished!


This is the model for the Louvre, by Jean Nouvel. In the background of this photo you can see an image on the wall that was created to show what you would see from the inside of the building when you look up. With all of these tiny holes and windows all through the ceiling it looks like the sky sparkles from inside. Beautiful! It really looks magical!


I love how these two buildings will complement each other, the simplicity of the Louvre is a nice contrast to the asymmetry of the Guggenheim. The best part, is that these are only 2 of the 5 major museums being build on Saadiyat Island! If you feel like an interesting read, download Nouvel's Louisiana Manifesto.

All for now, going to bake my Pecan Pie now! Gobble Gobble!

Khor Fakkan


Last week Tim and I drove across the UAE to Khor Fakkan, a tiny town on the Gulf of Oman. It was really pretty, we just swam and hung out at the beach!


These bourganvillas are everywhere in the UAE, they are so gorgeous!


We enjoyed getting away from the hustle and bustle and traffic of Dubai!


Here's a good map of the UAE. It shows where we went across to Hatta, near Oman. Khor Fakkan is in between Fujairah and Dibba on the East Coast. Yesterday we took a trip down to Abu Dhabi, so I'll have to show you our amazing photos from there!

Hey Good Lookin, Whatcha Got Cookin?

Are you invited to a fun, glam, Thanksgiving and you have no idea what to bring? You might just be doing the same thing you've done for the past 18 years and you're looking for something new to cook. Well, you've come to the right place! Southerners know how to cook, and our recipes are passed down from generation to generation. I can't give away all of my family secrets, but here are a couple of winners that I assure you, the entire crowd will love!



Nana's Spinach Madeleine (aka Creamed Spinach)

Ingredients:
3 Boxes Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 Small Package of Velveta, Mild Mexican if possible (any processed cheese will work)
1/2- 1/3 Cup Cream, (or Half & Half or Regular Milk... whatever you have)
1 Small Onion Chopped
2-3 Tablespoons of Butter
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1-2 Tablespoons of Chopped Jalapenos (depends on how spicy you like it!)

Method:
Thaw the spinach in the microwave, and drain well. Saute onion and butter until the onions are clear. Add the cheese to the onions and melt completely. Add the spinach and stir well. Mix in the cream all the way through (you may need 1/2 Cup or 1/3 Cup, you be the judge). The consistency should be sort of soupy/milky. Add the jalapenos, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a casserole dish and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until the liquid has cooked out and it's creamy.



Pecan Pie

Crust:
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
3/4 - 1 teaspoon salt
about 1/3 Cup Shortening

Method:
Combine flour and salt. Work in shortening with a fork until it becomes very crumbly, resembling corn meal, or grits. Little by little add water until the dough becomes just damp enough to hold together. Each time you add a bit more water, add it to the driest part of your bowl and work it as little as possible. The less you work the dough once the water has been added, the nicer and flakier your crust will be. Once the dough is holding together, place it on a floured surface and roll out to fit your pie pan. Double the ingredients to make two pies or a crust topped pie.

Filling:
6 Tablespoons of Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Eggs, beaten slightly
Dash of Salt
1 Cup Dark Corn Syrup
1 Cup broken pecans, plus extra halves to decorate the top
1 9 inch unbaked pastry shell

Method:
Cream butter and sugar until blended, not fluffy. Add beaten eggs, salt, syrup and broken pecan pieces. Pour into unbaked pastry shell, and top with unbroken pecan halves. Bake at 325 for about 50 minutes, or until pie tests done when a knife is inserted into the middle of the pie and comes out clean. If the top begins to brown too much, lay a piece of tin foil over it to prevent it from burning. Make sure you serve it with fresh whipped cream (don't you dare buy whipped cream from the store already made)!! Make sure you save a piece of pie for the next day... it's always the best then!

Marnie Rocks!

Yes, Marnie Rocks! Marnie Greenwood of Houston is designing jewelry that is very simple and oh so chic. These three bracelets caught my eye!
Not only does she have great taste in jewelry, but check out her home! I love her mix of colorful modern art, lacquered side tables, and that blue velvet sofa!

November 18, 2008

It's Gettin' Hatta in Here!


Yesterday Tim and I had the best day ever!!! We took a little trip to the desert..and landed in Oman! We didn't get our passports stamped or anything, but our phone received a text message from the telecom company 'welcome to Oman'! This desert was nothing like Arizona or New Mexico....there was sand as far as your eyes could see, and wild camels roaming the land!


The little town we went to was called Hatta, but Tim wanted to drive 19km off-road to find the Hatta Pools. Our first little mistake was when I sorta lost the map underneath my seat..wups. Thank the Lord we aren't on this show right now, we'd be that annoying couple that you just feel embarrassed for when they start screaming at each other when the map gets misplaced. I almost 'sabo-ed' (aka sabotaged) Tim's favorite place in the U.A.E.

Don't worry, we made up! HI!

After driving about 2 hours, in our killer rental car, we arrived here! Phew. Our car is a old Toyota Corola that has no power locks, so aggravating. It got totally thrashed on this drive. Wups. We would have rented a cute Jeep Wrangler if we weren't calling every rental car place in Dubai asking, "What is your cheapest car?".

Anyway, so we arrived at the Wadi, or valley, or dried up river bed. It was HOT. I can sort of understand 'desert hot' now, and it's the cool time of year! But after walking a little way I realized all the 'fuss' we went through trying to get here was worth it!

We couldn't wait to get in! The water was surprisingly chilly, which wasn't a problem because it was so hot! There were fish in there nibbling on our legs like this!

There I am swimming along in this desert oasis!

There's Tim jumping off this cliff like a maniac. If our children have the same 'risk profile' as him, I'm in serious trouble.


Then we walked all along this Wadi, you could see and hear little waterfalls and pools of water 20 feet below us!

Of course Tim made me climb on down in there...so scary. He literally had to pull me down and pick me up out of those rock caves. I've never seen anything like this before, it was really spectacular. We felt like the only people on earth down here! We swam through different pools and found this waterfall. Unfortunately I couldn't take my camera to the best places because we were underwater and had to use both hands. You'll just have to go there yourself to see how amazing it was!This is the view looking up!

This is the second part we had to climb down...looks easier than it was, there was a 5 ft vertical wall Tim had to climb, and that I had to be boosted up!

I was so happy I went down it in the end!

This was looking back where we'd come from after walking about 1 km back to our car! We decided on the drive home, this was the best day so far of our trip. We'd snorkeled with sea turtles and sharks in Malaysia, seen volcanoes and biked all over Bali, stood in front of the Taj Mahal, but this was the best. It was just so different, unexpected...and off the beaten track! Truly Magical!
November 17, 2008

Life is Sweet

Sometimes when you live overseas, or are traveling abroad, you miss the comforts of home. Not in Dubai! On Saturday (which is like a Sunday here) we watched Tim's favorite All Blacks play live on T.V., while having my favorite Blue Bell Ice Cream. All after seeing the best sunset EVER.



November 16, 2008

Sugar & Spice

The other night El and I stumbled upon this amazing little fabric shop. We were freaking out. You'd think I could sew or something the way I've been going on about trims, fabrics and borders.

I think these ladies thought we were crazy in there! They were making decisions, and seriously shopping. Where as we were acting like children in a candy shop!

I did not expect to find such a sexy lace in the middle east!


These velvet ribbons were so beautiful, El and I were dreaming about wrapping our Christmas presents with them!

After drooling over the gorgeous trimmings we walked right into the next shop, sweets! Of course we had to try some, they were delicious! Pistachio, honey, coconut... similar flavors to the ones we tried in India but different!



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