Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Nutella Nights White Party

Last year we happened upon an interesting party in a tent on the beach which was devoted entirely to the deliciousness of every one's favorite creamy spread - Nutella! This year we found ourselves on the actual invite list (as opposed to last year's crashing), but the rules were a little different this time. First off, we found out that the party is not actually sponsored at all, nor does it have any affiliation with Nutella. Apparently this group of party organizers just love the stuff and have decided to celebrate it! This year they decided to make it a 'white party' (because white clothes and chocolate spread are such good bedfellows) and they really upped the ante this time by putting on a huge silent auction with all the proceeds going to the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund.

It was an all around great combination! We got to snack on cupcakes from our new favorite bakery, Sugar Daddy's, and bid on great prizes for charity. Things got a bit heated as the night went on, as Matt had his eye on one prize - tickets to the Porche new model test drive at the Dubai Raceway. It is an event run by Porche where they bring all there new models to the race track and let people test drive them while giving out driving lessons. Apparently, tickets go to VVIPs only and are not for sale, so needless to say there was heightened interest on this one! After a fierce bidding war which lasted until 2:00am, Matt is the proud owner of 3 tickets to the track! He and the final bidder when for a split of the 5 tickets, before they both lost their shirts!

Of course I didn't want to miss out on the fun, or donating to a good cause, so I found an item to bid on too. The chance to have a hat custom designed to wear to the World Cup races. This year it falls on my birthday, so I wanted to have an extra special outfit! Luckily the couture hat world doesn't have a ton of affectionatos, so the bidding wasn't too steep and I got a great deal. There was some last minute competition but luckily I came out victorious!

We had a great night, even if it did last until 3:00am. We were pretty tired by the end, but it was all worth it and we were happy that all of the money went to a good cause. Good thing we had plenty of sugary snacks to help us make it through the end. What is it about competitive bidding that increases the appetite for Nutella?

(We all donated jars of Nutella to send to the kiddies in Gaza.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Putting Coatesville on the Map?

I always thought that my hometown would be put on the map, but I thought it would be for great soft pretzels or the study quality of our Amish-built furniture, so I was pretty shocked when Matt called me over to the computer to show me that there was a story about Coatesville on the FRONT PAGE of Apparently, there is some arsonist(s) running wild around the downtown area and there have been 14 fires in one month, including a 7 alarm fire that burned down over a dozen houses, and took 150 firefighters to put out just this morning.

A quick chat with my Dad, who is a teacher at Coatesville High School, confirmed the details of the story, and he said that all the teachers have been put on alert in the event they hear anything suspicious in the hallways, as the fires are suspected to be part of gang initiations.

Yeah, I know what you are thinking - wait Amish? Farmland? Gangs? Well, if you really are interested I'm happy to share the the strange history of Coatesville, PA with anyone who will listen. In the meantime, I hope all my family and friends are staying safe and checking their smoke detector batteries, and let's hope that these criminals get caught soon.

We definitely deserve to be on the front page of CNN, for so many other reasons, lets make sure these idiots don't steal the show.
Click here to read the story.

Snow? In the desert?!

"Good morning campers, it's COOOoooooLD outside!"

Only slightly stranger than waking up a Bill Murray every morning to the same groundhog day is waking up in the desert and seeing snow everywhere. Just to hit the nail on the head, we're talking about going from this:
To this: Yup. This is the first time in recordable history that it's snowed. Of course, recordable history is only about 25 years here, and if you ask "elders" (I'm not joking), who go remember back up to 75 years, they've still never seen it.

Here are some pictures from Ras al Khaimah - you can bet for sure that this is an omen of things to come - warming. What's next? Earthquakes, volcanoes, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
(the Arabic reads "Ras Al Khaimah", and thanks to Gulf News for the great snow pics)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obamamania Hits Dubai

I don't even know if I'm wearing that hat right, but hey, last night anything was cool as not only was I an American, but I was from Washington, DC - oh yeah! What a night. Matt and I met up with a a few like-mined, and also a few not like-minded friends, to watch the Inaguration with our Democrats Abroad group. They had a great set up at the Dubai Marina Yacht club, and we had the chance to mingle over dinner and drinks as we waited for the big moment on the big screen TV.

I'm sure I don't have to tell any of you this as you must have felt it too, but the feeling in our little room on the other side of the world was just electric (and emotional). Our crowd burst into applause every time we gimpsed Obama on the screen and there was barely a dry eye in the house when Aretha sang "My County Tis of Thee" (speaking of which, nice hat Aretha)!
The entire room stood when Obama took the oath and you could hear a pin drop during his speech. I can tell you that his message not only to the Muslim community but to the worldwide nations really reasonated in Dubai.
Our friend Maya (middle) worked on Al Gore's 2000 campaign.
The Americans in the room were practically beaming and our expat friends told us that they were so jealous that America was our home, especially with this guy in charge. We were in for a big suprise at the end, when the MC of the event said that we had a special guest visitor, Jack Carter. You guessed it, it was Jimmy Carter's eldest son, he was in town for a business venture and swung by our event. He spent a few telling us what it was like for him when his dad was inagurated. One of his clearest memories of the day was that his young son had lost his favorite 'blankey' right before they were to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and was throwing a fit. Apparently without hesitating the secret service brought a duplicate blanket, down to the same design, to the boy, that they had brought with them just in case. Wow, now that is doing your homework!
Jack Carter shares some insights on his father's inaguration. (Show off!) :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Really Grinds My Gears: These Muellers on CNN Speaking for Me

You know what really Grinds My Gears?
CNN has posted an article, titled "Obamamania hasn't reached Wyoming", starring Jack and Ted Mueller. One is a state government employee, and one is an insurance salesman. As a Mueller, looking to protect the good name, I propose that we re-title the article "Captain Obvious has not yet visited Wyoming".

I'm not interested in preaching Obamamania, but in setting the record straight for a certain group of misinformed Muellers. Come on guys, do you know the rest of the world reads this stuff? Let's alteast try to get some facts straight, we just look silly!

Anyway, just a few gems from this article:
Janet Anderson, 57, returned to Cheyenne after a career in the oil business in Texas. She worries about the federal government bailing out businesses.
"The Obama administration is taking consequences out of our nation."
She says, "If you go make a bad business decision and you lose your shirt, you just go to the government and get some money."

Ahem. Yes, the Obama administration. Henry Paulson in the Obama administration. Indeed. Not the Bush administration, no - they were just in office, made some decisions, and things happened. I think we should blame the new guy instead.

Cindy Hill is an assistant principal of a junior high school. She is afraid the Obama administration will dismantle No Child Left Behind and worries that his administration will leave behind huge debt for her son's generation.
"He's only 20 years old -- and the decisions being made right now, the deficit and how were approaching solving problems -- are going to impact his generation significantly." she says.

Deficit? Couldn't agree more. The national debt is $10,643,286,588,849 (and 79 cents). Interesting, though, that the national debt has been increasing an average of $3.41 billion PER DAY since September 28th, 2007. The election was November 4th. Just sayin' is all.

I'm afraid that so much of the responsibility of individuals is being transferred to Washington," says Jack Mueller, a 67-year-old retired state government worker. "Big Brother is going to be telling us what to do over and over and over again."
And over and over and over....Just don't tell Jack about living in the UK. Actually, his point is accurate. Big Brother is watching, just not in the way you'd think:
And that, dear readers, is what really Grinds My Gears. Over to you, Diane.

At 9am (6pm Dubai time), The Whole World Will Stop and Stare

So many people have told us that they really enjoy reading about us, and that they would love to be here with us in the nice warm weather, fun lifestyle, and crazy sand-based outdoor activities.

I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that EVERYONE we find wishes they were in DC right now. It is killing us to be away from Washington - we wish we were right back there with you. It usually kills us just to see video of DC on the news, but to see live broadcasts from the National Mall? Or a U2 Concert from the Lincoln Memorial?

All anyone abroad is talking about is Washington - it was never so cool to be an American. We want to let everyone back home about to make history know that the rest of the world is absolutely glued to their TV sets. All of the speeches, all of the events are shown live on almost every station (the rest are covering Gaza). Here's a picture of Lisa, who stopped mid-run on the treadmill to watch Obama's cast-off speech live in Dubai from the Philadelphia train station.
The world - many, many more non-Americans than US citizens - are about to come to a standstill at 6pm Dubai time, 9am Eastern tomorrow morning. Here's a little bit of a sampler:
Gulf News, the biggest paper in the Arabian Gulf RegionThe Hong Kong Standard

Google News, Aggregating from 4,500 news sources


Monday, January 19, 2009

The All Silver Rolls Royce: Just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Welcome to the 1st winner of our Darwin Awards: Recession Edition:
The only way this could get better is if the owner of dies of starvation, since then we could give them a true Darwin award. Somebody staying at the Westin in Dubai decided "Why take the jet? I just got this sweet new Rolls Royce dipped in silver." And off they went.

Hey, if you've never had to succeed for your money, and you've never seen a downturn, why would getting a sterling silver Rolls Royce be a bad idea? I, for one, have my fingers crossed that somebody gets blinded by the reflection off of this car and accidentilly swerves into it on a sideroad somewhere. I doubt there are many car body shops in Dubai that can fix this guy.

In the meantime, we'll keep our eye out for more winners - I suspect it's going to be a long awards season :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's Been a Year Already!

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Hello, Dubai! blog and subsequently marks our one year residency in Dubai. Matt and I celebrated by marking the occasion with just the way we marked our very first night in Dubai - going out to dinner. This time was a bit different however, we weren't jet lagged, we didn't have to survive a torrential downpour, we didn't have to use our cell phone calculators to figure out the conversion rate, and when we hopped in a taxi we actually knew where we were going. A 100% improvement, I would say!

The blog started as a simple idea to keep in touch with our family and friends, but it has taken on a bit of a life of its own. We've been contacted by newspaper outlets for comments on expat life, we've been approached on more than one occasion by people who are considering moving to Dubai for advice, and we’ve even been added to a UAE community 'super blog'. We aren't sure why we are still writing, or really why you are still reading?! If you've made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. As long as folks are reading, we are honored to keep on writing, we love your comments and thoughts so keep them coming!

A few fun stats on the year's look back on the blog:

-We've had nearly 7,000 hits in the past year (yeah, I know not that much - we aren't Google!)

-Over 100 people actually subscribe to our updates, some coerced of course...

-The Top 5 Readers by City are:
1. Dubai, UAE - "People here actually read us? Uh oh."
2. Hackettstown, NJ - "Who lives here?"
3. Downingtown, PA - "Thanks Mom"!
4. Washington, DC - "We miss all of you guys too!"
5. Fairfax, VA - "Thanks Mom and Dad Mueller!"

-Our #1 comment poster is none other than the FOG himself, Jim Mueller! Thanks JimDad!

-Some of the most interesting key word searches that have lead to our blog are:
'dairy queen Dubai'
'head oil massage for men in Dubai'
'mexican food Dubai'
and my all time favorite...
'speak up I'm wearing a towel' (No, I am not kidding.)

Although we've received quite a few hits lately for 'Matt Mueller Katie Shaver Wedding', hmmm, all I have to say is, hold your horses, Matt will be posting that site soon.

-We've shockingly have gotten hits from all over the world, just this week we've had hits from Burkina Faso, Finland, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Pakistan, and Romania, just to name a few. Below is a map of the hits that we received yesterday. Matt and I agree that we really need to try and break into that whole Greenland market, man those guys are tough!
So we'd like to express our gratitude, and a huge thank you to those of you who have taken the time to read and connect with us. Thank you for giving us an excuse to keep this online diary and allowing us to share little pieces of our lives with you. Being away from home is never easy, but there is something about knowing that out in cyber space we might be getting a few smiles or chuckles from you, that makes it a lot easier. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lightning Strikes Many, Many Times in Dubai

I think the planners definitely sorted this one out ahead of time, but tonight a massive thunderstorm hit the Burj Dubai, now complete with its spire on top at a bit over 2,000 ft. Don't worry - all of the lights are still on. But man - every bolt of lightning went straight for the top of that thing. I got a couple of shots of it, but it ended up as a picture of a big white, well, picture.

Almost more entertaining than watching the lightning on my way home was taking my Toyota Yaris through 3 feet of standing water. I'm a little more reckless with my rental car than some - there were Ferraris reversing on the main highway to avoid going through big puddles. "How'd you total your Ferrari? Oh, I was trying to avoid getting it wet." Smooth move.
My dad has said he wants the scratch and sniff blog up and running quickly. To that, I say - imagine what happens when a city with no sewer system floods. Ewwwwwww. And yes, you CAN smell it 300 ft up. Iym typeeeng wit won hyand while Iee hold meee nyose...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hanging on for Dear Life

First off, a public service announcement - No More Spam! In honor of the incoming administration, we've moved email servers, and now don't have any nasty spam issues to all of you law-abiding, diligent readers. So, with the exception of the two people out there who really wanted to take middle management courses in the Arab Peninsula, live just got a little easier!

On to more interesting matters: Katie hanging off a cliff in Sharjah in UAE - way, way up - with nothing but her wits and a rope about her. This was only her second trip out climbing, but it's clear that if you're good at yoga, you're probably good at rock climbing.

A few people that have written books about rock climbing in the UAE (Dubai, Ras Al Khaima, Oman, etc) have kindly setup brand new clips and chains into the solid rock around the desert. As far as we can tell, they seem to work :) Just kidding - thanks to some research our worried parents did on climbing gear, apparently they've done a really good job. It seems to be a pretty tightly-nit community, as you can tell by the effort taken to donate water left at a campsite (I especially like the "Thanks" somebody wrote in response):
All this is fine and good, but I'm sure you're asking "You already live in the Middle East - that's dangerous enough. But now you're ROCK CLIMBING?" Don't worry folks - we're taking all of the necessary precautions. Especially those of us who aren't as good as Katie - check out these two bozos:

Pretzels, and Waffles, and Cool Whip, Oh My!

We've been anxiously awaiting the new grocery store in our neighborhood, at the Dubai Mall. Right now we subsist on our local Spinney's which has carried the basics - milk, sugar, bread and the occasional ripe avocado. Any "major" shopping trip is at least an hour round trip and the selection is always sure to disappoint. That is unless you were hoping for date yogurt, camels milk, and hummus, because in that case you would be delighted! So, it was with great anticipation we waited for the new grocery store to open, and when we found it was a Waitrose, we nearly died with excitement!

Waitrose, for those of you who don't know, is a very popular UK grocery store with the stylings of a Harris Teeter or Whole Foods, in other words - decent food! I had the great fortunate of experiencing this delightful place when I lived in London. But would the store live up to our hype?


After a long day of rock climbing Matt and I made an inaugural trip to the store. We first saw the produce and bakery section - what's this seedless grapes and sourdough bread? - yes, and yes! Pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese, and smoked salmon? Keep it coming! Jif peanut butter, Old El Paso Taco Kits, Cool Whip, Miracle Whip, Lender's Bagels! Then came the moment of pure elation, it happened in the frozen food section, Matt's eyes were fixed on one item and mine another, there they were in all their glorious frozenness: Eggos and Super Pretzels. Oh happy, happy day. Breakfast and afternoon snacks have never been so good!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mondanite Magazine

That's French for 'society life', or 'our circulation is 10 people' we aren't sure. It's a monthly magazine in the UAE. Like so many of the magazines in the UAE it focuses on capturing the plethora of events that happen each month along with a healthy dose of celebrity sights and interviews from across the world. As Lisa works in the publishing business, at Motivate Publishing (go Emirates Woman!) the office is flush with the new weeklies and monthlies constantly, so they can keep up with what the competition is doing! She didn't notice anything strange about this particular issue until a guy at work said to her "Lisa, what did you do differently to your face? Did you do different makeup?" When she replied "huh"? He dropped the magazine on her desk for further inspection.

When she took a peek she saw that it was instead my face, and Matt's looking back at her, on the cover of the magazine! She confirmed to her colleague, that it was indeed not her, but her sister on the cover (but seriously who asks a question like "what did you do to your face?" I think I'm taking that as an insult!)

She called me in the next minute to deliver the outrageous news, saying "it looks good, you are next to Scarlett Johansson" and added "all the girls in the office think Matt looks like a movie star". Apparently so many celebrities visit Dubai, they have simply run out of people to put on the cover. The event was back in November and was the 150th Anniversary of the House of Boucheron, a Parisian jewelry designer. It was a really awesome night, as the 55-piece UAE Philharmonic Orchestra provided the entertainment and French singer, Barbara Nicole performed some opera tunes. As with most Dubai events (and this was a French one to boot), champagne was plentiful and so where yummy hors d'oeuvres. Of course, there was a lot of press so we didn't think anything of it, when a photographer asked if he could snap a picture.

Next time, we'll remember to ask for some royalties!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Christmas Recap

Whew - what a Christmas break! Although I think Matt and I agree that the word "break" might be a bit of a misnomer. Between the wedding planning blitz that spanned three cities, driving back and forth between Philly and DC seven times, and trying to make it to see every friend and family member through a myriad of dinners, office visits, and Christmas parties, we've finally managed to get some rest - but we had to fly to Dubai to get it!
Despite some of the exhaustion, the holiday was really great! We were able to reconnect with so many people that we miss so much during the year. Not to mention indulge on lots of homecooking, new television programming, Christmas decorating, and faster WiFi!

We swung by the Advisory Board to visit old colleagues, and took in some Sushi with Matt's high school 'chums'. Our friends Hersh and Jen met us for drinks to chat and catch us up. We were able to join my mom's family Christmas party as well as see Matt's high school friends for brunch on Christmas Eve day. We said hello to my Dad's family on Christmas Eve afternoon, and made a special trip to see our friend's the Arnold's (who are also our neighbors & colleagues in Dubai, but hail from the Philadelphia area) for their annual Christmas Eve party.
We embarked on some new traditions - Matt joined my family on Christmas morning, unwrapping presents at my house, while after lunch the Shaver crew packed up and joined Matt's family for Christmas Dinner in DC. My mom and I organized an outing to the Kennedy Center the day after Christmas, to see a special performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs.
Christmas morning at the Shaver'sIn front of the Shaver family treeMatt gets into the spirit of things!Every year the Muellers do this incredible Christmas tree - 14 feet, I think!A very special present from my Mueller secret SantaMatt's Mom tried our this new recipe for a Pomegranate-Champagne Punch, yummy!
Enjoying the performance at the Kennedy Center, Phantom of the Opera was the highlight!
We managed to squeeze in a very competitve game of Monopoly with out good friends Simmi and Angad, and then took one final drive back to Philly to have lunch with my friends before heading to Old City for our friend Jessica's 30th Birthday Party. (Or as she called it 'my big Dirty'.)
Happy Birthday, Jess!
Matt and I got to ask our ask our bridal party to join us at the altar, which we've been waiting to do in person for a while!

The Best Man (in his new chef's jacket) and the Maid of Honor.

It was a full trip, and we want to thank each and everyone of you who made the time and effort to accomodate our crazy schedules and see us while we were home. It means the world to us to see you all when we come home, and you truly made this a very very special Christmas for us!