Wednesday, March 30, 2011

29 Is Still a Good Time!

Thank goodness I had some great friends by my side for the celebration of 29!  Fun, food and friends helped me ease the transition into the last year of my twenties - eek!    I must say I was dreading the day.  I had just gotten used to being 28, how can this be happening to me!

Remember when you were 7 1/2 or 8 3/4?  You weren't going to let anyone rob you of your advanced age, no sir!  I took a different approach.  I started backtracking and reminding people that I was 28 and 351 days on the day of my actual party.  Nobody was going to wish me an early birthday!

Matt made sure to ease me into the next year in the most sensitive manner possible and he came equipped with reinforcements: pink champagne and red velvet cake.  Add into the mix a crowd of well wishers and a great lounge table at the DIFC hot-spot Caramel (their hamburger sliders should be considered a controlled substance) and I was willing to step into the next year.  Hey there was bubbly and cake on the other side!  Top of the night off by packing into resident dive bar i2 and dancing the morning away to "All That She Wants" by Ace of Base and I'm going to chock this one up to a success.

On Monday, we rang in the 'new year' by having a low key dinner at the new French bistro in town, Le Petit Mason.  You can't argue with French food and you can't argue with French toast and spice ice cream for dessert.  It wasn't a sweet 16, but it was a divine 29!
 Pink bubbles are the way to go!
Fiona got me a beautiful pair of handmade earrings!  What a surprise!  Even better her card read: "You are the chick pea in my hummus".  Awesome. 
Red velvet for everyone!
 The boys discussing the finer points of suit and shirt design.
 Hanging with Pam and new friend, Elizabeth.
Enjoying Ice, Ice, Baby.
You know it's a frat party when you can touch the ceiling! 

Ending on a civilized note.

*Oh yeah - and then we came home in time to actually witness Spiderman (Alain Robert) climb to the top of the Burj Khalifa spire - awesome!  For my birthday?  You shouldn't have!*

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

French Spiderman Climbs the Burj Khalifa

Yesterday, in celebration of Katie's birthday, Alain Robert, also know as "Spiderman" due to fact that he has already climbed 70 other skyscrapers, scrambled up the outside of the Burj Khalifa.  Okay, he was also doing it for the Education Without Borders conference, but that was only the first 20 floors or so - the rest, and the fireworks, were all for Katie!
Right before we left for her birthday dinner Katie was able to enjoy the fireworks display that I had arranged for her - right in front of our apartment windows:

Ok, fine they were also for the Education Without Borders event.  Just don't tell her that.

Starting at 6:03pm, he finally finished around 12:30am - what a slowpoke!  In six and a half hours, we were able to get changed, have a lovely birthday dinner out on the town, come home, change again, and get comfy to watch him reach the top.  All he did was climb up 858 meters - chump. 
Different from his normal un-assisted climbs, you can see Alain here using his harness and belay.  We won't hold it against him - at the top, he actually was blown off of the spire by high winds a couple of times.  
The Burj Khalifa management actually turned off the building lights for that part (didn't help - he was wearing an orange jumpsuit), but then brought them back on when he made it close to the top of the spire.  Check it out:
Don't like my Mr. Blurrycam pictures?  Keep in mind that guy was over a mile away from my camera - if you have something that'll work for that, please send it on over!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dubai World Cup 2011 Best Dressed Couple!

They say that the third time is the charm and it looks like they were right!  After putting our best foot forward in the World Cup's Style Stakes for the past two years, yesterday Matt and I were named the Best Dressed Couple at the Races!

The Dubai World Cup has become renown for being the "richest horse race on earth" with the winner taking home a $10 million purse.  The Yoshimi Ichikawa-owned Victoire Pisa, trained in Japan by Katsuhiko Sumii, won the Dubai World Cup at the Meydan racetrack on Saturday night, with Italian Mirco Demuro in the saddle.

Competition, as always, was as fierce off the field as it was on the field.  I really wanted to go with a classic retro look for 2011, so this year I had a dress tailored for the event by Montexa tailoring in Satwa.  I gave them a picture of Jackie O, dressed in a peach dress of similar style, and asked if they could turn back time and make me a classic cut retro dress (crinoline and all)  in an emerald green color that I had fallen in love with!  Karen Hamilton, used her fabulous millinery skills to create a beautiful hat to compliment the dress and accessories.  It was wearable art!
Karen Hamilton the milliner with the mostest!

The hat close up.
Knot Standard didn't let Matt down and he leveraged his own line to create the tailored charcoal suit, shirt, tie and pocket square to match.  He looked great and managed to match me perfectly - even throwing in some bright green socks for quirky good measure.

Nice socks!
We headed off to the races with our hopes high - we presumed we should at least be channeling the luck of the Irish with all this green on!
Did I mention one of the prizes is we get to drive a Jag for the weekend?
After two hours of standing, smiling, twirling and parading in the Style Stakes arena I think I know what it must be like to be a show horse!  We were delighted when we made it through to the final round of couples.  As the five couples stood on stage, we each had to walk to center stage to be judged.  We hoped that the third time would be the charm!

As we stood for our turn, cheers and applause spontaneously came up from the crowd, causing the commentator to say "I think we have a crowd favorite here."  Matt and I were grinning from ear-to-ear, so excited that our effort was appreciated - but the judges, not the crowd, decide.
Miss Fifi just looking very pretty in pink.
We waited anxiously for the judging to conclude and when the the announcer said the winners were a couple from the US, I held my breath...and she announced that it was us!  We were thrilled!
The moment we found out we won!
For the next hour we were whisked between photographers and TV crews for interviews.  When they asked was I was thinking I responded that, "My Mom is not going to believe this."!

A few fellow Americans seek us out to congratulate!
The races concluded with some celebratory bubbly and an amazing fireworks display, a wonderful ending to a wonderful day!
Celebrating with Fiona and Elizabeth
Nothing tops the day like a great fireworks display!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Iron Chef Dubai!

Let's get ready to rumble!  The Iron Chef has come to Dubai via one of our favorite restaurants, Nineteen.  They played host to a culinary cook off between two top chefs in Dubai - David Attwater from the UK, Chef de Cuisine at the Address Montgomerie Dubai (the defending champs) and Specialty Sous Chef Chinthana Pathirana from Sri Lanka, from the Dubai Marina Yatch Club.  Each of the chefs were equipped with a dedicated team of four to help them create a tasting menu from the night's secret ingredients - wild mushrooms, quail and vanilla.

The chefs were monitored in the kitchen by the referee for the night, Nineteen's own head chef, who docked points for various plating and timing indiscretions.  Then we were served up our dishes in a blind taste test and asked to rate our tasty fare.

The evening was a great success, with both chef's bringing a delicious menu to bear and the atmosphere was charged with anticipation and competition - just the way I like my food spiced!  We didn't have Alton Brown offering ringside commentary in this version, but the MC kept things exciting with live interviews from the kitchen and comments from the judges (us!).

The dishes were exciting and interesting.  The Black team's wild mushroom ragout took top marks for the most delicious dish and the Red Team's dessert was especially innovative including an apple consomme that melted in your mouth.  Each team was picking up points and I couldn't predict what the other diners would score them.
At the end of the night we waited with bated breath to here the results.  My own scorecard was split down the middle with a 36-37 spread, and I couldn't wait to see who had edged out ahead.  After careful calculating Chef Chinthana Pathirana from the Black team had pulled out the win!  He's unseated the current defender and now will have to defend his new title next month.  We can't wait to see what the new ingredients on hand will be!

Now if we could just get Bobby Flay to "throw down" over here!
The elegant interior of Nineteen restaurant.
Fiona and I waiting for the action to begin.  We were served a sparking red to start.  I'm was intrigued!
I'm obsessed with the Lucite Galaxy piano at the bar (self playing), you just plug in your iPod and it plays to accompany the song - awesome.  I'm asking for one for Christmas.

The plating action in the kitchen.
To take these pictures Matt inevitably had to see which team was plating which treats, but he refused to spoil the fun for us!
The mushroom ragout got top marks for taste with me!
Beautiful little quail dish.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Wake the Neighbors

It seems our geo-political neighborhood is going through some changes these days!  I usually receive travel warnings from the embassy once every other month.  It seemed that last week, they decided to compile just one email to pretty much cover anything outside our borders.

It Read:
Warden Message # 6/2011: Stay Alert to Regional Developments
The U.S. Mission to the United Arab Emirates reminds Americans to remain alert to regional developments. Below are summaries of current guidance from the U.S. Department of State for many countries in the region. The most up-to-date guidance and information can be found online at                                                                                                                                                                
The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Bahrain at this time. (Bahrain Travel Alert dated February 18, 2011)
The U.S. Embassy in Muscat advises U.S. citizens of ongoing demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and protests throughout the Sultanate of Oman. (Embassy Muscat Warden Message dated March 13, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should consider departing. (Yemen Travel Warning dated March 6, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Libya and recommends U.S. citizens in Libya depart immediately. (Libya Travel Warning dated February 25, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Egypt. (Egypt Travel Warning dated February 18, 2011)
The U.S. Department of State continues to advise U.S. citizens currently in Tunisia to defer non-essential travel to the central, western, and southern regions of Tunisia. (Tunisia Travel Alert dated March 10, 2011)

So I decided to create a map of all the travel advisories and restricted travel countries just so I didn't lose track.  Here's what I came up with:

People keep asking if we are ok over here and the answer is yes, we are safe and sound.  Here's a recap of how the upheaval in the region means here.

We are insulated from the overall "mood" sweeping the region. Dubai citizens are rich (not as rich as they used to be, but still). They are well kept and enjoying one of the world's best social welfare programs. So it seems that happy people are pretty much quiet people when it comes to the whole government overthrow thing.

Although, I'm working on a project right now that is completely stalled because the company sales people can't travel to: Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia...the list goes on. So economically sales/trade have been hit.
There is a very large contingent of people (especially Muslims from the Gulf and the Levant) who would like to see the US stay out of the turmoil in the region.  The long history of colonialism in the region weighs heavy in the minds of the people here. To them, even if these revolts turn into a protracted violent war, they want to see their friends in faith peruse the option alone for if they are victorious they don't want to risk American involvement in any sort of rebuilding or new government. To them the death and destruction are part of the cost that might be paid and there is honor in it (they cite our own Revolutionary War).

European expats have been heartened by the fact that the Americans are taking a "wait and see" approach before entering into Egypt and Libya and working with other nations to figure out a more holistic strategy.  Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't endeared the rest of the world to us. The rights and wrongs of such engagements are a policy discussion, to be sure, but there is a pervasive feeling that the Americans have been bungling things with their involvement in the past decade and that their involvement is now bringing even more hardships to these complex situations.

On the flip side there is someone on the news every night asking "what the US is going to do about this?". So there is a constant expectation that we will be the world's arbiter. It's a bit of a damned if you do and damned if you don't scenario. (As a complete aside, there are a lot of tongues wagging about Sudan/Darfur. Do we just pick and choose which people to protect and war crimes to stop?)

So that's my brief 'on the ground' reporting from Dubai!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Long Hug Goodbye!

The moment finally arrived last week, I put my little sister on a plane as she embarked on the next phase of her life - in London!

What was just a "summer visit" two and half years ago turned into a career move and a permanent residence.  Which then in turn lead to a secondary move to the UK this Spring.  You can imagine how my duped my Mom feels after she consented to the original "summer trip" in 2008!

We treated Lisa to one last night out on the town to send her off in style.  Buddha Bar was the site of the celebratory send off and after a delicious dinner and drinks, we ended the night stomping our stilettos at Shades in the Address Marina.  While we are all sad to see Lisa go, we wish her the best of luck (and can't wait for the subsided UK travel.  Free place to stay for...Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, Royal Wedding, heck...Harry Potter tour!)

Lisa we will see you Warren! (...Moon...soon)  Rhyming cockney anyone?

There are tears behind the smiles...

Turning the light bulb at Shades.  A signature move.
A list of things we will miss about Lisa...including borrowing her wardrobe.
A kiss for her Majesty.  
Nothing says goodbye like a few cosmos and a fake birthday gratis cake!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Absolut-ly Artistic

The art scene has really been taking off in Dubai and we are happy to bear witness to it!  Of course inspiration can come from anywhere and in the case of the gallery opening last night the muse was Absolut vodka!

Tucked away in the warehouse district of Al Quoz the Carbon 12 contemporary art gallery played host to a great party fueled by some nice vodka mixology and the great art on offer.
Note the gold, red sequined and black leather 'jackets' for the bottles.  Sylin'

Established in 1981, the creative minds behind Absolut have continued to generate fresh ideas to market their product. A large part of the campaign's success is derived from the wide variety of artistic talents who design for the company. Many of these formerly unknown artists were "discovered" after their work with Absolut Vodka.
 Everybody's happy when there are Absolut martinis going around!

Some of our favorites (names provided are not the official names of the art pieces - just our interpretation):

Absolut Transformers
Absolut Picasso (homage)
Absolut Don't Tread on Me.
Absolut Philly!  (My favorite)
Absolut Adorable
And of course, Absolut Warhol