Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Art of the Japenese Garden

We've just returned from an extremely fast-paced and relaxing two weeks in Japan.  Those words don't make sense, but like most things in Japan, the contradiction makes sense when you're there.  It's a magical country both firmly planted in the future, but at the same time, still celebrating traditions from the 1600's as if it was just yesterday.  We have a slew of posts coming - what's it like to cook at home with the Japanese (with no English!), what's baseball like in Japan, and is the bullet train really that awesome (hint: yes, yes it is).  But in the meantime, get in the right mindset with a few peaceful photos from Kenroku-en Garden, Shirakawa-go, the Imperial Palace, and Nanzenji Temple.  As you can tell, now that we're back in the barren desert, we miss our trees!

Friday, August 12, 2011

London Calling: Sisters Reunited!

Traveling to Watkins Glen, NY from Dubai immediately begs the question, 'when is this tele-portation thing going to happen?'  With 31 hours of travel ahead of you the anxiety of how to kill the time that lies ahead of starts to set in.  The aid of 'sleep-enhancing drugs' - check.  The next 5 episodes of 'True Blood' - check.  Counting the number of freckles on Matt's arm - check.  Now what to do with the other 20 hours?

Thankfully Matt had the answer.  Why not take a longer layover in London and stop in to see my sister and Basile?  It's so crazy it just might work!  And work it did.  While our bags hung out in transit we strolled off the plane with no worldly possessions and on to the tube to Gloucester Square - headed towards Cockfoster's (and giggling the whole time).  (Truly I don't know what came first the adult film stars or the lewd tube station names).

And there we were in Lisa's living room at 7:45am in just enough time to send Basile off to work with a quick coffee.  The day was ours!  Naturally we wandered around and found cupcakes for breakfast (honestly one of the few things open at that hour) and took a stroll around town before meeting Basile for lunch.  I can't think of a better way to spend a layover!
The gaggle at Kensington Palace.
Somewhere in the last 6 months we morphed into clones.
I haven't been back to London for 8 years after I studied abroad.  We look a stroll to Manresa Road in Chelsea to see the old dorm.  Man, if I could tell that girl what I know now!
My university stomping grounds - the Chelsea Potter.  (And a place were you can have a pint at 11am guilt free!)
We had lunch at the delicious Cinnamon Club just a block from Parliament it's located in an old library and serves up fab UK-Indian fusion. 
Getting our Church of England on at Westminster Cathedral.
Oh no!  Big Ben is ticking down the time that I have to be back at the airport!
I worked as an intern in the Commons in 2003 and it was great to come back to visit, if only I had enough time to sneak back into the Stranger's Gallery (totally want to hear Prime Minister Question hour on the News of the World scandal)!
An epic moment, the sun in London!  Parliament looks beautiful in the glow.  The Thames however shows off her beige-y shimmer...we love her anyway!

And then our jaunt around London town came to a quick end and we were faced with the most formidable of all tasks - staying patient at Heathrow airport (extra screening, what?)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is that a FitBit in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Oh, you noticed, did you?  Our latest obsessive product review comes courtesy of the Best Buy vending machine in the Philly airport.  Side note: I don't drink soda or eat candy - but a vending machine for ELECTRONICS?  That's like kryptonite to me.  I had to buy something, and when I swiped my credit card and mashed the buttons wildly (with Katie staring at me in shame), out came a....FitBit?
Shaped like a tiny plastic money clip, it's a wearable device that tracks how much you move each day.  With some fancy math, it calculates steps taken, calories burned, and even how well you slept.  Coupled with a slick website that tracks what you eat, it does an amazing job of telling me that I'm...a slob. 

How can something so small be so judgmental?  On top of that, the website allows you to connect to friends for a frightening level of accountability.  Can't I just eat my tub of ice cream on the couch in peace?  Not what I expected when I shoved my $99 into the vending machine...

It is a pretty slick little device, though.  A little blue screen shows you activity throughout the day, and it syncs wirelessly to the FitBit website.  It only needs charging every few days, and weighs practically nothing - apparently most women clip it to their bras.
If you're trying to avoid exercise, this definitely isn't for you.  But, if you want to feel guilty every time you to take the elevator instead of the stairs, buy two! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ramadan Kareem

Forgive the late posting, we've been tired, cranky, and stuffed after one-too-many iftars!  August has ushered in Ramadan here in Dubai (and elsewhere, I suppose!).  As a quick refresher, the month of Ramadan (in the Hijri lunar calendar) is a very festive and spiritual month, prohibiting eating, drinking, smoking, and even some "marriage activities" from sunrise to sunset.  According to some scholars, the Muslim fast is intended to be both a sacrifice and a reminder of what it's like to live as those of us that are less fortunate.  And believe me, when Ramadan falls in the summer months here in the desert, it's definitely a sacrifice.

Due to the heat, the summer months always slow down around here - it's usually a direct correlation of increasing temperature to decreasing incoming emails.  For this reason, we usually coordinate their vacations in July and August to avoid melting our face off.  However, this is year is "cold" - many days hovering around 100 degrees instead of the usual 120 or even 130.  And as if on cue, it's been the busiest summer that either Katie or I have seen in almost four years here.  Don't worry, we're kicking the blog back into high gear.  And only 6 hours until sunset - buffet, here I come!