The Bentley of Blenders

THIS is a Bentley.  A Bentley Continental GT Speed, to be exact.

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IMG_5264Unfortunately, it’s not my Bentley.  As if…  But it does belong to a friend of mine so at least I’ve had the opportunity to ride in it’s buttery leather seats and feel/hear the throaty growl of the incredibly powerful V12 that produces 626 horses from under it’s voluptuous hood (or “bonnet” for you Brits), propelling the car from 0-60mph in 4 seconds (or 0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds). Wow, that’s fast! 

Since 1919, Bentley has crafted automobiles that embody the highest standards of both luxury and performance.  According to their website, you will reach your destination “…with purpose and power.  In a Bentley, you arrive in every sense of the word.”  I tend to agree based on the stares that followed us everywhere we drove…

And THIS is a Vitamix:  

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Vitamix Professional Series 500

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The finished product: a fruit smoothie with spinach.

I’m happy to say that it’s my Vitamix as of recently.   

Never heard of a Vitamix?  I hadn’t either until six months or so ago when my friend, Nada, started touting its many virtues.  She was fairly relentless, but even then I didn’t pay much attention as it was a completely foreign word to me.  A Vita-what???  

It turns out Vitamix came into being more-or-less back in 1937 when blenders were first introduced.  Founder William G. “Papa” Barnard saw the value of blending to create healthy, delicious-tasting foods and set out to make families more healthy.  In 1949, he produced the first ever television infomercial promoting his product; you can see a short clip here.  Cute, right? Over the next 20 years, his company worked to develop and produce the powerful Vitamix blender we know today, setting a new standard for this easily-overlooked and often under-utilized kitchen appliance. 

For just as a Bentley is more than a regular car, the Vitamix is so much more than a regular blender.  The range of things it’s capable of making is downright extraordinary.  I know my saying that sounds borderline cheesy, but check out this link and tell me if you don’t agree.  The Vitamix can chop, blend, and puree.  It makes smoothies, juices, milks, nut butters, dips & spreads, batters, dough, purees and frozen desserts like sorbet.  It also makes my new favorite meal, soups, which come hot out of the blender in five minutes due to the friction of the blade. I’ve made sweet potato and potato cheddar soup so far and they were both piping hot and delicious. Black bean, sweet pea and cauliflower soup are next on my list.  The best part is knowing exactly what is in, or rather not in, my soup: namely preservatives and excessive sodium.   

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Sweet potato soup ingredients (baked sweet potato w/ skin on, apple, carrot, sautéed onion, olive oil, water, and bouillon cube)

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Yummy sweet potato soup hot out of the Vitamix!

Oh, did I mention the Vitamix is self-cleaning, too?

I bought the Vitamix because I’m not very good about eating enough fruits and vegetables each day.  Now I make quick, healthy smoothies for breakfast or lunch that pack in the vitamins.  I’ve lost 5 pounds in the last few weeks and I swear I owe much of that to my Vitamix.  : )

Anyway, that’s enough infomercial for one post.  Those of you who have a Vitamix will totally understand my enthusiasm.  Those of you who actually watch what it can do will want one.  And the rest of you…well, you don’t know what you’re missing.  LOL  

In the end, whether talking about a Bentley or a blender, just remember that you get what you pay for!  The Vitamix isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it!

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Smooth-as-a-baby’s-butt homemade hummus

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A Day at the Mall

Kid on Counter

NOTE: I originally published this post as simply a photo with a caption.  Consequently, I received several comments from readers saying there was something wrong with my blog because they couldn’t access the text when, in fact, there really wasn’t any text.  In hindsight, I’ve realized that my readers are used to my wordiness, rendering anything less…odd.  So from now on, no more captioned photos without accompanying ramblings.  I promise.  


Brian and I recently spent a leisurely afternoon at The Galleria, touted by it’s own website as being “…Abu Dhabi’s foremost lifestyle destination…”  Lifestyle destination???  Really???  My prior career was in marketing so I get it, but still… Last I checked, a mall is a mall. 

To be fair though, The Galleria is a really nice mall, especially early on a Saturday when it’s high-end shops and eateries are mostly empty.  Better still, it’s located on neighboring Al Maryah Island, less than a three minute drive from our apartment…despite the plethora of speed bumps we have to scale to get there.  Parking was plentiful, signage was somewhat informative (at least by Middle East standards), and it was a welcome respite from the oppressive heat.  That and we were craving a burger.  We’d heard from friends that BurgerFuel was a good bet, so we decided to check it out.

We perused the menu given to us by the super enthusiastic cashier, placed our order and went to find our seat.  Having a bit of time until our food was ready, I ventured around the upscale food court—it didn’t feel like any food courts I’ve ever been to before—to check out the other offerings, and that’s when I saw…the kid on the counter!

Normally I would insert a strong expletive at this point, but with this being a wholesome, family-friendly blog I will abstain.  Ha!  Feel free to conjure up a phrase or few choice words yourself though.  And seriously…WHO thinks it’s okay for your kid to stand on a counter where food is being prepared???  And gee…last I checked, that safety glass is there for a reason.  That reason is to keep germs and whatnot out of MY food.  So again I ask, WHO thinks this is okay???  

Anyway,the point of this post, aside from reminding everyone that it’s NEVER okay for kids to spread nasty floor germs on restaurant countertops and tables, is that frankly, there are just some things people do in this part of the world that I will NEVER understand no matter how long I live here. 

As for the burger…we weren’t feelin’ it.  But the fries were good, so maybe we’ll try a chicken sandwich next time…   

Mistaken Identity

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Returning from yet another evening walk with Rupert—bet you non-dog owners never knew it could be so exciting to have a dog, right?—Brian and I were engaged in conversation when we meandered through the parking garage into the elevator lobby and waited for the lift.  Same as always.  When the doors opened, we stepped in and I flashed my access card against the card reader so I could press the button for our floor.  However, instead of being welcomed with the customary green light and high-pitched, bird-like chirp, this time the light remained red and the reader emitted an unpleasant buzz.  Hmmm…that never happened before.  I tried again.  BUZZZZ! And one more time for good measure since the reader is prone to quirkiness at times.  BUZZZZ! Brian, thinking something may have happened to my card, fished his access card from his pocket and waved it in front of the reader to the same, annoying result.  BUZZZZ!  Something was up.

Brian hit ‘3’ for the main lobby and we asked the security guy why our cards suddenly weren’t working.  His English wasn’t stellar; consequently, we weren’t completely sure he understood what we were saying because he asked, “You live in this building?”  DOH!  Of course we live in this building.  It’s not as though we get our kicks from taking our dog for strolls in random buildings.  

Or did we (live in THIS building)???

It suddenly dawned on us that we hadn’t really been paying attention when we walked into the garage.  And since there are five nearly identical towers in a row, all of which are accessible via the same sprawling garage, perhaps we’d mistakenly walked into a neighboring building?  But could we really be that…BLONDE??? 

We hopped back in the elevator, hit ‘G’ for ground floor, exited into the parking garage, and—VOILA!—the mystery was solved.  Wrong building!  Ooops!!!

I bet we don’t make that mistake again!  Live and learn… 

The Open Door Policy

ACT ONE

FADE IN:

INTERIOR ABU DHABI APARTMENT – AROUND 8PM

Kathy is enjoying a relaxing evening with friends when a piercing scream permeates the living room.  She goes to the door to investigate.  Looking through the peephole she sees three, young children racing their scooters in the hallway outside her door.  They are yelling, cackling and generally acting like little monsters.  

She decides to open the door in hopes that if they see Rupert lurking in the doorway, it will be enough to frighten them away.  Most kids in this part of world are terrified of dogs, though not because of any prior grievous contact with them.  Rather, their parents are also unjustly terrified of dogs, and pass that fear onto their children.  When Kathy opens the door, they see Rupert and they are definitely scared.  The funny thing is that Rupert is even more scared of them; there is NO WAY he’ll venture into the hallway while they are there.   But they don’t know that. 

KATHY

Hi.  If you guys think it’s okay to play in the hallway, then I guess it’s okay for my dog to play in the hallway, too, right?  You just have to be careful though…because he likes to bite little kids. (evil laugh)

KIDS

(Their eyes grow wide in fear and they turn and high-tail it back to their apartment on the opposite side of the building without making a peep.)

Kathy shuts the door and peace and quiet settle over the apartment.

FADE OUT 

ACT TWO

FADE IN:

15TH FLOOR – 11PM THE SAME NIGHT

Yet again Kathy and her friends hear more screaming in the hallway.  Without even looking through the peephole, she knows the source.  

Fed up—this scenario has been playing out in some form or another since she and Brian moved in not even three weeks ago—she slides her feet into her flip flops and goes to confront the neighbors.

Their door is wide open, of course!  For whatever reason, they keep their door propped open with a water bottle or screw driver just about anytime they are home, which means everyone else on the floor is privy to the cacophony of sounds coming from within, whether they like it or not.  Kathy, without even knocking, walks right into their apartment.

The father—Kathy thinks it’s the father anyway; there are several adults in the apartment—seeing a stranger practically standing in his living room, immediately stops talking to his friends, stands up quickly from his seat, and walks toward Kathy.  He towers over her by a good foot…

FATHER

(Before Kathy even says a word…) Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry.

KATHY

WHAT is it going to take for you to stop letting your kids run around and scream all the time???

FATHER

Sorry.  Sorry.  

KATHY

It is a hallway…NOT a playground!!!

FATHER

Sorry.  Sorry.  

KATHY

If you want to leave your door wide open and let your kids race around on their scooters at 11PM, then I suggest you move to a villa…NOT an apartment!!!

FATHER

Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry.

KATHY

We have asked you several times before.  The next time we’re going to file a formal complaint with management.

FATHER

Sorry.  

Kathy turns around and storms out.  She hears their door close behind her.  

FADE OUT


What is it with some people???  While I don’t mean to generalize, it appears that a lack of courtesy towards others is especially rampant in this part of the world.  People put themselves first here, with little regard for those around them…be it in the way they live (letting their kids run around unsupervised), the way they drive (cutting across three lanes of traffic to make a right turn from the left lane even though they knew all along they’d be turning right), the way they shop (ignoring the fact you were clearly waiting as they step in front of you and ask the salesperson a question), etc.  It’s infuriating.

As a kid, I avoided confrontation at all costs; better not to interfere.  These days, after two+ years of living in the Middle East, I no longer take these types of daily transgressions lying down.  And you know what!?!  It feels pretty darn good to confront their rudeness!  

Yes, I was taught to be respectful of others, and I still employ courtesy as my rule of thumb. But if you cross me you’d better watch out.  No one messes with this Blonde!

 

Travel Exposure: Middle East Round 2

Back in March, friends Beth and Root (aka Jon) made a pit stop in the Middle East three months into their epic, year long trip around the world. I’d worked with Beth in marketing many moons ago in Washington, DC at two different firms, and knew her penchant for planning big events. But a year of backpacking around the globe??? Well, that took planning to a whole new level.

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Beth and I – circa Washington DC 2005

They arrived on our doorstep (in Bahrain) perpetually chilled from several months of colder-than-expected—they stopped in Hong Kong just in time for record low temps and endured blustery winds while hiking in New Zealand—travels; worn out from sleepless nights on awful beds; and with backpacks full of dirty laundry. We welcomed them with warmer weather, a comfy mattress, a free washing machine…and cold beer.

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Abu Dhabi/Bahrain – March 2014

The days flew by and we had a great time catching up…

Fast forward to this week! Once again, Beth and Root found themselves with a layover in the Middle East, en route from Zanzibar to Indonesia. This time when they knocked on our door (in Abu Dhabi), they were warm and fully-rested after a week on the beach, but still had plenty of dirty clothes. We welcomed them into the cool AC, showed them to their new guest room, threw a load of laundry into the (bigger than in Bahrain) washing machine…and drank cold beer.  Oh, we ate bacon, too.  Crispy, delicious, Oscar Meyer, pork bacon that Root had been craving after a month of eating whatever they were trying to pass off as bacon in Africa.

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Abu Dhabi – August 2014

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Brian and Root

They’ve been on the road for seven months now and, as you’d guess, have soooo many amazing stories to share!  They’ve seen and experienced things that many people only ever dream about…or don’t even know exist to dream about in the first place. I admire their sense of adventure and tenacity, especially given some of the adversities (i.e. malaria!) they’ve had to endure. I’m also extremely impressed—I witnessed this firsthand over the last four days—that they still act as though they truly like each other. Ha ha. I have to think some couples wouldn’t survive a year of such close quarters 24/7.

When they packed up their belongings this afternoon—I’m also impressed how much stuff can fit in those backpacks!—I sensed a slight tinge of regret that they had to leave behind the comforts of what I hope they will consider their home-away-from-home and hit the road the again. They were in for a long day of traveling, from Abu Dhabi to India to Singapore then Indonesia; I hope and pray their travels went smoothly and that Beth didn’t get “felt up” by airport security along the way.

“Can we just stay and live here, too? I (Beth) will do all the dishes and Root will be your in-house technical consultant. Think about it.”

As with all good friends, we were happy to see them come, and sad to see them go. We miss them already!  But we know that no matter where in the world our friends are in relation to where we are at any given time, true friendships will endure!

If you’ve always wanted to travel around the world but never quite made it happen, why not live vicariously through Beth and Jon by following their über-informative and insightful blog: TRAVEL EXPOSURE

A click of your mouse every couple weeks will seem easy compared to lugging a stuffed backpack around for a year!

A Walk On the Wild Side

Arabian red fox

Being new to Al Reem, we haven’t explored much of the island’s 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles) yet, though technically a lot of it is still a colossal construction zone and not exactly ideal for long, leisurely walks. Moreover, it’s too hot and humid to venture very far these days, so we’ve been sticking close to home on our daily dog outings.

And so it was that we found ourselves walking past an unidentified, heavily-vegitated yet seemingly-abandoned complex—it doesn’t show up on Google maps even—practically a stone’s throw from our apartment building on a recent walk with Rupert. We were minding our own business, having a scintillating conversation (I’m sure), when Brian spotted something in the brush of the adjacent, fenced-in parking lot. It was dusk, which made it difficult to tell exactly what was peering out at us, but whatever it was, it had enormous ears. And it was intent on watching our every move! Perhaps an odd-looking stray dog suffering the ill-effects of too much in-breeding? Or…a fox???

What would a fox be doing on a busy island close to the heart of Abu Dhabi??? An island with a growing population of people and cars???

But sure enough, I remembered reading an article a few months back about the prevalence of foxes in the UAE, and Googled it when I got home. Turns out our strange voyeurs were Arabian Red Foxes, a subspecies that has adapted well to life in the desert. Their over-sized ears help to keep them cool, and they can subsist on nearly anything, from rodents, birds, and fish, to insects, plants, fruits, and, most likely, trash.

They are small compared to Rupert, averaging 2.7 to 4.5 kg (6-10 lbs), so I’m pretty sure he could take them if they decided to attack, but I don’t plan on ever getting close enough to find out!

For more information on the UAE’s terrestrial mammals, of which there are roughly 43 species, check out:

Posing for Pakistanis

For those of you who know me and/or followed me as Blonde in Bahrain, you probably guessed it would only be a matter of time before I’d have my first encounter with a random guy who wanted to talk to/touch…or even kiss me. And just think, you only had to wait a week and a half!

Yep…Rupert and I were out on an early evening walk when two Pakistani laborers crossed the street ahead of us, stopped and waited for us to approach, then asked if they could take a photo of Ru.  These scenarios happened a lot in Bahrain, so I wasn’t surprised. Dogs are somewhat of a novelty here in the Middle East, and Ru is a particularly handsome boy. But perhaps I’m biased???

Anyway, I consented and guy #1 (more of a kid than a man really) told his friend, guy #2, to stand on one side of me while Ru sat, completely bored, on the other. Guy #2 did as instructed, but stood so far away from me that I imagine he was barely visible in the photo. Then they switched places, and that’s when guy #1 made his move. In the first photo he was standing about a foot from me. Normal, right? In the second photo I could feel his arm grazing mine. By the third photo, when he laughed and propped his elbow on my shoulder, I realized—WHEN will I stop being so naive???—it wasn’t a photo of Rupert he wanted, but rather a photo of ME. And by the time the shutter clicked on the fourth photo, he had his arm wrapped firmly around my waist. Smooth!!!  What do you want to bet that photo is posted on his Facebook page, with me tagged as his much older, Western girlfriend?  LOL

I’m sure when my Dad reads this, he’ll lecture me about NOT putting myself in these situations and tell me to knee the next guy in his groin. My Grandma will chuckle and remind me to be careful. And Brian…he knows me well enough by now to simply laugh because it happened in Egypt…it happened in India…it happened in Kenya…it happened in Bahrain…and now it’s happened here.  In the coming months and years it will no doubt happen elsewhere because apparently I walk around with an invisible sign plastered on my forehead that reads, “I’m a cool, easy-going white girl; if you’ve never conversed with and/or touched one before, feel free to approach me. I’m nice and I won’t bite.”

Truth be told, most of the time I don’t mind.  As long as I don’t feel threatened, I’d rather be cordial than cold. I like to think it’s my small way of helping to maintain “international relations.”