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Mar 27, 2015

This week

Happy Friday friends!

This week proved to be a long week since we were doing testing in schools but it was also pretty nice because unlike back home the kids get on the bus when they are finished testing and head home. It definitely gives some chill time to be able to do all the little task (or huge ones) and not have to worry about supervision, the lunch lines, or dealing with all the things that adolescent girls bring. Granted here the big issues are girls wearing or having make up, but you know what I mean.

I was able to meet with some of the teachers one on one which was really nice because I miss that part of my job. I think that I am growing into my new position and I am being given a bit more freedom to work. Coming here is not always just jumping in like back home - you really have to earn your spot and your respect. That has been a complete paradigm shift for me but one that I welcome since I came here to have a totally different experience. That has never disappointed.

I decided to do a link up this week since I have completely been out of the link up game. I am linking up with Amanda from Meet at the Barre, Karli from September Farm and with Paula from Sincerely, Paula.  Make sure to checkout there blogs and link back to your blog as well.

So this week I finally downloaded my Rosetta Stone so I can try and pick up some Arabic. It seems like it is going to be quite the challenge but I at least need to learn the basics. I have yes, no, enough, and the word exponent. I observed a lot of math this week ;) The ladies I work with are starting to try and teach me bits and pieces as we go but I have to see it written, at least phonetically, to get a grasp on it. Pronunciation.. let not even talk about that for now. 

We went over to the local Daiso store this week on the hunt for a tape runner with designed on it that I saw on my Instagram feed from another planner lover. Daiso is a Japanese store with all sorts of things. I call it the dollar store because everything is 7 dirhams. Technically that is $1.91 in U.S. currency but no one wants to say the $1.91 store. Think of the store as the best amazon buys that come from overseas for like 99 cents but only in store form. I love it. While I did not find my decorative tape runner (sad face!!) I did score this amazing mug which made me think of my sister, Lindsay: 

Such a cute piece. I promised I would go back and look for another one since she really liked it as well!  I also picked up a little journal to get my traveling plans in one place. 
That little floral book.. never something that I would normally pick up but I thought it looked unique and I think it will serve as a nice journal type notebook for when I go back home.  Again, the bargain price of AED 7. 

 My favorite meal of the week was definitely our anniversary dinner at Stratos. It is a revolving restaurant on top of Lé Royal Meridan hotel by the Corniche. It was really beautiful and the views were fantastic. We were able to get a complete 360 degree view of Abu Dhabi, the ocean and the skyline. The food was pretty amazing as well. I highly recommend the lobster mac & cheese!

We also visited the Sheik Zayed Mosque yesterday and it was breathtaking. There are no pictures that will ever do the structure any justice. I watched several documentaries and read several pieces about the planning and building of the structure but I never imagined how huge it would really be. I drive by it all the time, but it is definitely not the same as taking a trip inside. Every single detail is perfect. A definite must see for all those who can travel to Abu Dhabi. If you follow me on Instagram, I posted several more pictures there as well. I haven't even gotten to my professional camera pictures. These are from my trusty iPhone.  

I just can't get enough of the beauty.

One of the amazing chandeliers. They weigh tons and sparkle like crazy. 

This would have been a fantastic picture but that security guard was relentless in staying in the background of it ;) 

All individual pieces of marble to make the floors and the intricate designs. 

I cannot wait to go back. It is very serene and they are still working on the outside of it for the lawns and different areas. I look forward to seeing it completed before we leave. 

So whats on tap for this weekend? I have no idea. I do know that I am getting my hair done and I am pumped about that. The struggle is very real with the root situation so I will be glad that is remedied. 

Cheers to the weekend!

Mar 23, 2015

Weekending in Dubai

So we finally took the drive over to Dubai from Abu Dhabi and it was like falling in love all over again. I am definitely a big fan of Dubai. It feels like a mini New York city due to the sky scrapper buildings and some of the traffic. But I am an avid New York fan so I didn't mind. 

The feel is extremely western. Not that cowboy western feel but from the States western feel. It is not as conservative and you truly forget that you are in the Middle East. The malls are amazing. Just amazing. From the Ski slopes at Ski Dubai to the dancing fountains outside of the Burj Khalifa it was such a nice taste of home. Did I mention they have an iHop in the malls? We didn't eat there but we did enjoy California Pizza Kitchen which did not disappoint. 

*SkiDubai in the Mall of the Emirates

I was so excited to the Burj. It is truly overwhelming in person. We didn't buy tickets to go to the observation deck but hopefully in the near future we will. I would rather check out the restaurant Atmosphere on the 122 floor but that will definteley require some dirhams. So we will save up and do that. I think that would be the best of both worlds - a great meal and an amazing view. 

 Now it is not everyday that you get to see a huge aquarium in the middle of the mall but as usual, nothing disappoints here. There were some brave souls that did the swimming in the aquarium while we were there. I will save Kudos to them and I will stay on dry land. Hopefully they got some cool pictures though.

We got outside just in time to see the fountain show on the water. What a sight that is. I have never been to Vegas but I assume it is similar to the fountain show there. It was really pretty and the Burg gives a nice backdrop. I highly suggest getting there early or scoring a balcony table at one of the several restaurants that have terraces overlooking the water. Again.. next time we will plan better!

The lights, the water and all choreographed to music. It was spectacular!

The Dubai mall was so extremely busy that we didn't get to see a whole lot of the stores because we were there on a Friday (mistake one) and it is very touristy anyways. We did find these waterfalls in the mall that provide a great background for a photo op. 

Fast forward to this past Friday, we went to Dubai again to check out Global Village. I have read a lot about the Global Village but I wasn't quite sure what it was. I did know that I needed was good shoes and cash since everything is bartering. I am definitely okay with that. It took us about an hour to get there and it was much bigger than I anticipated. It is made up of several pavilions that are based on each country represented. You can buy authentic goods from each from clothing, food, spices, and other items. I will say that I was a bit disappointed that the vast majority of the product were knock off purses in each country. However, if you want a cheap bag that is definitely where you need to head.  Lots of traditional clothes (that I wouldn't wear), spices (with very pushy salesmen) and oddities were in each country. I was most disappointed with The Americas because the products in there were not at all what I define as America. Maybe my expectations were too high.  Yet, we did have a good time and we would go back from time to time. There is plenty of food to go around and lots of rides in the carnival section. 

Probably my favorite part was the little outside booth we found with an artist who was spray painting pictures. I have always found this intriguing. I cannot draw a proper stick figure but these folks can make amazing pictures with straightedges and spray paint. We couldn't resist this one for our camel wall in our apartment. I am in love with the fact it has both camels and the Dubai skyline. 

 There are so many more things that we want to do when we go back to Dubai. The city is so full of life and things to see and do. Luckily we have plenty of time! How did you spend your weekend?

Mar 21, 2015

Hopping on travel

One of the biggest things I wanted to accomplish coming to the Middle East was to fulfill the travel bug that has been pestering the back of my mind for years. I have always dreamed of being able to see the world, to experience beautiful sights and be introduced to new cultures. Well this is a great dream but how does one who is not worldly nor well traveled even begin to understand where to go, what to do once you get there, and of course how to stay safe when traveling to unexplored lands.

One of my friends here in AD who is from back home introduced me to the app "Hopper".

Of course one of the first things is how much do I want to spend on these trips? Well Hopper has been a favorite so far as you can plug in your intended dates of travel and it gives you when the prices are high, medium, or low. It even watches trips for you so if they happen to sink really low you get an alert so you know when to buy to save you a few dollars. I have the notifications set up so I get when the price goes up, goes down, or when it is the best time to buy.

I am loving the fact that I can program in a bunch of different trips and just kind of wait and see what will suit me and my budget the best! The app keeps track of all the trips and you are able to plan pretty far out or at least get the intended trips on deck to be watched. I cannot wait to start acting on some of the deals that this bunny finds me. What apps are your travel essentials?

Mar 14, 2015

Makeover time

So a confession.... I've kind of let myself go.

I know, it happens to everyone from time to time but this extended period of ridiculousness is just that: ridiculous. I think back to a little over a year ago and I was hitting the gym hard. Twice daily to be exact - 5am and then boxing at night. I was really motivated and I was feeling great. I have never been comfortable in my own skin and I was so pumped to finally be doing something about it. I had an amazing boxing trainer and I think that I owe much of my motivation to him. I didn't want to let him down by not showing up, I pushed myself hard because I wanted to show I was strong and I could work hard. But I guess I lost track that I really needed to be showing myself the strength and I need to be my own motivation. I ended up hurting my Achilles tendon and that shot in my tendon is something I NEVER want to experience again. It really scared me because I went back to the gym after but I was always so cautious. I didn't want to get hurt again, I didn't push as hard and I stopped seeing a lot of the results. End of story: I got discouraged and I quit on myself. I slipped back into old habits, packed all the weight back on and then I got really mad at myself because I had worked so incredibly hard to lose it. So here I am. Irritated with myself, uncomfortable, and starting over...again. For the last.damn.time.

So we have a gym here in my new digs in Abu Dhabi and I plan to start visiting it this week. I finally found some shoes since I left all my tennis shoes back home on accident. No really - it was an accident. I tried to start wearing my Jawbone to find that it no longer holds a charge (annoying) so my husband and I both bought FitBit HR bands which I am really liking so far. I like seeing an in your face accountability for moving, calories, and steps. I also have started logging food in MyFitnessPal again. Coincidentally, one of my friends invited me to a "Spring Fitness" group on Facebook so I gladly signed up and I am hoping to use that as a motivation and accountability as well. Plus, I will blog my journey and use this as accountability as well.

 So here are my goals:

96 oz of water to start per day (I found a 24 oz. bottle so that is my reasoning - 4 bottles a day)
Trying to phase out sugar but I've gotta figure out a happy medium
Gotta stop soda. Like yesterday. No more soda.
8,000 steps a day
at least 4 workouts per week

Keep in mind these are my goals for this week. I think I am also going to do daily fitness goals and post on Instagram daily. That is always a good daily accountability & it reminds me each day to accomplish something. A big driving force is when I go home for the first time in December. I want to look and be a completely different, better, and healthier me.

Feel free to cheer me on, follow me on Instagram for my daily goals, and hold me accountable. Any challenges out there that I can join - comment below!

Mar 3, 2015

This is like digital scrapbooking!

Still in the effort of playing catch up, I figured I would do a picture bomb post with some of the highlights over the last two months. I feel like after that I can officially move forward with the craziness. Lofty goals but you know, someone has to have them.

So up above we have:
1. Two days after my husband arrived in Abu Dhabi we stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant on the roof of the Abu Dhabi World Trade Center Mall. This was also the inaugural run of the self stick. A win all around. 

2. Finally some living room furniture and lamps. I am in love with the final look. 

3. The fog here is real. Very real. In fact, often because my school is a bit remote and outside of the city we have "fog days" and we have to wait for it to clear up before it is safe to drive. It is definitely a bit unnerving to drive when you cannot see. 

4. I broke down and bought a nescafe machine or something like that. It makes pretty drinks but it has NOTHING on my Starbucks Espresso machine that is scared and lonely in my POD storage container back home. 

5. My first henna - LOVE it!

6. Our first sunset on the beach outside of our apartment <3

7. If you follow me on Instagram you will notice that I use the hashtag #thingsthatshowuponmydesk -- these fruits are one of those items. They are kind of like an apple/pear combo. They are pretty good! No idea what they are called.

8. We found an Applebees! Yay! No!

9. I cannot even begin to describe the nightmares that this gives me. I don't know the official name for this non-toilet but squatty potty has been used at work where I encountered my first one. Just no. It freaks me out on so many levels. 

10. Best coffee I've had here thanks to The Bagel Bar in Yas Mall :)

11. A great vintage find in the Virgin Music store - I love Gizmo!

12. When driving in Abu Dhabi you never know when a wrong turn will take you into the longest under ground tunnel ever. 

And for the late January/Feb collection:

1. Al Bandar building. I can see it everyday from my apartment and I think it is the coolest building. I am a bit disappointed that it is just boring office spaces. I mean they could put a starbucks on the ground floor of that bad boy and I would definitely keep it in business.

2. My new dining room table with buffet table. Not sure what I will ever do with the buffet but I am positive that some holiday decorations will looks fabulous on it!

3. I really want to go see Drake in Dubai. However, I just saw him in September. I mean... I could justify it under the category of "But I'll never have this chance again.."  That will become a catch all ;)

4. This is the foyer of my school. HUGE. I wish I could take better pics but there is a strict no picture policy for fear of showing someone who cannot be seen in pictures. So we settle for little glimpses and I always make sure I am solo so I don't mistakenly get someone in the picture.

5. This is how so many things get to my apartment, including groceries. I just bring a shopping cart up the elevator. Yep, no shame. There is even a number on the handle of the cart and they will come pick them up. I usually just leave it in the hallway.

6. Repeat picture... moving on..

7. Driving through Al Ain on a Thursday evening.

8. Opposite view of the living room looking towards the kitchen and balcony.

9. 24 caret Ferrari - no big deal

10. Some large lighted display in Al Ain smack dab in the middle of a roundabout. Not the safest place to put it because it is definitely a distraction but it is really pretty. I am pretty sure it is a national day left over decoration. They love them some national day.

11. I like to take pictures of my cappuccinos, what can I say. #bagelbarlove

12. One of the most bizarre occurrences since moving here.  I asked for a pedicure and I get hot wax and thermal booties put on my feet. It was beyond strange. But my feet felt amazing.

13. Saadiyat Beach Club - love this place!

14. I knew we were doing a fire drill but I had no idea that the fire department actually comes to the school and unloads the truck an does a real life scenario. It was pretty cool.

15. The view of the courtyard from my office.

16. Another item in the #thingsthatshowuponmydesk I was told it was that orange thing you use to celebrate the costume day - aka a pumpkin - but I am not 100% sure. It wasn't bad just super sweet for my taste.

Hope you enjoyed the sampling or the "photo dump" of the recent happenings. What have you been up too??

Mar 1, 2015

Hello, Hey, Hi, How ya doin?

So here I am. A full two months have flown by and I have thought about typing it all out several times on the computer, yet I just could never seem to get the precious minutes to sit and just spill things. Moving away from home will shake you to your core if you have never taken this leap before and I will say that even for this 30-something that is so strikingly true. I have felt emotions I didn't even know existed. I have had the highest highs and surprisingly not so many lows. For that I am thankful. I don't like to pat myself on the back much but I think that my state of mind had a lot to do with that...and I have great friends. So now I am at the cross roads where I have to make the choice of do I try to summarize the past two months or do I just say - it was okay and move forward?

Yep, not skipping it. It is bad enough I failed to blog about it, but wait for it... I didn't even write in my planner the month of February. The horror. So we can hit the highlights...shall we?

So I spent NYE 2015 in the desert amidst the sand dunes and people from the U.A.E., Syria, America, South Africa, and multiple other places. I wrote a camel, had henna done on my hands, and I stayed in my new home for the first time on NYE night. The picture is definitely blurry but it serves as enough photo evidence that I have in fact ridden a camel. Check that off the bucket list.

At the beginning of January I was invited to head out with some fellow expat vice principals and that was the best invite that I have received since arriving here. These ladies have come to be my daily source of help, support, and many laughs. I also now car pool with one of them and she is by far the funniest person I have ever met. She hails from Ireland and uses the F bomb often. I like her.

My husband joined me January 8 here in the U.A.E. and that made everything seem so much better. I had been here since November 28th completely on my own and I was ready for a piece of home, especially my husband. He is adjusting well to life in the UAE and he has made a friend with a fellow husband of an AVP that live in our complex. It makes my life much easier since I know that he is not sitting amongst these preverbal 4 wall everyday. Upon his arrival we were able to pick our furniture (thank goodness!!) and get all the final touches for the apartment so it is starting to really feel like home now. We have even been out a few times to a local club - the Saadiyat Beach Club and that has proven to be a great time. We have really began settling into our new life here in Abu Dhabi. We have both found that we are becoming much more active in our lifestyle such as going out, meeting new people, and not staying in as much. It is so much easier here because if we want to have a drink or two we will but we always use the cabs here as the UAE has a zero tolerance for drinking and driving which I completed support. Since I work for the government, I definitely keep myself in check and I am careful of my surroundings when I decide to have a few drinks. I guess I am overly cautious but then again I don't think there really is such a thing.

We've had to do two separate border runs for my husband since his residency visa had to be activated by exiting the country then re-entering. We just made the trip to Oman to complete this and I will be posting specifically on this later this week to add to my previous series of post about Moving to Abu Dhabi. The border run really is easy, but it is also easy to miss steps. Luckily everyone here (and in Oman) is super nice and helpful.

While this isn't everything, it is some of the major highlights. We also bought a car (!!!) but I will do a separate post on that later this week because of those who may want to purchase once they get here. There are a few steps you need to go through so look for that later this week.

It feels good to be back :)