Monday, June 25, 2007

Newlyweds - Nik & Rachel

I just got back from my sister's amazing garden wedding in the Anaheim Hills. All the stress of planning and preparing vanished on Saturday afternoon, and we all had so much fun celebrating into the evening. The happy newlyweds are off on an 8-day cruise to Mexico - I am so jealous!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The BIG Trip Recap

I haven't posted about the Europe/Middle East trip details so here it is (only one month after returning!).

Belgium - I think the engagement post describes the few days quite well!

Holland - Before Ben became too busy with meetings, we did some fun activities together. First stop was Keukenhof to see the tulip fields and they were gorgeous! We were amazed at the different varieties, many of which we had never seen before. Next was a romantic evening cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. Then Ben had two days of meetings in Alkmaar, so I started my solo expeditions. On the first day I took the train into Amsterdam. The city has a very good public transit system so I bought a day pass and tried it out. The system requires you to guess your stops and request a certain amount of stamps. At one point I estimated wrong, and so when the agent looked at my pass she just waved me away and told me to sit down. I was worried that I would find myself stranded on the outskirts of Amsterdam with my improperly done pass, but all the other agents seemed fine with my stamps and I did make it back to the train station at the end of the day. I went to some amazing museums (Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh) and walked around the beautiful city. The next day I went into Alkmaar's downtown for the cheese farmers market. I was hoping to sample a wide variety of cheese, but unfortunately it has not been a traditional market for years and is a tourist trap where they sell everything but cheese. The town is still very cute and I enjoyed walking around and people watching while I had some cheese for lunch at a cafe. In both Amsterdam and Alkmaar I was amazed at the amount of bicycles used. The country gets two thumbs up from me for their efficient public transportation and bicycle usage!

Qatar - It was such a contrast to come from the lush, greenery of northern Europe to the desert. Doha is under major construction as the Emir is trying to build up the country. Ben was very busy with meetings, so I spent a lot of time with Mary (the Qatar coordinator's wife) shopping, lunching, and having many coffee/tea breaks at the fancy hotels in the area - basically enjoy life as a lady of leisure in the comforts of air conditioning.

UAE - Continuing the pattern of Ben in meetings and myself having the difficult task of leisure, I spent the first few days in the country by myself at the Hilton resort in Fujairah. It was nice to enjoy the heat by laying out and swimming in the Indian Ocean. I then met up with Ben in Dubai and my first impression after stepping out of the hired car was Vegas! The city has a lot of money and is the "playground" of the rich Arabs, especially from Saudi Arabia. Up until now, women I saw were either veiled or dressed very conservatively, but walking out of the hotel when I arrived was a group of single young women dressed as if they were going to a Vegas club (aka not much at all).
It was great to explore the fancy city with Ben for a few days. We tried out skiing at Ski Dubai, which is a small hill located in the Mall of Emirates. We even had the opportunity on the last evening in Dubai to enjoy dinner on the beach at one of the Burj Al Arab restaurants. We snapped a few pictures but I thought these pictures were very well done and capture the grandness of the 7-star hotel well. Finally in Abu Dhabi, I met up again with Mary to enjoy some shopping and coffee in the city. It was the holy day (Friday), so stores did not open until 4pm and we could hear the prayer chants everywhere the whole day.

Great trip! All the pictures can be found here. Unfortunately I didn't take very many while in the Middle East as it is illegal to take pictures of government and religious buildings, as well as considered in bad taste to take pictures of the locals. There are a ton of pictures of Belgium and Holland though!

I know I am still way behind on China (there was this one post...) but I am thinking details at the one year mark...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I Heart Color

Ben and I took a risk with the blue and we are sooo happy with the results! Every time I walk into the dining room it feels like a brand new room, making dinner wonderful every night!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can I Be Crafty?

Reading blogs on the internet today I came across this one, with a post about cute travel wallets by Glass Beach for sale. Ben and I have nice black leather ones given to us by his Mom for Christmas last year, and I don't know how we travelled before without them! My only wish is that our wallets included a coin holder (1 and 2 coins are common in foreign currency) and so these wallets look absolutely perfect. My next thought was that they would make great gifts for people attending our wedding next year, but at $45 each they are a little pricey. There is a pattern available from Adorn Magazine to make them ... and if I borrow my Mom's sewing machine ... can I succeed at my first major sewing project since my 4H apron at the age of 9?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Proposal

With Ben back from Houston (yipee!) and his post (and potential future posts), I guess it's time to blog about my side of the story....

Ben brought up the idea of going to Belgium on the night before we were to fly out of LAX. He thought it would be cool to drive down to Brugge immediately after our arrival into Amsterdam for two days. He informed me he had some plans and that I would just have to be surprised. Usually I would demand to know the details, as I can be a slight control freak, but I was too busy running around preparing the house at 1am to think. I remember saying "that sounds like fun... whatever you want to do is fine by me..." as I folded clothes, half listening.

We arrived late Sunday night and drove around the narrow streets looking for the hotel Ben had booked. I remember thinking the town looked very nice, but I didn't truly appreciate it until I saw it in the daylight (and after some much needed sleep). The town was very quaint in old-European style with cobblestone streets, old buildings, cute cafes, and friendly people. After a nice breakfast, in what reminded me of an English garden, we spent the first morning wandering the city. We did some browsing in stores, admired the swans and doves in the waterways around the city, and tasted some of the worlds' best chocolate.

During our wandering, Ben was acting as though he had a specific location to get to. I didn't really think anything of it as he always has something he wants to show me, whether I will be interested in seeing it or not (I think back to the oil museum in Stavanger, Norway). The specific location turned out to be a large lake next to a old castle and park called Minnewater (the Lake of Love). We sat on the park bench in a private area gazing at the lake and enjoying the moment. After awhile we decide to go have some lunch, and as I turned back around from getting my purse off of the bench, he was on one knee with tears in his eyes and a gorgeous ring in his hand asking me to marry him. To be honest I don't really remember what was said because when I saw him on one knee everything got fuzzy. Ben encouraged me to sit down (I'm guessing I didn't look very good) and then told me I never gave him an answer. I smiled, said Yes, gave him a great big hug and kiss, and told him I love you! He then asked if I wanted the ring and I am happily held out my left hand for him to put the ring on.

The rest of the day (and the next) we happily continued exploring the city with big grins on our faces, and then continued the fun together through four more countries over the next two weeks.

So...perfect town, perfect spot, perfect proposal - Ben planned everything. . . perfectly!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's Coming...

June 29th!

I saw the TV commercial tonight for the much anticipated iPhone and I am sold! My only dilemma is that I don't know if I am excited enough for the phone to switch to AT&T, so Verizon needs to get the phone ASAP! I have been waiting for years for this phone to upgrade from my now (very old) Motorola v60, but I am patient and can holdout a little longer.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Threadless Sale!

So I was wandering around on the blogsphere this afternoon and came across this site that mentioned Threadless was having a $10 sale that was ending on June 3rd. I looked at the calendar and my heart sank as I saw it was June 4th. I decided to go check it out anyway and - woohoo - they kept the sale going through today! I got 5 great shirts (1975, maple walnut, poet-trees, outdoor mix, and carbon) that will match perfectly with cute skirts and capris this summer, and even Ben had time to find a shirt he likes. Unfortunately I did miss their contest, which I would have loved to enter, as I always seem to wear a Threadless t-shirt atleast once during a trip (I even got engaged in one!).

Did I mention Victoria's Secret was having their semi-annual sale? After Emily and I go to the downtown SLO store this week (and today's t-shirt purchase), I am going to be so broke!

40 Hours in the Twin Cities

Ben and I enjoyed a great time in Minneapolis attending Alex & Kaitlin's wedding at the McNamara Alumni Center. I was impressed with the architecture of the building and how it gave you a feel of being outdoors, which was beneficial as there was a large thunderstorm Saturday night. The ceremony was beautiful and we caught up with old friends during the reception. We were just having too much fun to remember to take out the camera and snap a few pictures. I do remember one funny moment Ben and I shared:

Two girls take the microphone during one of the bands breaks and start mumbling something about a song they use to all listen and sing too...blah...blah....
Me: "Five bucks says its Like A Prayer by Madonna."
Ben: "Nah."
Girls: "Life is a mystery. Everyone must stand alone. I hear you call my name and it feels like home..."
Me (with my hand out): "You owe my five bucks."
Ben: "Huh?"
Girls: "When you call me name it's like a little prayer..."
Ben: *laughing* "Ahhh... What is it with that song?!"
Me (still with my hand out): *smiles* "It's a girl thing!"
I love our little jokes, and in case you were wondering, Ben did give me $20 for an airport food purchase so I consider the bet paid.

Before we flew out late Sunday afternoon, we made a stop in St. Paul for a fun visit with all of Ben's Minnesota relatives, making our quick weekend visit to the Twin Cities complete!