Saying Goodbye

The past couple of months have been very emotional for me.

I’ve said goodbye to several of my friends who left the country and returned to Canada, California, or Manchester (including one who left last month and 2 just this week).

Last year was my first experience with saying goodbye to a friend.

I met Mariam when we sat next to each other on a visa run to Oman. It just so happened that our sons were born only a few months apart, so we immediately set up a play date the following week. We ended up getting together at least twice a month. Our sons, Khizer and Micah, had so much fun playing together, while Mariam and I spent hours drinking strong coffee and bonding.

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Mariam was a Canadian citizen, and she knew that one day soon she would go back to Canada to raise her son there. I knew that she was going to leave someday, but it hit me hard when she told me that their tentative departure date was in a few months.

Before I knew it, they were gone.

I miss Mariam’s delicious vegetable and ground beef samosas, and I regret never learning her recipe.10945108_10152507634002294_8244879884715691478_o

I miss our heart-to-heart chats.

I miss our sons’ friendship. Khizer was the first friend that Micah made out here. He was the first child that Micah really bonded with who wasn’t his cousin.

I even miss Mariam offering me cigarettes. When I would politely decline, she always responded, “Good, smoking is horribly bad for you,” while she lit one up for herself. :mrgreen:

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Micah & Mignon reading at the Dubai Mall

Mignon and her husband Arte just left back to California. They lived on the 88th floor of the Burj Khalifa, and Arte was the one who asked Anthony to come to Dubai to work with him on designing theme parks.

When we first heard that we were moving to Dubai, Mignon immediately became my ‘go-to’ source to help us fill out the mountains of paperwork needed to leave the US and work in the UAE. She wrote me detailed emails about getting our documents attested, what women wear over here, and just general support about our move.

When I was nervous about something, Mignon immediately put my mind at ease.

And, even better, she absolutely loved Micah, and the feeling was more than mutual. Every single time we passed by the Burj Khalifa, Micah would always say, “Who lives there? Mignon!” And then he would wave to her and ask when we were going to the Burj Khalifa to see Mignon again.

Well, the Burj Khalifa is still there, but Mignon and her husband Arte are not.

Without them, this whole journey would never have started.

For that, they’ll always have a special place in our hearts and our family history.

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The view from Arte & Mignon’s apartment on the 88th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Last month, Lynsey left Dubai to return home to the UK.

Our sons were in the same class, and Connor quickly introduced himself and became Micah’s first friend in class. That same week, Lynsey introduced herself to me, saying that Connor couldn’t stop talking about the new boy in his class. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lynsey and I ended up scheduling play dates outside of school so that we couldย  get some much needed adult interaction while the boys played.

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LA – “crazy girls”ย  ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย ย  UK – “nutters”

I miss her funny sense of humor and how much we laughed together. Her accent reminded me of Mel C. from the Spice Girls. ๐Ÿ˜› THAT is a compliment cause as everyone knows, I am obsessed with the Spice Girls.

On one play date with our boys, I told Lynsey, “Micah’s so full of sass.”

She responded, “What was that word you used? … ‘Sass’?”

“Yes, sass.” ๐Ÿ˜€

She laughed, “That’s so American!”

Another compliment, I’m sure! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I always loved to hear Lynsey’s British sayings, like when she called us a “bunch of nutters,” after we played a silly hair clip game at one of our kids’ classmate’s birthday parties. ๐Ÿ™‚14672671_10153760944472294_1779650353_o

I miss our conversations every day while we waited for our boys to get out of school.

I miss smart & sweet Connor and how close he became with my son. I’ll never forget how Connor proudly introduced Micah, “This is Micah. He’s my best mate.” โค

 

D15205642_10153876800142294_712975378_oebbie found me through a Facebook community playgroup. She virtually introduced herself to me after seeing that I was from California too, and (surprise) we lived across the street from each other! What a small world.

Although we only met this year, we got together at least once a week.

I miss how Debbie would randomly call me to go out for coffee, breakfast, or a random trip to the grocery store or Ikea.

I miss having someone, besides my husband, who knows exactly what it feels like to just miss shopping at COSTCO!

I miss talking with Debbie and her husband, while Micah had a great time with her darling daughters.

I’m certainly not writing this to make anyone feel guilty about leaving Dubai to start a new chapter in their lives. ๐Ÿ˜€ I knew what I was signing up for when we became friends. ๐Ÿ˜› Just the fact that so many of my friends have left in such a short time really made me think about the harsh realities of an expat country. It’s all fleeting. Nobody really wants to stay in this new country forever. This isn’t home, just a layover for your future life in your home country.

By definition, an immigrant is someone who permanently leaves their home country in order to start a new life in another country. An expatriate, or expat, is someone who also lives outside of their home country, but typically only temporary, like just to work somewhere for a few years. The expat life feels like your heart is constantly in two different places, with half in the home that you left behind and the other half trying to really love the new country that you’re in. It even feels weird saying, “Let’s go home.” Because even that is open to interpretation. Which home? California? Or the one in Dubai?

You will eventually meet other expats who are going through the same struggles. If you’re lucky like me, these people will eventually become your close friends.

I hope that all of these fabulous women don’t just become someone who “I used to know all those years ago in Dubai,” but people that I can connect with no matter how many miles are between us. I hope this kind of longevity for all friends who somehow find one another and bond through shared experience, thousands of miles away from their home countries.

So this post is for all the expat friendships out there, the ones who understand what it’s like to learn how to live a completely new life in a totally different country.

To those friends who politely listened while we reminiscence about the taste of Double Doubles at In-N-Out, or the perfect Southern California weather, or even the random fantastic clearance sales at Target.

To the people who know exactly what you mean when you talk about Dubai’s crazy drivers, questionable customer service, or interesting-tasting meat.

To the equally homesick ones who know how it feels to wish more than anything that you could be home for the holidays or for a birthday party or just for a simple Sunday at your parents’ house.

These are the people who helped make Dubai feel like home for me. Although we’re no longer in the same country, I hope that the memories that we made together sustained you through this journey as much as it did for me…

We’ll always have Dubai.

Goodbye.

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Dubai Bucket List: Go Off-Roading In The Desert

Our Dubai departure lingers somewhere in the horizon, so close yet so far away.

In anticipation of leaving Dubai in ‘X number’ of months, we have started the task of checking items off of our “Dubai Bucket List” – things that we MUST experience before leaving Dubai!img_9968

My personal list includes off-roading in the desert, holding a falcon, and riding a camel. I also have to ride the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. We have yet to take a frame-worthy family photo in front of the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, so we have to do that too. And I really want to take Micah to Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi and the Mattel Play Town, so he can fulfill my childhood dream of meeting Barney. ๐Ÿ™‚

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that we must visit all of the Dubai Parks. They’re the whole reason why we’re out here! We already had a sneak peek of Lego Land and Bollywood Parks, but they weren’t fully finished yet. Now that both parks are open to the public, we need to go back to experience it all. I need to properly cry over everything that Anthony has designed. ๐Ÿ™‚ Experiencing the Dubai Parks is by far the most important thing to me, and if that’s all I do the rest of my time here, I’ll be happy.

However, that’s not the case for us!img_9995 Over the weekend, we checked our first item off my list —ย  we went off-roading in the desert!

Anthony’s gone several times, but Micah and I have always stayed home. So when Off-Road Zone, an auto body shop that specializes in Jeeps, announced their first off-road event of the season, we decided that NOW was the time to ‘check’ our desert adventure off our list.

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Part of the 97 car convoy through the desert

This was an ideal time to go because Off-Road Zone hired several Jeeps to lead and trail our group. These professional off-roaders provided assistance and guidance, so I felt safe bringing Micah along knowing that we had 100+ cars around us to help – just in case. After our off-road excursion, we were treated to a BBQ dinner under the stars! It sounded like the perfect adventurous day out.

Our trip took a while to get started because there were sooooo many cars (mostly Jeeps, of course ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I had never experienced it before, but the camaraderie among Jeep drivers is something pretty special. Everyone was very cordial and patient with one another, and they kept giving high-fives to Micah, the “Little Jeeper” as they called him. Micah had many conversations with people that went something like this:

img_0074Personย  -“Do you love Jeeps?”

Micah – “Yes! I love Jeeps!”

Person – “Are you going to get a Jeep when you grow up so you can get all the girls?”

Micah – “….. Yes?!”

Um, EXCUSE me? ๐Ÿ˜ฏ In that case, Micah’s only allowed to drive scooters for the rest of his life.ย  But our little guy had a blast, whooping and cheering with happiness whenever we went up and over dunes. I admit that I was a little nervous, because I got REALLY seasick when we went on a yacht a few months ago, so I dreaded this mysterious motion sickness kicking in again. Thankfully, I was fine. Whew!

The most stressful part of the trip occurred when we accidentally mixed in with the intermediate off-road group. We got stuck several times, but then we were rescued and taken back to the beginner’s group and it was all smooth sailing after that. It was way easier to relax, enjoy the bumpy sand dunes, and appreciate the special kind of beauty surrounding us.

Just LOOK how close we got to these camels! One sassy camel even crossed in the middle of our convoy, taking his time cause he knew that accidentally hitting him would cost the driver a hefty fine (thousands of dollars!). Camels own the road / desert / sand / everything.

 

(Random aside: camel milk chocolate has a weird tang to it).

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I thought about jumping on one of these camels to knock out 2 bucket list items in one trip, but then realized that I would probably get arrested or something, so decided not to. ;D

I think that many people come to Dubai with the intention of visiting the desert. If not for the off-roading experience, then for simply taking in the view of the seemingly endless sandy terrain. It was a different kind of beauty, for sure.

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Overall, our off-roading trip was an unforgettable experience. Anthony took fantastic care of us, and I would definitely do it again. You can’t visit Dubai and not visit the desert. It’s like going to California and not going to the beach! ๐Ÿ˜›

Before leaving Dubai, I knew that I just had to visit the desert and appreciate its sandy splendor.

So we did it.

Check!

 

 

(P.S. If you’d like to follow my blog and have any new posts delivered straight to your email inbox, please click the “Follow” button at the top/right of this post. Thank you!)

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A Sneak Peek at Legoland Dubai

Not only is today Halloween, but Legoland Dubai has finally risen brick-by-brick from its desert landscape to open to the public! A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to Legoland’s soft opening just for employees and their families. I’ve never been to any other Legoland, so I can’t compare it to anything, but I can say with confidence that Legoland Dubai is amazing!

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Legoland Dubai is part of the groundbreaking project Dubai Parks & Resorts, which includes a cluster of 3 theme parks (Motion Gate, Bollywood Parks, and Legoland) and 1 water park (Legoland Waterpark), a waterfront shopping area called Riverland, and a Polynesian-style resort called Lapita. Whew! My husband is part of the creative team, designing everything from trash cans to light posts to his new expertise – food and vendor carts! ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ve been here over 2 years, and it’s amazing to see how everything is coming together after all this time. img_9727

I loved all of the random Lego sculptures throughout the park, whether they were huge ones like these sports-playing giraffes, or smaller Lego people on the sidewalks.

When we got there, I was so excited to see a costumed Lego guy standing there greeting people. I always wanted to take a photo with one, but Micah was terrified. -_- Guess I’ll have to get my photo with Lego Man next time. The sacrifices that we make for our children. Doesn’t he know that Mama desperately NEEDS a photo with the big, walking Lego person?

Anyway, the crowning jewel of Legoland is definitely the indoor (and beautifully air-conditioned, might I add) domed building called MINILAND. It has Lego sculptures of dozens of buildings in Dubai and other Middle Eastern landmarks. The sculptures were so immaculate and intricately detailed that it was hard to remember that they’re actually Legos! The website points out that it’s the FIRST indoor and air-conditioned MINILAND out of all of their parks, which makes sense since it’s built in the middle of the desert. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque made entirely out of Legos!

Legoland Dubai targets kids from ages 2 – 12, so you know that you’re not spending an exorbitant amount of money just for your kid to go on a couple of lame rides. Not at THIS Legoland! When we went, there were only a handful of rides open, but they were the ideal thrill level for my 4-year-old. img_9718We went on this gear-themed ride that was basically like the teacups at Disneyland, and a plane ride that was basically Disneyland’s Dumbo ride.ย  Not complaining! Micah had a blast and that’s all that matters.

Besides these two rides, there were a couple of 4D immersive experiences and several Lego building stations that were open, but we didn’t try them out. We walked around the entire park, checking out everything that was in progress and wishing that it was October 31st already so we could experience it all!
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As for Legoland’s food, we ate at the park’s Fried Chicken Co., and honestly I wouldn’t bother with it again. Maybe they’re still working out the kinks, but they continuously told my husband that his food was coming, only to make him wait 20 minutes before they said they were out of the chicken that he ordered. -_- The food was pretty terrible, typical overpriced amusement park fare. When we go back, I would bring my own snacks or find a place to eat outside the park in Riverland (also open now!) or the Outlet Village down the road.

Even though we were able to only get a taste of Legoland Dubai, we are definitely going to go back to try out everything. You know it’s a good sign when you’re impressed with a park that has only a fraction of the entertainment open at the time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you live in Dubai or are visiting with your kids, Legoland Dubai at Dubai Parks & Resorts is a definite MUST DO.

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The biggest Lego store in the Middle East (Don’t know how many there are to compare lol)

 

Meeting The Master Chef *Gordon Ramsay* at Bread Street Kitchen

Friday brunch in Dubai is the social event of the week, so of course it took us 2 years before we finally got down to attending one. And our first may very well be our last, because it was the best experience ever.

The best news first – we met Gordon Ramsay!

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I was a little bummed out that Micah wanted nothing to do with Gordon, but, as you can see, Anthony & I are thrilled! ๐Ÿ™‚ Micah was tired and anxious to go to the Atlantis Aquarium (you get in free if you attend Friday brunch at Bread Street). Just another day for Micah Aguilar… meeting one of the most famous chefs in the world. No big deal, right? ๐Ÿ™‚ But Gordon was really nice, asking Micah’s name and age and encouraging Micah to smile at the camera. As you can see, Micah won’t even listen to the Master Chef. *sigh*

When we first heard that Gordon Ramsay was returning to Dubai to celebrate his restaurant Bread Street Kitchen’s one year anniversary at the Atlantis resort, Anthony & I decided that now was the time to try Friday brunch and try to meet Gordon! img_9606Anthony used his fantastic artistic skills to create some art for Gordon (see the featured image above), and we crossed our fingers that we would get lucky enough to meet him.

While we waited anxiously to see if we could meet Gordon, we indulged in a fantastic meal. Brunch was really delicious!

We were brought an array of hot appetizers, like tamarind chicken drumsticks (yummy), fish balls (didn’t try), and sliders (our favorite!). Besides the hot appetizers,ย  there were also buffet tables with various cheeses, crackers, cured meats, and breads, along with fancier bites like spicy tuna deviled eggs, DIY Caesar salad, mini lobster rolls, shrimp salad (tasted like ceviche), and caprese salad (delicious!). img_9656We tried duck liver pรขtรฉ for the first time too, and it tasted creamy and really heavy… what I imagine bacon fat would taste like if I spread it on toast? lolย  I think the pรขtรฉ is definitely an acquired taste though. I took a small bite and that was enough for me.

A guitarist playing modern hits provided live entertainment, and there was tons of fun stuff for kids too. There was a bounce house, a couple of carnival games, and an arts and crafts area where kids could decorate their own coffee mugs. I also got an air-brushed tattoo, which you can see in our photo with Gordon. ๐Ÿ˜›

After taking Micah outside to play, an employee came to stand by our table, and we showed him the gift that we brought for Gordon. Just so happens, that man was Bread Street Kitchen’s maรฎtre d’ Chris – one of the head honchos of the place! He was so impressed with Anthony’s work and immediately offered to bring Gordon over to meet us. Mission accomplished!

img_9650We ended up being brought into the back of the kitchen to meet Gordon. He was a class act! He immediately asked Anthony his name, shook his hand, and said, “Thank you for my present. It’s amazing!” We chatted a few minutes more and took photos, then left the kitchen as quickly as we came in.

When Anthony & I went back to our table, still in disbelief over what just happened, Chris came back with a present for us. Gordon’s brand new Bread Street Kitchen cookbook – complete with another autograph from the chef! This is the perfect souvenir for an unforgettable afternoon with Gordon Ramsay.

If only all Friday brunches could be so fantastic. ๐Ÿ™‚img_9651

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Dubai Anniversary: 2 Years Later

Two years ago today, we stepped out of the Dubai International Airport after a 16-hour nonstop flight across the world.

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It was my first international flight, and Micah’s first time on a plane.

We came to Dubai with our lives stuffed into 6 suitcases, unsure of exactly what the hell we were thinking moving across the world to the Middle East. Living as an expat in another country is a constant learning experience, figuring out how to make new friends, adapt to new cultures, and maintain relationships with family & friends back home.

I left with the mentality, “It’s only 2 years. We’ll be back in no time!” This was a mantra that I repeat when things get difficult over here – or when I’m really craving King Taco – “Only 2 years. Only 2 years.” Before we left, I threatened all of the women in my family, “You better not get pregnant while I’m gone! Just wait 2 years! Give me 2 years – I’ll be back!” Of course nobody listened to me. ๐Ÿ˜› I really was kidding though. OK, half kidding.

Because, really, so much can happen in 2 short years.

Our family’s lives of course continue on even though we’re not there. And although it saddens us that we miss precious moments in our nieces and nephews’ lives, we know that the sacrifices that we are making now will prepare us to come back and be there for them forever.

Not to mention the absolutely amazing things that Anthony, Micah, and I have experienced as a family over here. Just to name a few:

We’ve been to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi 6 TIMES!

We’ve been to the world’s biggest mall countless times.

We’ve met penguins & camels.

We’ve witnessed sandstorms.

We’ve been back home twice (the first time was a huge surprise to our families!).

We went on the most magical Christmas holiday to London.

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Not to mention our memories with our army of visitors who also braved the 16-hour flight to visit us. โค

And our Micah is almost a completely different person than who he was when we left September 2014.

Micah was almost 2 1/2 years old when we left California. He’s spent 2 birthdays out here. Half of his life has been spent away from our families – missing birthdays, holidays, and the birth of 4 of his cousins. We potty trained him and got rid of his pacifier here in Dubai. He started school over here. He’s grown intellectually and physically, and Anthony & I have also grown together as parents and as a couple. Many people told us that living in another country with just the 3 of us would change our relationship together, and it really did. For the better!

Just look how much my little boy has grown!

When we first left to Dubai, Micah didn’t really understand what was going on. He didn’t really ask for anyone or any place, as long as he had his parents, he was content with his life. Now he understands that he can’t be with his cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles. He asks us if he can go to his cousin’s house or go to Disneyland. It makes us sad that we have to tell him that we can’t go. As of now, Micah is satisfied when I tell him, “Our plane isn’t ready yet.” He thinks that when they’re done filling the huge plane up with gas, then we’ll leave back to California. I’ll see how long that answer keeps him happy.

But we’ll be staying a few months longer… at this point, it’s all up in the air.

Sometime in 2017, we’ll head to the Dubai International Airport with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, and we won’t come back. It’ll be early in the morning, around 9 am, and as we fly away, I’ll try to take my last glimpse of Downtown Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa rising up out of the modern concrete jungle. I’ll watch Dubai get smaller and smaller as we leave the place I’ve called home for the past 2 years.

Eventually, it’ll be time to close this chapter on the other side of the world, and all of this will just be memories. No doubt, one day, Anthony, Micah, and I will just wonder in disbelief, “Can you believe we lived in Dubai?”

I still can’t.

2 years later.

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KidZania at the Dubai Mall

Y U NO GUY says it best.

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Kidzania has to be one of the coolest places ever! WHY isn’t it in America? WHY did I have to travel across the world in order to discover such an amazing place for kids? There are Kidzania’s all over the world from London to Cairo to Tokyo. And BONUS: the franchise was founded by a Mexican guy. ^_^

Our Kidzania is located in the Dubai Mall, and it’s basically a huge city that’s run by kids. Children can earn money (called “Kidzos”) for doing various jobs (over 80 to choose from). You can also spend Kidzos to participate in different activities, like performing karaoke in a “club” or painting a mural.

At the Kidzania Beauty Salon, a child could either earn Kidzos money working as a makeup artist, hair stylist, or nail artist, or spend their hard-earned Kidzos as a customer and get their makeup, hair, or nails done.

20160322_130214At the gas station, Kids could choose to be a ‘car mechanic’ or gas station attendant to earn money, or pay to ride their car around a track (because drivers need to pay money for their gas, right?).

Here’s an example of how the activities were described:

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See the wide range of jobs that are available?

There were SO MANY JOBS- UPS delivery person, police officer, firefighter,20160322_133017 radio DJ, dentist, painter, paramedic (the kids got to drive around in an ambulance! so cute), grocery store clerk, journalist (whoop whoop!), museum archivist, model, business entrepreneur, chef, construction worker – just to name a few! I loved that kids could be able to dabble in anything that they wanted and, hopefully, gain an appreciation for how hard everyone works to maintain a city.

The “Kidzos” that kids earned can then be spent to purchase real toys available at Kidzania. And these aren’t cheap Chuck E. Cheese plastic. They’re legit toys courtesy of “The Best Toy Store In The World” – Hamley’s!

Parents can also spend real money for food and drinks for their kids, but with a fun, Kidzania twist. Like at McDonald’s, parents pay real money for a Happy Meal, but then their child can suit up, head behind the counter, and make their own! There’s a little Ski20160322_133031pper with his hat, gloves, and apron putting together his own Happy Meal in the photo on the right.

There’s also a pizza place where parents pay real money to give their child the opportunity to prepare and bake their own pizza. A milkshake factory allows kids to prep their own smoothie or milkshake too! Unfortunately, the Coca Cola Factory was closed when we went, but kids are able to enter the bottling factory to help bottle their own soda.

Play times are separated into two separate 6-hour blocks – the morning session (10 am to 4 pm) and the evening session (5 pm – 11 pm). Families can easily spend the entire 6-hour schedule here, and it’s a definite MUST DO for all Dubai kids, whether visitors or residents.

Hidden in the Kidzania website, it says “Kidzania United States” is a future location, but there’s no info where it is or when it’s opening…

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, I HOPE IT’S IN CALIFORNIA!!!

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5 Things I Wish Were Sold In Dubai

Living halfway across the world has taught me a lot about appreciating the little things in California that I don’t have here.

Sure, Dubai offers a great selection of American food and products to purchase; however, there are some products that are just a mirage in this desert city.

I dream about this stuff. I wish for it. I crave it. I pray that a helicopter will drop these products from the sky in a wooden box addressed only to me. It’s all just wishful thinking.

Here is my list of 5 things that I wish were sold in Dubai, in no particular order:

1. Baking Soda

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Source: Arm & Hammer

I know this seems terribly odd, but you never know how often you need this until it’s not available to you. :/

The coveted orange Arm & Hammer box (or any other brand) is nowhere to be seen over here. I have no idea why…

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Cookie Monster’s Famous Cookie Dough

I’ve started baking a lot more, on the search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. It doesn’t seem like that’s possible without some GODFORSAKEN baking soda! I practically pull my hair out as I look through the hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes on Pinterest in order to find one that does not require baking soda. And tip – baking soda and baking powder are not interchangeable. ๐Ÿ˜ I have some baking powder in my cabinet, but it’s practically useless.

OK, I found ONE chocolate chip cookie recipe that used baking POWDER instead of baking soda, and, lo and behold, it was from none other than COOKIE MONSTER, my childhood hero and cookie inspiration. This recipe can be found here, but it still wasn’t the right cookie for me!

I’m no baking scientist, but baking powder seems to yield dry, cakey cookies. And I don’t want that. If I wanted something dry, then I would eat chips, and if I wanted cakey, then I would eat cake. I have a months long craving for ooey, gooey, soft chocolate chip cookies, and it doesn’t look like those will be coming out of my oven until I GET MY BAKING SODA!!!

2.Ouchless Hair Elastics –

Growing up with 5 sisters, we coveted our hair bands! If one sister lent out her hair tie to another sister, then we made sure that we got it back. Or at least slipped it off your wrist while you slept.

Of course the UAE sells hair elastics, but I have yet to find my favorite Ouchless brand.

I’m currently on my last 4 Ouchless hair bands. They’re all I have left, and I’m impressed that I haven’t lost them yet. Funny how you can keep track of your hair bands when you don’t have sisters around to steal them. ๐Ÿ˜›

3. Chicken Broth/Stock –

This goes along with all of my other food stuffs that I miss and really require in order to make my recipes. Ahh, I miss those carefree days where I could drive to any of my local grocery stores and find a variety of delicious chicken stocks & broths from all sorts of brands. You could even choose whether you want it canned or in a box. What a time to be alive.

I know that I can make my own, but I’m afraid.

My cooking/marriage/home garden/party/life-in-general guru Barefoot Contessa AKA Ina Garten has a recipe for chicken stock that seems like all you have to do is just dump everything in a huge pot of water and let it stew in its juices for hours. After it’s all said and done, Ina always says, “How easy is that?” But surely it can’t be THAT easy, can it? Perhaps it’s easy for her since she spent years cooking in the gourmet food business, and I’m just a housewife, 2 years / 5 years cohabitation. Is it easy for the average Joe Taxpayer?

First off, I don’t even own a large enough pot for this recipe. And what if I spend all this money on fancy vegetables and herbs, and then my stock comes out tasting like “dirty water”? (That’s how Ina describes chicken stock that has epically failed).

I know that I’m Barefoot enough for this recipe, but I just don’t think I’m Contessa enough.

Has anyone out there made homemade chicken broth that can give me any tips? Anyone? … Besides Barefoot Contessa. ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜ Put your hand down, Ina Garten, I see you in the back and I don’t want your fabulous advice. You don’t live the same life I do.

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4. Hostess Snacks

Cupcakes, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Ho Hos, Choco-diles, Donettes.

I need them.

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5. Vanilla Extract

As I wrote on my Baking Soda tirade, I’ve recently taken a liking to baking, however there is no GOOD vanilla extract out here. Vanilla extract is pretty much just alcohol + vanilla, which is a big no-no for a mostly dry country like the UAE.

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Source: Cook’s Illustrated

I’ve looked up recipes to make your own vanilla extract, and Barefoot Contessa says that all it requires is a few vanilla pods (which they do sell out here) and a jar of vodka! Then you just sit the vanilla in the booze for a month! But this frightens me. First of all, it’s not humanly possible for me to wait ONE MONTH for my vanilla extract. Secondly, I don’t know how I feel about putting vanilla-flavored vodka in baked goods and then handing them off to my little boy. Will the alcohol cook off? Will my child get drunk after a couple of cookies? I’m terribly confused.

Has anyone tried making homemade vanilla extract? ….

Oh my God, Ina Garten! Not you again! Who let her in?!

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Well, this was fun. Thanks for listening to my whiney first-world problems.

Thank goodness we’re going back to California soon, so I can load up on all of my essentials and make Barefoot Contessa proud. ๐Ÿ˜€

 

 

(Notes: When I went to California last month, I brought back 6 boxes of baking soda. Hopefully they last me until I leave. Still have no real vanilla extract and Ouchless bands. Found some sorry chicken stock at a grocery store… it’ll do. And don’t get me started on the lack of my precious Hostess snack cakes.)

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