Friday, July 31, 2009

More from Europe

Just a few more amazing places I've been in Europe: Basel, Switzerland Train through Italy Nice, France at Night Nice - Promenade DeAnglais Paris: Moulin Rouge View from Hotel Room Pints in Belfast, Northern Ireland Day Trip to Portpatrick, Scotland Old Abbey Ruins, Portpatrick Scotland ... So I'm on the last few days of an incredible working journey all through Europe with the Roloffs. Now, I need to decide which places to come back to on MY time! Thanks TLC!!!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Night of Tween Magic

Since Mike is stepping aside in Europe, I thought it would be a good time to post about something cool we did before his month long adventure. A former bandmate of Mike's was in town on her second tour with the Jonas Brothers. If you have a child between the ages of 6 and 16 and if that said child is a girl then yes, you have heard of the Jonas Brothers. After a breakfast filled with catching up and hearing about all of Caroline's adventures touring with Gnarles Barkley, playing on television shows like Alias, Lost, and American Idol we decided to just simply ask - can you get us tickets to the show? Very surprised by the fact we were interested in seeing the concert we explained, they are HUGE of course we want to see this performance, but more than anything we want to see Caroline in the show. She is 1 of only 2 females on the tour and thought what a nice way to spend a sunny Saturaday night. When we arrived to the Rose Quarter where the concert was, there was no doubt that the J-Bros were in the house!
We were quickly given working crew badges
Giving us access to the back area and that is where we met the youngest Jonas - Nick. He was walking down to the loading area with a baseball mit in hand to play some catch. Can't imagine how many tweens would have traded in their younger brother for a chance to meet the youngest, and to some, the most talented brother, and he even shook our hands. Joe was running around backstage on a segway and we never got to meet Kevin. We did get to hang backstage and see the madness of getting a concert of this size up.The opening act was a girl band from Korea called the Wondergirls - if only I could convince them to simply be my entourage and follow me around, just a blurr of sparkles and updos.After the youngest American Idol winner Jordan Sparks took the stage it was time for the Jonas Brothers show to begin.They had centered the stage in the middle of the arena floor in order to have and sell more "front row" seats where the brothers could get right up to the fans.The stage setup was pretty fancy but it is an arena show after all. There were the usual sports arena televisions around the stage for close ups of the band and for girls to text there messages to everyone and the brothers, fancy waterfall that actually fell water in the images of the brothers it was pretty trippy, and a fancy hydraulic stageThat's Caroline with her viola. The show brought out our inner-Duraniesand more importantly we got to see Caroline shake her tail feather!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hello from Europe!

I'm going to step aside from our regularly scheduled Asia Blog & give an update on where Mike is currently. I had the amazing opportunity to travel and work with the Roloff family while they tour Europe. Here are a few highlights of the trip thus far: Edinburgh, Scotland The London Eye Amsterdam Roof-top Gelnhausen, Germany Munchen, Germany Bavarian Alps Austrian Alps Lauchringen, Germany That's all for now. We're heading into Southern France..... See you there!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sistahs

Hope you have a great day and even better birthday!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hankering For Some Homecooking

If it weren't for the numerous cooking classes we have taken during our travels, we'd probably would have gone home a long time ago. There isn't anything quite like a homecooked meal. Sure we had plenty of great meals and even great homecook meals, but when we had the opportunity to shop and cook for our wonderful hosts we jumped at the chance. Now what will we be making? What have we been craving? In a city like Singapore where everything is available, if not costly, it is available. We quickly determined the one type of meal we missed and haven't been able to find was Mexican and not your typical tacos and burritos, but Southwestern smoked chili based meal. SE Asia is the perfect climate to find all the ingredients for an authentic Mexican meal, in fact we found many Mexican food establishments throughout our travels.We found beautiful little green chilis in Little India and everything else at the local market. However the one ingredient we could not find was corn tortillas. Flour tortillas could be found everywhere, so we took it as an opportunity to test our culinary chops and improvised. We were going to make a pork green chili casserole. Since corn tortillas were unavailable we brainstormed and thought corn tortilla chips would work just fine since we were going to have to fry the corn tortillas anyways.The chilis found in Asia are of the spicy hot or texture-mainly bell pepper variety, so we created a mixture of small spicy green chilis and sweet yellow peppers. Swine is the animal of choice in Asia therefor finding the right cut of pork was easy, however finding the correct marinading ingredients turned out to be tough also, so we made our own with the fabulous and versitile Maggi. According to our French cousins good cheese is hard to find, however we're Americans and found all kinds of cheese we could use!It was pure joy roasting the tiny peppers, creating the stew and assembling our casserole.We even made home made guacamole, spicy rice, and black beans. The casserole turned out beautifully and completely satisfied our hunger for Mexican.Our family thoroughly enjoyed it and cleaned their plates.Except for little Sarah who thought the black beans were weird, but love the guacamole.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Singapore Sightseeing

After our fantastic dim sum breakfast we were ready to head out into the heat and humidity to see some of Singapore’s famous sites.The Merlion pictured above was thought up by the tourist board which thought the city-state of Singapore needed an iconic image and this is what they came up with. The Merlion’s water gushes out onto a “reclaimed” section of the city, with a soccer field on the other side of the bay water – hhhmmm wonder what happens to all those soccer balls that end up on the other side of the fence. We walked along the esplanade up to the performing arts center.The large dome dual structures have impressive state-of-the-art auditoriums, outdoor performance areas, apartments, and offices. Built to look like the famous SE Asian tropical fruit durian, which is an acquired taste to say the least. We stayed in the business district and visited some of the historical temples in the area.We love the contrast between modern and traditional architecture. When Chinese immigrants began coming to Malaysia and Singapore in the early 1800s, many set up what is called a “Clan House” – kind of like a fraternity house of sorts, where descendants from particular regions could meet and find out about employment, acclimate, and find housing. Today Singapore has the largest population of ethnic Chinese outside of China, making up almost 80% of the Singapore population. Dotted throughout Singapore are temples and gathering houses. The traditional Chinese architectural style soon became one of our favorite building styles (that is until we got to Bali, but we like the same features found in both styles).
We like the large double entrance doors.
and the terracotta tiled roofsand the open courtyard in the middle
We were planning to hit the National Museum of Singapore in the later part of the afternoon, but soon found our dim sum breakfast fading, so we decide to see what the Food Republic food court in the Suntec Center had to offer. With a name like Food Republic we knew we were going to find something to satisfy our hunger pains. A business group called Breadtalk Group Ltd opened three of these large hawker/food courts in mega malls all over Singapore. Their latest food court venture in the Suntec Center looks like an old library, with dark wood table and chairs, floor length drapes, chandeliers, and an old world charm to the d├ęcor. We quickly spotted our snack – Roti Prata, a Southern Indian inspired flatbread found only in Singapore.Served with a mild curry sauce dipping sauce, it hit the spot and we were ready to check out the museum.Now we know some of you are saying “museum?” Yes, we were going to check out the National Museum of Singapore, the first and only museum we visited our entire trip. Why? The highly praised Living Galleries, which are free the last two hours before closing. There are four Living Galleries – Food, Photography, Fashion, and Film. Now, are you all beginning to catch on to our interest?
The galleries were nothing short of amazing! First up was the Fashion Gallery.
With such a diverse mix of cultures in Singapore the Gallery highlighted the influences these cultures have brought to the fashion scene.But traditional and modern clothing styles was not the only thing the Fashion Gallery highlighted, there was a whole room dedicated to the exploration and explanation of fabric styles from batik to woven silks, explaining the methods of achieving patterns and embedding texture, it was truly fascinating.The exhibit also housed a room draped from ceiling to floor with the history of fabrics from cotton to synthetics, again fabulous.
The next gallery we visited was the Film gallery.
Each Living Gallery was gorgeous, exhibiting the history of each gallery topic in the most unique and fascinating manner. The Film Living Gallery consisted of two rooms. The first room looked like a large viewing room with interactive screens in the middle of the red fabric draped space.On the other side of the screens were old megaphone record players where we could select old movies to listen to and television screens on the floor we could watch ancient films made in the area.Most of the early films made in Singapore were talkies retelling ancient Chinese opera stories. So the next room of the Film Living Gallery had a model of a traditional Chinese Opera Stage and the incredibly beautifully ornate costumes the opera performers wore, which looked like they weighed a ton, if not the head dresses alone!We quickly made our way to the Food Living Gallery, which highlights Singapore’s unique food culture and scene, with explanations on traditional cuisine origins, the development of hawker stalls, and traditional food preparation tools and methodology. There were even projected films on how to prepare traditional foods like laksa. Are you beginning to see how thoroughly modern and incredible these Living Galleries are?The second room in the Food Living Galleries was another highlight. A room dedicated to the unique ingredients used in Singaporian cuisine, color-coded according to whether it is an herb, spice, or staple ingredient.There were even tubes to certain spices or herbs so you could smell them and recipes listed if you wanted to know what the herbs or spices were used in. Now if only we could figure out how to make our kitchen this beautiful, including the mesmerizing wall showcasing the unique kitchen tools used to make dumplings.Completely inspired and in awe of what we had seen we floated over to the Photography Living Gallery, which we moved through quickly because our stomach started to grumble and realizing our free two hours were almost up. Going to the Living Galleries at the end of the day when it was free and nearly ours to peruse alone was definitely a highlight.
We were planning to hit the Singapore Zoo’s night safari later in the evening. So we made a quick trip to the Mos Burger we found in a mega mall across from where we were to catch the bus up to the zoo. Having already tried the famous burgers in Japan we were excited to try the much hyped MOS Rice burger. Instead of a traditional bun the saucey meat patty is sandwiched between two rice patties.An interesting concept, the rice patties weren’t pressed rice, but more like sticky rice and mixed well with the unusually sauced burger patty. We’re glad we tried it, but we’re also glad we got chicken nuggets and a regular burger.
Soon we were off to the Singapore Zoo’s Night Safari.
The Singapore Zoo is one of the world’s top zoos, with an ‘open zoo’ concept where animals are kept in spacious landscape enclosures that are separated by natural barriers such as water and dry moats, hills, and ravines. The night safari was the first of its kind in the world and a must for adults and children alike. The animals such as wolves, vultures, hyenas, tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, and more nocturnal animals to count viewed up close and when they are the most active. With the natural barrier concept we got right up close to the animals, it was pretty incredible.Being a night safari our pictures came out blurry at best, but the bat enclosure, the flamingos, porcupines, and lions making so much noise were highlights – you get this close and in the case of the bats you are in the enclosure with them. The most active animals we have ever seen. It was surreal to walk around and hear all the noises as we made our way through the zoo in the dark. Our biggest suggestion is to skip the lame animal show they shuffle you into before being able to hop on the shuttle that takes you out into the zoo, in fact skip the little the shuttle all together and just walk along the paths. It’s a massive loop, but there is staff everywhere and you can explore the jungle like zoo at your own pace and avoid the kids and crowds.We enjoyed the zoo so much that at midnight the staff had to find us among the jungle canopy and usher us out.