Tag Archives: United States

The one from the states

I’m baaaack! It’s been quite the blog hiatus for me, and I’ve really missed it! The past few weeks have been hectic with lots of travel (both flying and driving) and catching up with friend and family so taking a bit of time to get back in a routine has been a bit of a challenge. See what I mean?

Perth to Auckland Abbys Roads

December 12: Perth to Auckland (via Melbourne)

New Zealand Itinerary Abbys Roads

December 13 – 22: New Zealand travels

The itineraries, activities, and just general catch up on New Zealand deserves its own post – especially for those of you thinking about a trip over there – but in the meantime, here are some shots of our NZ adventure:

A chilly boat trip on the Doubtful Sound

A chilly boat trip on the Doubtful Sound

A teeny NZ library

A teeny NZ library

Paradise, New Zealand

Paradise, New Zealand

From New Zealand, we headed home to the states for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays:

December 22: Sydney to Dallas (onward to Houston) for Christmas (image via Wikipedia)

So much puppy time! And of course, a lovely Christmas with the Simpson side of the family.

Abbys Roads Holidays278

Dash loving on Barr on Christmas Day

Abbys Roads Holidays274

Our wee family on Christmas Eve

Abbys Roads Holidays240

My sister and I at the Nutcracker

Houston was just the beginning of our stateside travels:

December 22 - January 6: Houston to Memphis to Louisville to Charlotte to Durham back to Charlotte and back to Houston (Barr is back in Oz)

December 22 – January 15: Houston to Memphis to Louisville to Charlotte to Durham back to Charlotte and back to Houston…via Chicago, dont ask (and Barr is back in Oz)

From Texas, we headed to Memphis, Tennessee to see Barr’s brother and his wife, as well as some Charlotte friends who recently relocated there as well as some much loved aunt, uncle, and cousin time.

Then it was onward to Louisville, Kentucky to see Barr’s parents and grandmother – as always, it was too short.

We then headed eastward to North Carolina: Charlotte for New Year’s and then Durham for a wedding! It was amazing to be back in the Carolinas and we can’t wait to move backย before we know it.

The Johnson cousins and their spouses - Matt was there in spirit :)

The Johnson cousins and their spouses – Matt was there in spirit ๐Ÿ™‚

Enjoying a great dinner in Memphis

Enjoying a great dinner in Memphis

Stevie and Chris' lovely wedding in Durham, NC

Stevie and Chris’ lovely wedding in Durham, NC

WFU golf alums - such a great reunion!

WFU golf alums – such a great reunion!

Needless to say, it’s been a whirlwind with not enough time in any one place. And while the flights were long and the drives at times tedious, the trip to New Zealand, the hugs and relaxation with our parents and siblings, and the celebrations and chin wags with friends were all 100% worth it.

Sydney from the Taronga Zoo

Sydney from the Taronga Zoo

So there you have it: 3 weeks in a nutshell! I wish I had more pictures – I think we were just so focused on catching up with everyone that snapping a ton of shots fell a bit by the wayside; however, I did receive a lovely new camera as an early birthday gift, so hopefully Ill make up for lost time – and will of course be back with fun posts, pics and roads. Until next time…


Uniquely Australian – Same, Same but Different

How you going?

A different greeting for me, huh? Well that is one that you will hear everywhere in Perth (and Australia – I definitely heard it at the Melbourne and Sydney airports!) A typical Aussie hello.

Now, I do not presume to know everything about Perth/Australia in general – actually, far from it; however, in the short time that I have been here, I have noticed more and more things (restaurants and shops mostly) that look and seem familiar to that which one may find in the states, but upon further inspection, something is…well, uniquely Australian.

I bring you Exhibit Aย – a picture of a cereal that I am certain many fellow Americans will immediately recognize, but look a little closer…

Rice Bubbles (as taken by a fellow Perth expat)

The Aussie version is a better different than our Yankee version (and can we talk about the fact that bubbles dont snap, crackle, or pop?!?!):

Rice Krispies (via Wikipedia)

Exhibit B: Hungry Jack’s. What does the Aussie restaurant chain logo below remind you of?

Aussie Hungry Jack’s (via Wikipedia)

If you guessed Burger King, you are our winner! Now this one has a bit more history/explanation behind it. I won’t bore you with something you can read about here, but the gist of it is that Hungry Jack’s originally started as an official franchise of the US-based chain of Burger King, but things fell apart (read the Wikipedia page – I’m no lawyer). Interesting fact: Australia is the only country in the world where Burger King operated under a different name.

Via Swaussie.se – click the pic for a story about the case in more layman’s terms

Exhibit C: Target.

Yall, when I first saw the iconic red Target signage here in Perth, I literally almost cried – actually maybe I even teared up a little.

If you’ve ever been to a real Target (and you have a soul/shopper’s heart and/or youve been Target-deprived), youll understand – it was like a piece of home right here in Oz. Imagine my supreme disappointment when I entered the Australian Target and noticed that, while similar upon first glance, there were just things off from the version in which I was accustomed.

Australian Target logo (via Targettrek.com)


United States Target logo (via Wikipedia)

Similar enough where you’re deceived into thinking they’re the same, but when you look a little closer, it’s just a tad different. What I dont understand is how Australian Target, which is in no way associated with the American counterpart, can get away with this trickery!!

Dont get me wrong, at its most basic, the stores are essentially the same (both sell a wide array of items from clothes to toiletries to home goods, etc), but the level of quality in the products and stores themselves are definitely different.

So there you have it. Three exhibits that hopefully demonstrate some uniquely (oxymoron now that I am thinking about it?!) Australian – similar, but different. Now I am not complaining – it’s nice to have things that remind me of the states here in Perth, and truly, Australia is so cool in that they are so patriotic and unique, probably more so than any place I’ve visited; maybe the fact that the country is so isolated/an island that they’ve really developed (partly out of necessity) there own mark on language, culture, products, food, etc. Given that, I will probably make a mini series on things that are uniquely Australian – there’s no shortage of material! ๐Ÿ™‚ Until next time…

Around the World in 17 Days

Well not quite the whole way around the world, but close! It has been a long 17 days, but I had an amazing time during my stint in the states (with the only bummer having been that Barr couldnt make it too!) If you follow me on Instagram, you have been privy to some of the travels and subsequent celebrations, but I’ll do a bit of a recap over the next few days (in between last minute…okay second training for the Abu Dhabi triathlon – why did I decide to that again?? Super screwed on that front – and recovering from jet lag).

Our fur baby and continual source of love and happiness, Dash

Our fur baby and continual source of love and happiness, Dash

The journeys began in Houston, where I was in a good friend from college’s wedding. Thankfully, my parents live in Houston as well…and my grandmother (Mema!) came to town…and my dog (Dash!) is currently being lovingly taken care of by my parents as well. A recipe for a great week.

Mema receiving some love from the pups

Mema receiving some love from the pups

Following Elise and Evans’ spectacular wedding (more details to come…), I headed to the west coast to visit two of my favorite people in the world – they graciously welcomed me into their fabulous new home…and on the week of their anniversary no less! I love seeing Allison and Mike – you know those friends that just make you smile just thinking of them? That’s these two ๐Ÿ™‚

I mean, LA - are you real??

I mean, LA – are you real??

From Los Angeles, I hopped on the red eye to Nashville to celebrate a bachelorette party! I am my dear, lovely, amazing friend Sarah Craig’s (double name, yall!) matron (ugh, can’t I stay a maid? Matron sounds old) of honor in her wedding this May. Seven of her friends met up in the Music City for a weekend of loving on the bride to be – it was an amazing way to end my trip to the states ๐Ÿ™‚

A little teaser of an upcoming post on the Nashville festivities

A little teaser of an upcoming post on the Nashville festivities

Sarah Craig and I at Elise's wedding the weekend before her bachelorette

Sarah Craig and I at Elise’s wedding the weekend before her bachelorette

More details on the trips coming…along with photo overload (all iPhone – sorry!) Until next time…

Happiest 5K on the Planet!

And it really was! See??

Two happy Blantons

Two happy Blantons

Sure, sure – there was a 5k, but it was agreed that the running portion was forgettable after being doused in colored powder (corn starch) at each kilometer (and actually, quite a few folks would cut corners around the track just to get to the colored portions faster – I dont blame them!) In fact, the run is called a run not a race for a reason: no one is timed and there is about an hour window you have to show up to run, walk, skip, push your children in the stroller…through the route. Easy and such a great way to spend a morning!

Obviously the pink chute was my fave

Obviously the pink chute was my fave

Over 8,500 folks participated in this international phenomenon (there are Color Runs held in 130 countries!) here in Dubai – the first Color Run in the UAE! It’s a huge event in the states (where it started) as well; I wanted to run the Charlotte race last spring, but it sold out too quickly! So I was super happy that our friend Virginia gave us a head’s up on Dubai’s Color Run back in September.

Not sure what's going on here, but I like it

Not sure what’s going on here, but I like it

At the end of the run, there is a finish festival where they hand out packets of the colored powder, and with music blaring in the background, you and 8,000 of your new friends dance around and throw the powder around. It was so…happy! One of the best parts was when we got home, eliciting giggles and questioning looks from our elevator companions (that, or when, later that day, Barr went to get a haircut and had some leftover red dye in the back of his hair) ๐Ÿ˜€ I absolutely recommend it when it comes to a city near you! Until next time… (have a happy day!)

photo 3

Respecting Culture

There has been some internet buzz regarding the American citizen (and his buddies) who made a satirical video, posted it on YouTube, and have been subsequently held in custody in Abu Dhabi. Some of the gentlemen being held are even UAE nationals. The exact portion of the video deemed offensive hasn’t been released, but I have some ideas. Upon first glance, the detention of this group could be deemed as scary or something you’d never hear of happening in the states (umm hello NSA), but after having lived here for a spell (short as it may be), it doesnt perplex me as much as you may initially think.

Before we moved here, I (and my family and friends in the states) were curious/nervous ย as to how things would be from a cultural perspective – I think we have one idea as to how the Middle East is based on the bombardment of media attention we get in the states – between 24 hour news networks and the internet, information overload is inevitable. Further, the Middle East continues to be a volatile region of the world, and in a post 9/11 world, it makes sense that there is a lot of attention turned to countries over here. Given the influx of information about specific (and radical) groups of people, it is only human nature to apply one standard to all – I get it. You hear about radical Muslims abusing women (or even trying to kill those who try to pursue an education, like Mahlala), you see the veils and hear about the bombings in residential areas. Let me let you in on a little secret: it’s not like that here. Even in Lebanon where there were recently explosions, many people tell us how beautiful and amazing Beirut is (and we can’t wait to visit!) Granted, I have not been to Pakistan, Iran, Saudi, Iraq or Afghanistan, but I think that at the end of the day, it’s all about respecting culture or being culturally aware; if you can respect culture, you are (hopefully) well educated about the country/city you are visiting and can dress, act, and treat others accordingly. Yes, religion plays a hugeย part in culture in the Middle East, and residents and tourists alike must respect and be aware that.

I knew that things were a bit more laid back here in Dubai: alcohol is permitted (in hotels, sold in duty free and special permitted stores), the abaya isn’t a legally required piece of clothing for women…you get the gist. I remember the first time I went to Mall of Emirates here and saw this sign:


I immediately pulled out a cardigan I had in my purse to put over my thin strapped dress (bear in mind it was 110 degrees out); however, as I walked through the mall, I saw lots of variance in dress code – the cardigan wasnt really as necessary as I thought. (Sidenote: I’ve even seen a woman in a bikini and a gauzy dress coverup at the Burj Khalifa, so go figure – not that I recommend this type of get up here or anywhere, actually…)

What’s my point, you ask? It’s all about knowing, understanding and respecting the culture of the UAE: when you need to really cover up those shoulders, don’t stare at the burqa (which I admit, I sometimes do – not because I dont understand or respect it – because I do! – but more because I want to learn more – I wish I could be a fly on the wall of a real local meal here to take it all in!), don’t flaunt food/even eat in public during Ramadan, etc.

I am not the law maker here (in my own house, sure ๐Ÿ˜‰ – around Dubai, not so much) – I must respect those laws set forth by the country in which I reside, and just as importantly, understand and respect the underlying cultural norms here. Did these gentlemen intentionally mean to offend residents of the UAE? I do not think so at all; I think they meant to be funny and timely, but it came off that way to the people with the power. There is no official word on what will result in the the detention of these individuals, but I think it’s a testament to truly respecting culture – here in Dubai, yes, but anywhere.

Sorry to get heavy on yall – and on a Sunday no less! I just really feel passionately about being a “citizen of the world”, and respecting different nationalities, religions, views in a calm/rational manner. We werent all made the same for a reason – how boring would that be? ๐Ÿ™‚ Okay, back to lighter stuff tomorrow. Until next time…

Foods that Remind Us of Home

A few weeks ago, a fellow blogger from Dubai, Noemi of Pinay Flying High, reached out to several bloggers around town to do a quick write up of a restaurant here in Dubai that reminds them of home. Given that Dubai is a melting pot of primarily expats, there is no shortage of international spots to grab a bite, so it’s a really great subject!

Gotta get me some gluten free Chex goodness!

Gotta get me some gluten free Chex goodness!

Being a food lover (I wish I could honestly call myself a “foodie”, but I don’t think I’m classy enough – Barr and I had some McDonald’s this weekend, so you do the math), I was only too happy to oblige Noemi’s request! ๐Ÿ™‚ That being said, it got me thinking: what is American food? At first I was like okay, pizza, but I mean pizza is Italian. And despite our little calorie splurge this weekend, I tend to shun most fast food stops, so that was out too. That brings me to my selection: SafestWay! Yup, you heard that right: not Safeway…Safestway! Obviously safer than our US version of the grocery store. And yes – it’s not a restaurant – it’s a grocery store here in Dubai that I can only assume caters primarily to homesick (home hungry?) American expats. I heard about it through the US expat grapevine, and man alive am I glad I did. Grocery items and brands from the states aside, Safestway has Swiffers!! I was SOOO pumped to find Swiffers here – it’s the little things, yall!


You can find the full post from myself and several blogging buddies here – I urge folks to read these great blogs as well for more and different views of living in Dubai (plus some fun pictures and recipes in there as well!)- they’re all EXCELLENT! Until next time…

Pinay Flying High


Mrs Ann



Longhorns and Camels


ExPIAtriate wife

What I Just Love

Mrs Jack of All Trades

Kenneth Surat

My Custard Pie

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Apologies for the radio silence these past few days – my sister has been in town, and our days (and nights) have been fun and full ๐Ÿ™‚ I am definitely thankful she is in town for Thanksgiving – and that Barr returns tonight, just in time to celebrate as well! Hopefully, we will have one more reason to celebrate as the Expo 2020 city will be announced tonight! Go Dubai and go Thanksgiving – enjoy your celebrations, wherever you may be. Until next time…

Day of desert fun

Day of desert fun

Photoshoot in the desert

Photoshoot in the desert

Flying high!!!

Flying high!!!

Burj Khalifa on a beautiful fall day

Burj Khalifa on a beautiful fall day

1 more day! The Burj al Arab all lit up last night ahead of tonight's announcement #dubai2020, yall!

1 more day! The Burj al Arab all lit up last night ahead of tonight’s announcement #dubai2020, yall!

Be Present

Well, the transfer certainly feels real now. Of course it was always “real” – from the moment Barr called me to say “Are you ready to move to Dubai in 2 weeks? It’s happening”, I knew it was real; we would be moving overseas, something we had literally always wanted and discussed as a couple, but until we moved into our apartment this weekend, the process didnt really feel permanent to me. I think it was the extended hotel stay. Maybe a bit because I am not working in a corporate environment (at all, yet…that is the question). But no matter the reason, it wasn’t until we had spent a night in the apartment that I had a moment of reflection and clarity that we live here in Dubai now.

We didnt “leave” Charlotte, so much as I think we just wanted to live (and work) abroad. We love, love, love Charlotte, and I absolutely think that we will be back in Charlotte one of these days, probably not too far from now. BUT, we also love to be a bit (or even a lot) out of our comfort zone. We also love to travel. We also love to learn and explore new languages, people, customs, religions, architecture…you get the idea. Honestly, when we sat down to have the “are we really going to do this?” conversation, the consensus was that Abby and Barr don’t typically do what is “easy” – to be cliche, we oftentimes take the road less traveled – why would this decision be any different, right?

Both of us have had the privilege (because honestly, it is!) to live, study and/or work overseas: he in Manila/China and me in Calgary (hey, it counts!), Singapore and Rome – and quite frankly, we couldn’t wait to do it again and together. So, here we are.

This all being said, homesickness has now hit me. It took moving into our apartment and that moment of self reflection to settle in my chest that this isnt always an easy transition. All it really takes is one look at social media, of your friends and family back in the States (or wherever), and that wave of nostalgia and dare I say FOMO hits you. I won’t lie: I had a moment this past weekend where I was like “why did we do this? why am I not with my friends? why can’t I easily call my mom/Mema/sister/mother in law/friend?” But I think it goes back to that life is too short and one choice always will result in the act of discarding another – you will miss out on or say “what if/why did I do that and not this” no matter what. You just have to have faith in yourself and those you love and ultimately just be present; I think that’s the key – living for now because you can’t change the past and you can’t plan everything (though I may want to) – life just comes at you sometimes, and it’s too short to dwell on stuff you can’t change (though I may want to!)

An amazing print by the talented Ayang Cempaka

An amazing print by the talented Ayang Cempaka (Source: ayangcempaka.com)

So, that is my urging to my readers (or reader: hi mom!) ๐Ÿ™‚ and to myself: be present. When you’re with someone, listen to them. When you’re ย some place new or different, embrace it then. And when you make a choice, big or small, make it thoughtfully, and then live in that choice. That’s all you can do. I’ll end my little moment of self reflection and sage advice ๐Ÿ˜‰ with Psalm 119:114 “You’re my place of quiet retreat. I wait for your word to renew me.”

I’ll be putting up some pictures and design boards shortly for our new place – certainly not complete, but getting there! I may need yall’s help with some design choices! Until next time…