Sunday, July 31, 2011


Kristen's 30th was this year and her sister secretly invited us to Cincinnati to help celebrate! What better reason for a WFU reunion than to celebrate such a wonderful friend?!In true Kristen fashion, she had plans to volunteer on her birthday weekend, so we all helped out with Go Cincinnati - our task was to plant flowers at a halfway house for girls. A fun task...but we were like drowned rats afterwards, it was pouring! Afterwards we pampered ourselves with manicures and pedicures!
That night we headed to Local 127, one of Kristen's favorite restaurants, but not before a few pictures!
So great to see Caroline, Elizabeth, Kristen, and Emily - it had been way too long! Dinner was amazing...I had scallops, but many people had the meatloaf with whipped potatoes...basically they were the consitancy of whipped cream, but tasted exactly like mashed potatoes...we're such foodies ;-)
Elizabeth's gift was cake pops that she had HAND MADE in DC and carried on the plane...they were AMAZING - well done Elizabeth!
We love you Kristen...thanks for being such a fantastic hostess even though your guests were sprung on you at the last minute!

Saturday, July 30, 2011


My parents bought a new house last is a "before" picture...the best feature is that it is right on the lake! However, the house was very old and outdated inside, so as soon as the snow thawed the carpenters started in on gutting and remodeling the entire inside.

Everyone knew those huge bushes that surrounded half the house would be gone as soon as my dad could get them out. It proved to be quite a challange to dig them all out. A lot of hard work but very worth it.

Another task was digging out the creek and rearranging all the rocks.

Most of the weekends this past spring I headed up to help with packing and getting the new house ready, a tiring job but I know it will be well rewarded with many fun memories in the years to come.

You can track all the progress on This Old White House.

Cooking Club Fiesta

Lynne and I hosted Cooking Club and it was a no brainer to choose a Mexican theme. We've done French, Italian, Harvest, and more.

Good times, great conversations...always fun to catch up with the girls!

Last stop!

The last stop on my trip was Chennai/Madras...a brief stop and I was so exhausted I didn't do much but go into the office and hang around my hotel. Coincidentally, my friend Meredith's mom was in Chennai for a conference at at a hotel less than a mile from me, so I hailed an auto rickshaw and joined her group for a delicious dinner!

Other than that, I saw St Thomas Basilica on my drive in from the airport as my cab driver was insistant that I see some sights. It was beautiful and my pictures do not do it justice.
There was a mass going on so we only peeked inside...we were behind the alter and at the bottom of the crucifix there were a couple gorgeously painted peacock statues...never seen that image before!
And then it was Chennai to Frankfurt to Chicago...completing an amazing around the world journey!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Next stop was Hyderabad...which is more in the center of India in rocky terrain. Our coworkers took us on our tour one morning. First we went to Birla Mandir, located on top of of a small mountain. It is a sparkling white temple with amazing views of the city. My favorite part was when our coworkers were pointing out a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh and I said "Ganesh is the remover of obstacles, right?" They were shocked that I knew this - yep, I paid attention in my Live Lean classes at Core Power Yoga! Before we left they gave Ann and I both gorgeous pink pashminas and they gave me a little statue of Ganesh - so thoughtful, which I found was typical of the Indian population - extremely genuine and hospitable people.

Then on to Golconda Fort.

There most facinating part of the Fort was the echo/architecture system built into it that the ruler used as a communication/spying system. There were several spots where you could test out the echoes. We drove around Charminar which literally means "four minarets." It was built at the very spot at which Quli Qutb Shah prayed for the end to the plague epidemic and is the icon of Hyderabad. No trip to Hyderabad is complete without shopping for pearls! I had them string a necklace for my sister.... Other than that, time was spent at the office. It was pretty funny because Ann and I were part of several office celebrations...honorary guests if you will...birthday celebrations, anniversaries, etc. Good times!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


We arrived in Mumbai on Sunday afternoon...what else to do but shop?? We headed out in search of pashminas and Indian-style tops and were very successful in both! Below you can see the carnage from our pashmina shopping....the vendors just kept bringing out more colors, more designs. They did their job well and their product was amazing, Ann and I left with about 5 each!Then we asked our driver to leave us to wander the markets, by his reaction this was a strange request, but we insisted and were off into the maze of street vendors. I was amazed by the sheer volume of produce/flowers/spices/grains. I mean really, does this guy have enough customers for all that garlic before it goes bad??
We searched for "new" fruits and vegetables that we were unfamilar with, but couldn't find many. Mostly it was the same produce, just more vibrant colors...check out those carrots! We spent Monday and Tuesday at the office and it was extremely bizzare because we were meeting with the teams that support the US business and thus didn't even get to work until around 3pm. It was so strange having the day off instead of the evening. On Wednesday, our great tour guide Roy took us around to see some of the sights. We went to the Taj Mahal Hotel...a gorgeous 5 star hotel overlooking the water...sight of the 2008 terroist bombings. Checked out the Gate of India.... I was tempted to buy some peacock feathers! Street vendors have to have liscences and most do not, therefore they get shooed out by the police every so often and we were part of the mini-stampede. Roy also took us for talis which is a style of eating food, and was one of my favorites of the entire trip. There are all kinds of little bowls... ...the servers come around and fill them up with small portions of all kinds of good food. And extra refills, not that you can really take advantage of that because there is so much food already. Finally, add various types of bread to eat the food with and you have a very typical Indian meal.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taj Mahal!

While I had a rather uneventful, though tiring, plane ride from Hong Kong to Delhi, my colleague Ann was flying in from LA. After a chauffer mix-up that ended up with Ann being taken to the wrong hotel at first, we met up at 6am for our trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
I can't even being to adequately explain the chaos on the drive from Delhi to Agra, which took about 4hr because you go through several small towns whereas they are almost done constructing a highway where it will only take 2hr. No stoplights, no stopsights, free-for-all at every intersection, buses, trucks, cars, rickshaws, bikes, people, cows, goats, and even a couple camels and elephants - insane! Our company was gracious enough to lend us the driver for the Japanese expat living in Delhi for the day, and he accompanied us to the Taj. After parking and paying the entrance fee you take a little bus about a mile to the entrance.
The Taj Mahal complex is bounded on three sides by red sandstone walls, with the river-facing side left open. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died during the birth of their 14th child. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653. While the Taj Mahal is probably one of the world's most recognizable buildings, I was awe-stricken by the craftsmanship and intracy of all the buildings in the complex. The calligraphy on the Great Gate reads "O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you." There are people who live outside the Taj that are constantly carving new stone to maintain the beauty. The characters in the stone above are each carved from one piece of stone inlayed in the white marble. After passing through the west gate, we saw the Taj Majal....the 3rd bucket list item of my trip (first diving in the Great Barrier Reef, then walking on the Great Wall of China)....and it certainly did not dissapoint. An interesting fact I learned is that the four towers on the outside of the tomb look like they are at 90 degree angles, however they are actually angled out a little bit. Apparnetly a few years before the construction began there was an earthquake so they built the towers tilted out so they would crash away from the tomb. There has not been another earthquake since thankfully!The tomb is the central focus of the entire complex of the Taj Mahal. To go into the tomb you need to either remove your shoes...or slip on the little booties over your shoes that are provided by the park - I choose the booties! You are not supposed to take pictures in the tomb, so these are some shots of the surrounding buildings and outside of the tomb. All over the Taj there are these gorgeous floral vine designs...our guide showed us that they are made from semi-precious stones inlayed into the marble and they actually glow in the dark, making the Taj Majal breathtaking at sunset. They no longer do sunset tours, but my friends Thomas and Mafer convinced a guide to take them once and I am still jealous!

One view of the grounds...

Ann and I admiring the Taj! On our way back, the bus back to the parking was full. Ann and I were up for walking the mile back through all the vendors...sounded like fun to us. However, our guide refused and said we would get a rickshaw. This was HORRIBLE...Ann and I were MORTIFIED. I felt like the total "ugly american" sterotype. Here we were, 3 people being towed by a guy who was probably only 100lbs soaking wet.
Here we are all crammed in...we made it, slowly, and our driver got a huge tip though I still feel terrible.And then back to the chaos of the 4hr car trip back, before heading off to Mumbai the following day.