Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Elena!

Dear Elena,
I. Love. You.
I can't believe that you are finally 21! It seemed like just last month that people were asking what grade you're in(inside joke).
So, now you can (legally) order alcohol at restaurants, get your CHL, and buy a hand gun--I think.
Sorry that I didn't post this sooner, but I haven't had immediate access to the computer till recently.
But anyway, I wanted to let you know that you are a special sister, friend, and example to me!
Hope you have-- or had-- a blessed birthday!
And I also pray that you will come home safely to us.
Love you!

...[no comment]...

Don't worry, I spared you from posting other pictures, and decided to play it safe.

Visited the Ima Hogg house--no joke, its a real name-- for your bitrthday.

Visiting with the McNeil's during our North Trip.


Happy belated birthday!

Caro :)

P.S Let's pretend I posted this just a day after your birthday,
not nearly a week after.

Meet Matthew

Dear Familia,

 It is my great pleasure to introduce the newest Neal!

Meet Matthew Timothy Neal, born on November 22, 2011 at 8:09pm, weighing about 6 1/2 lbs.

After spending his first few days in the NICU, Matthew is thriving well on being home with his siblings.

 Mrs. Jackie is so happy to be home and we're so glad to have her back. She is recovering well from the surgery and the days spent at the hospital were restful. Mr. Brock has a week off from work and we're enjoying the time we get to spend together.

I love you!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Dubai {the update}

Mica and I with our sweet friends, Cait and Joel; 
our new friend Vaughn is behind the camera and sadly, there is no photo of him.
We had a marvelous time with them!

Dear Dad, Mom, Caro, and Nicole,

Hello from the exotic Dubai!
As you know, our flight went well (side note for our knitting readers: you can't take your needles on Emirates---I know, I know), we landed safely, and are flourishing in this marvelous, sandy place. No camels sighted yet, but I'm so excited to tell you about all that we have seen so far. I think we told you most of what is below, via skype, but here you have the photo's. : )
Joel, Cait, and Vaughn graciously showed us around the Marina, a fun hangout in Dubai. The night was filled with good laughs, great conversations, and a beautiful walk. It was such a wonderful night and I'm so grateful for that time.

 One of my favorite sights coming into Dubai was actually the view of Kiev at 4ish am, it was the first time I could see anything past the clouds and it looked so lovely; naturally, all that I did see was areas of dotted city lights and...well, that's about it. : ) I also loved the view flying over Turkey and Iran; the mountains were just beautiful from up top and it prepared us for the sandy terrain of Dubai. You'll notice that I'll continually use "sandy" to describe the surroundings (because aside from the roads and pavements, that's pretty much all there is!) but keep in mind that along with this sand, comes the beach. More on that later. ; )
 One day last week, the mother of a lady from church came and prepared/taught us to make a feast of delicious Lebanese food (can you say baklava?!); Ann spent the entire day cooking, instructing, and sharing bits of her life with us. I furiously took step-by-step notes and still need to organize them---such a wealth of first hand knowledge!
Thankfully, she made enough food for us to freeze, so we'll be enjoying the fruits of her loving labor for a while!

 Our flight was marvelous, the first seven or so hours sped past us while the remaining eight hours were split between sleeping, watching more movies, and being enamored with the wonderful service.
After a quick teeth brushing (just for you, Mom!), we made our way to the N's at last! Like weary traveler's coming home after a long journey, plopped our baggage into our "new rooms" and rested; that evening we had our first "Dubai meal" on the beach with the Burj Al Arab on our left, the Persian/Arabian Gulf before us, smells of our delicious shawarma's around, and the sound of the call to prayer in the air. I think it's the calls to prayer and the abaya's that contribute to the Middle Eastern feel of this diverse city, and it truly is diverse! There are very few Emirati's while the rest of the population could be from any country on the map.
 One night, the Neal's took us, as well as Joel and Cait, to a large market called Global Village that was just amazing. There were both handmade and commercial merchandise in each pavilion and you could buy just about anything for a price, a haggled price at that. Each country seemed well represented and it was so neat to "talk" with some of the people behind the counter; I say, "talk" because most of the workers didn't really speak English very well but it was still interesting to get their story and learn a bit about their lives.

 This one's for you, Mom and Nicole. : )
Imagine about five different Yemeni men, dressed in traditional garb, calling and asking for your attention; ("You make me sad when you don't come to my shop!" "A special price for you, my special friend!" "You like this, you like this? For you, a special price, my friend!"). As Col. Brandon said, "The air is full of spices." The Yemen pavilion was probably one of my favorites, next to the African one; both were so authentic and full of different and interesting things. This is a place where I definitely wish that you guys could have come.
 During our visit to Global Village, we ate our dinner here and it. was. so. delicious.
Shawarma's, hummus, fresh pita's, seasoned meats, and intense chiles filled our plates and tummies; we're really enjoying the different foods we've had here (Including our burger's at Fuddrucker's! ; )

 How can we describe the beach? It's just so fun and relaxing each time we go; I always think of our trip to the beach in Cali and it brings back many fond memories of swimming away from the jellies, climbing around the anemone covered rocks, and taking cat naps in the sun---all of which we've been doing here, except for the jellyfish bit, the most frightening thing I've seen in the ocean is a blue, plastic sack which look alarmingly like a vicious fish. While we wait to welcome the Newest Neal, we are planning on a nice, long day at the beach; soaking up some sand and sun is just the ticket and I'm looking forward to hearing the sounds of the water again.

 All of the N's love the beach as well, they plan on making us surfer's while we're here so there is much work to be done (like, learning how to maneuver a board again!) but there is plenty of time to learn. The past few beach days we've been leaping from rock to rock, exploring each nook and cranny and scaring away what fish happen to be there.

There you have a peek of our first few weeks here; tomorrow is a visit to see the Mona Lisa and our first trip on the metro, and I'll probably take a trip to Choithrams to pick up some things for my special birthday breakfast (Morning Sun's on the menu!). Mica and I love each of you very dearly.

Your loving and adventurous, 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Dear Dubai Girls,

Dear Dubai girls,
I thought I could update you gals about these past few days, while I wait for you guys to post(ahem).
Let's see, where shall I start.
I cried.
Well, not exactly, but that Tuesday, it rained and it made me feel gloomy.
I sanded my desk, cleaned the bathroom (all-by-myself), slept in Elena's bed (after I sanded my desk), made use of both your closets (I really like Mica's cardigans), I am the designated salad chef for lunch and dinner, and I have Skyped the Webbies. They are currently in Pampa and plan to return Thursday. Oh! and I was very nerdy and watched the special features for The Return of the King, while I "sewed".
This past week, I've had the first sentences of this song in my head. Connection? Maybe.

Oh, for those who are unaware, Elena and Mica are in Dubai, for six weeks, with our dear friends the Neals.

At the airport!
They just grow up so fast(fake sniff)!

If you remember, awhile back Mia Hood planted some watermelon seeds, and I have kept them up.
But I honestly didn't think anything would come of it, until now.
Can you find the watermelon?

There it is!
Along with my hand, to give you an idea how big it is.

Here are some of the pictures of Mica's graduation party(a couple of Thursdays ago)!
Note the little girls' matching skirts that Nani made for them.

Last Thursday, we went with the Malott's to the Health and Medical Science museum. They actually had some neat stuff there! As you can see from the above, Cameron liked his 3D glasses. :)

BUT, on Wednesday night, we went to the premiere of Grafted! Most of the families that participated in the film (Scotts, Beaches, Loyd's, Frye's, Baucham's, Rectors, Urback's, and Shiflets) had their "Grafted" shirts on, from adult to baby! It was such a sweet film, hearing everyone's stories, seeing pictures and old video footage.

Oh yeah, and Lizzie got her hair cut!

Caleb (directer), John (all-around film guy/composer), and Lisa (producer).
Something tells me they like their sunglasses...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One more thing!

Just one or two things I wanted to add!

This amazing tree that we fit in.
The only thing I could think of, though, were the many variety of spider and snakes that there are in South Carolina (and were probably in the tree!).

" the Lizard and the Moth".

Now, it was kind of disappointing to take a tour of the house, because the house was really the third or fourth structure, the original house was burned or something, and the current structure was built in 1936, by Canadian ambassador Thomas A. Stone. Not to mention the upstairs was currently being lived in, so we couldn't go up there. But the tour guide was probably one of my favorites. She was very informative and you could tell she liked what she did.

These are the famous South Carolina baskets!
Honestly, it didn't seem that there was so much to it that they could be sold for the price in the picture.

Dad and Mom, demonstrating how large the tree was.

That's all!

P.S As I looked at the date, it struck me, that it is exactly five months till my birthday!
Just had to mention that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

East Coast Trip 2011: Arrival

Sadly, all pictures of our flight, came out blurry/unexceptionable. Now, yours truly, got bumped to first class going to Atlanta, Georgia! Though, to be honest, I wasn't quite as thrilled. Not that I'm complaining, it's just that it wasn't exactly what it was cracked up to be. But it was nicer( I guess the extra two inches would make a difference if you were flying for like 6 hours), I chatted with one of the businessmen next to me, and tried for the other guy, but he didn't seem the chatty type.
All this to say, that we flow in safely and got to our hotel just in time to collapse.
In the morning, Dad picked up our rental and we zoomed out of there.
Here are some of the gazillion pictures we took that day.

It felt like you have to say it with a southern accent.

Mom was so good to inform me that this unique flower, is a Passion flower!

The little house, tucked back between the two big houses, is the slaves' quarters.
These houses were commonly 13 by 5 sq. ft. and and they would fit whole families in these houses.

A lovely view of either a Catholic or Huguenot Church.

You could really imagine, ladies in huge hoop skirt dresses, coming out to those balconies!

Our carriage-tour guide, pointed out the different expressions of each lion's face (look closely).

A very fancy hotel.
Note: the cute old couple on the bench!

This man, was singing some lovely, operatic tunes. He was singing in a particular corner, on the street, that his voice rang out several blocks away!
He told us that he had majored in opera (opera school?), but now he worked full time in some job, and that, he did this on the side, to keep his voice in shape.

The adorable church we went to, Church Creek Presbyterian, it looked like one of those classic, little, white churches that you would get married in.

After church, we met a sweet couple, who invited us to "dinner" (lunch) at their home.
Their home was, what I would call, a traditional southern home; with tall oaks, white walls, and and big open windows. Oh, and no fences.

Boone Hall plantation!
In 1743, the son of Major John Boone, planted these, evenly spaced, oak trees!
It's interesting, the oaks' roots have intertwine with each other, making them last through the centuries. I didn't know that.
The photo doesn't really justify it.

This amazing structure, is being fixed up, but it it first needs to be supported through possible harsh weather.

Mica caught this neat photo of a morning glory!

We used our mini tripod and timed camera to take this!


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