Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Trip to the Other Side of the World - Bangalore, India

Some of my team 
My month of travel is over.  October was a whirlwind.  And I love October in the Midwest so I'm a bit sad that I missed it...  But I am happy to report that I did travel to other side of the world and back and live to tell the tale.

My team at work is a global team, people work all over the world although there is a concentration of team members who sit in one of our offices in Bangalore, India... along with most large companies who have IT departments.  I've either worked with or had employees who have resided in India for over a decade, I was well due for a trip to visit.

The journey to India:

The journey to India from Wichita, KS is not a small journey.  In fact it is a two-day journey full of exhaustion and backache.  I left out of Wichita on a Friday evening about 5 PM. My first fight was my normal skip to Minneapolis that I make pretty regularly for work.  Once I arrived, I headed to the International Flight area for my connection to London.  It is hard to believe that I managed to fly to London twice this year and up until 2017 I had never been there before.  My flight to London was overnight leaving at 10 PM so I grabbed some dinner and waited for my flight.  My flight from Minneapolis to London was about 10 hours putting my arrival time at about 2 PM in London on Saturday.  I did my best to sleep on the flight but it was tough - nerves were definitely getting to me.  I did manage to watch The Big Sick which I have been wanting to see... so so good, I recommend.
I was nervous because my connection is London was short and I really wanted to make sure I had time to freshen up before getting on my flight to Bangalore.  Luckily my flight got in early and because I had over researched how to maneuver terminal changes at Heathrow, I sailed through my terminal change and security checks quickly.  I had time to spare so I was able to freshen up a bit.
My next flight to Bangalore was 11 hours.  Up until this point, I was on Delta but from London to Bangalore I flew British Airways.  I wasn't impressed.  The plane was dated and uncomfortable... on my flight to Bangalore, I did manage to sleep quite a bit.  We left London about 4 PM and arrived in Bangalore at 4 AM.  It was exciting to see all the exotic places I was flying over... places I never thought I'd be near in my lifetime.

Bangalore, India:

Arriving at 4 AM, I thought it would be pretty quick to get out of the airport. I was wrong.  It took nearly 3 hours to get out of the airport with all the security checks... and I traveled via carry-on.  I also had to exchange USD for Rupees before leaving the airport as cabs only accept cash.  A cab was waiting for me and we began our 1 hour drive into Bangalore and my hotel.  Once I got in the car and we started our journey, I realized quickly that I didn't want to watch the traffic because the traffic is something else.  Had I not been so exhausted, I probably would have gone into full panic attack mode.  People drive whatever way they want, there are people on mopeds and bikes everywhere, pedestrians and cows walking in traffic; mass chaos.  I had never seen an entire family plus groceries ride a moped before or 20+ people inside/on-top of a jeep...

Chaotic traffic

Instead I tried to focus on the background and place my faith in the driving ability of the cab driver.   I arrived at my hotel, a Fairfield Marriott at 8 AM and luckily was able to go directly to my room.  I couldn't wait to take a shower... I cringe now thinking how grimey I felt after that trip.  I slept off and on the entire day.  By midnight I was wide awake so I ended up just staying up until I went to work Monday morning at 830 AM.

My Hotel

The hotel was very nice and had pretty good food options since there wasn't a lot close otherwise that I felt comfortable eating at.  There were many little shack-like places with dirt floors and cheap eats in walking distance but these were the places that I had been warned not to eat at.  I walked to the office each day when not raining.  The walk included a short walk down a busy road and then onto the campus where many companies are located.

View from my room into the office park
The campuses like mine are all over Bangalore... big businesses in fancy buildings right next to dirty, poverty-stricken areas.  It was interesting to me to see how you would find people dressed in business clothes walking next to people who had no shoes and appeared homeless.

Cows hang out in the median

Cows also travel in herds

It did rain every day that I was there except the one day that I ventured out into the city to explore which was lucky.  It was Monsoon season and there was quite a bit of flooding.  One evening I was in a cab in heavy traffic, so heavy you couldn't open your door because cars were so close together.  As the water was rising to the door, I started to get nervous about what I would do if it got much higher and we couldn't open the doors to get out... traffic is that bad and that crazy.
This is some of my team

I ate lunch every day at the cafeteria where Indian lunch was provided by my company.  It actually was a great way to try many different foods.  I can't tell you everything that I ate because I don't know what everything was but mostly really good.  I realized that the way think Indian food is served in the US is much different than how it is served in South India.  I had always assumed curry and gravy dishes were served over rice but India Paratha is used to scoop up the food and eat it instead.  Paratha is kind of like a tortilla.  Most days there were rice dishes, a vegetable dish, some kind of curry or masala, and several yogurt dishes.  There was also a sweet every day which I can describe to be something like fudge, a small square or circle of something sweet and indulgent.  Drinks were another thing that I found interesting.  I am used to having a full glass of tea or soda with lunch and the drinks that were offered were small dixie cups that you would use in the bathroom in the 80's... nothing that would quench a thirst but it seemed many people didn't drink anything at all with lunch.
Afternoon tea, Indian chai tea in particular was also served.  As a huge tea lover, especially a chai team lover, this was one of the best things about my trip!

Dinner Out

I did eat out at a couple of restaurants with different people from my team.  Both restaurants were trendy breweries which appear to be on the rise in Bangalore.  All the food was wonderful.  My favorite meal was a Paneer Butter Masala.  I'm already a big Saag Paneer fan and love it even more with Butter Masala.  I might have already stocked up on some paneer for home so I can try to make it myself!  I also did some shopping for souvenirs for my family.  I picked up some wooden carved elephants, hand woven scarves, and a small hand carved chess set.  By the end of the trip I also started to understand things about the culture that I hadn't realized.  While the traffic is a nightmare, there is no road rage.  People trust and look out for one another.  People are incredibly concerned with making a good impression and take note of details.  Many people went out of there way for me to get me somewhere when it was raining or ensure I made it to the right shop.  I was truly impressed with the kind nature of people.

I would absolutely go again and hope next time to be able to see more.  I did leave right as Diwali was starting which is one of the largest Hindu festivals.  It was very festive with lights and traditional dress.  It would have been nice to see more but I was missing my family and happy to return.

The return:
My return started on Saturday morning at 7 AM.  Another 12 hour flight back to London with an even tighter connection to catch.  I had no time to freshen up and found myself running through Heathrow in order to catch my flight.  I was the last to board and the door shut right behind me.  Whew! I was seconds from not making it... My flight to Chicago was 11 hours.  Luckily I did sleep most of both flights. Once I arrived in Chicago, I quickly moved through security thanks to traveling via carry one again.  My flight into Wichita was 3 hours delayed though so I wasn't happy... and again felt so grimey.  I finally arrived back in Wichita at 1 AM Sunday morning.  Since returning home, my internal clock is off.  I can't sleep past 4 AM so find myself working in the middle of the night.  It is getting better day by day.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Month of Travel - Minneapolis & San Francisco

I have been on the road for the last month. As I type this I am sitting in my hotel room in Bangalore, India. I will have a full post about India but I thought I woul do a bit of an update covering the last month.

To start, things with my job have been changing.  The travel is associated with part of that. I am in the process of taking over a large area of responsibility at work, still within the same function of Cybersecurity.  While travel has picked up I am still maintaining balance which is most importat to me.  As part of the new responsibilities, I have had to meet with people and join some groups.

3 weeks ago I headed to Minneapolis for a week to meet with my team and work on a large project. I make this trip several times a year so no big deal. While there I did get to do an escape room with my team as a team building exercise.  We were 5 seconds from success when the time went off!  I was putting in the winning code at the very moment. It was a great time.

I headed home for 2 days and then headed back out this time to Silicon Valley. I was there join an executive SAP group with other large customers. I stayed in Palo Alto at a hotel called Dinahs Garden Hotel. I loved the hotel - my room had a sliding glass door that overlooked a koi lagoon.  The food was awesome.  I really loved the location, right near Stanford University and the tech center of the United States.  So may large IT companies besides SAP -- Google, VMWare, Nest were right next door.  I wish Josh would have been there for that because he would have geeked out. I should go back at least annually so looking forward to that.

Josh did join me in San Francisco later in the week and we made a long weekend of it to celebrate our 7 year anniversary.  7 years has flown by!

We stayed at a Hilton near Union Square and right by a BART train stop.  Our room had a great view overlooking downtown San Francisco.

Breakfast was at french bakery called La Boulangerie that was so so good.

We did a whale watch tour which was highest on our list. The last time we did one was in Bar Habor, Maine and we were hoping to see more activity this time.  We did spot a humpback in the bay, right under the Golden Gate bridge that we were able to follow a bit.  Unfortunately, no breaching.  He stayed underwater most of the time. The cruise was enjoyable though.

We at lunch at Fishermans Wharf.  I had crab cakes and clam chowder and reminisced about the first time I traveled there as a kid with my family.  My mom first introduced me to fresh crab there and I have loved it ever since.  I also recalled our trip out to Alcatraz on that same trip.

Fishermans Wharf also had the largest succulents I have ever seen... beautiful!

While in San Francisco we also did a tour around the city that was nice.  Besides going under the bridge we also went over it twice.

We also spent a whole day in Japantown which was the highlight of the trip for me. The girls would have loved it and I would love to bring them back.

I finally got to try authentic Okonomiyaki and Taiyaki.  I loved the Okonomiyaki but the Taiyaki was just ok. I am not so sure it wasnt just how it was prepared.

We hit up several fun shops-- Daiso ( 1 Yen store), a huge bookstore called Kinokuniya that had the largest Anime section I have ever seen and I have a daughter who happens to be obsessed with anime lately.. and anime boys...sigh, boy craziness is starting.  There was also a huge Studio Ghibli section that my youngest would have loved but the majority of the shops had Ghibli items.

There were tons of kawaii stores where the girls lucked out with some cute souveniors, and a special squishy for one... the squishy obsession is high in my house right now.  There was also a Japanese Arcade called Japan Playaland, so fun!

And now a week later I have made the 30 hour trip to Bangalore, India.  It was quite the trek to travel around the world.  My next post will be my India trip and how it all turned out.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

It's been awhile

September is here and it feels like the summer blew by.  Not because we were any busier than usual, it was one of our more relaxing summers but I guess everything goes faster as you get older.  

We didn't take our normal big family vacation this summer.  Since we went to London & Paris earlier in the year, we decided to just do a Colorado trip to visit Josh's family and then go up to Estes Park.  The trip ended early due to a horrible hotel experience, an episode of car sickness, and rainy weather.  The highlight for me was the day we spent in Boulder doing some shopping and taking a tour of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory.  Celestial Seasonings isn't my favorite but I still love all tea.  And who can resist the cute bear mascot?

It also was the summer of weddings.  I do love a good wedding and one of them was a friend's Star Wars themed wedding.  Josh was in heaven and planned months in advance for his costume.  He now also has something to wear to the opening of the next Star Wars wedding.  It really was a neat wedding.  The other was more traditional style wedding and both Josh and Tori got plenty of dancing in that night (see first pic).

Penny celebrated her 10th birthday in August.  Grandma hosted a Unicorn Trampoline Park party. This was the first year that Penny has actually been able to be in touch with friends over the summer so we were able to have a "friend" party and it seems she had a great birthday.  She also managed to top off her Nintendo Switch savings and have enough to go buy herself a Nintendo Switch.  We have 3 in my house now...sigh.

We did spend some time swimming this summer both at my sister's pool in KC and at the YMCA. While in KC we also hit a up cookie dough stand to try out the cookie dough craze... it was really good and I cheated for it. The girls did the Girls Who Rock Camp for a week and they both loved it.  They played a rock concert at Central Standard Brewing.  I really love how empowering this program is for young girls.

Speaking of music now not only do I have a guitar player I now have a drummer.  Penny finally decided on playing the drums and started lessons a few weeks ago.  We new she was naturally inclined to play the drums because she has always had such a good sense of rhythm.  Tori also upgraded her acoustic guitar to a new electric guitar.  She played bass guitar during rock camp and although she had fun, she decided that she would rather stay with lead guitar on electric.  We ended up keeping her acoustic which now hangs on her bedroom wall. 

Also to celebrate Josh's birthday this year we all got tickets to see Sir Paul McCartney.  The girls are as big of Beatles fans as we are.  The concert was awesome and there was plenty of singing by all of us. 

We redid Penny's room.  She has wanted a cupcake wall for awhile and I figured how to make that happen.  Also she desperately needed a better desk space that she could use for all her arts & crafts as well as working on the computer.  I sought out an Ikea hack that worked out great.  Here is the sneak peak but I plan to do a more involved post about her room later.

I have been working from home almost 100% these days which has been nice.  I get so much more done and life is just more balanced.  I am getting ready to go into a period of travel for work over the next month.  I will be spending a week in Minneapolis, a week in San Francisco, and a week in Bangalore, India.  The India trip is a big one that will take two weekends up in order to travel the 20 hours each way.  My connection is through London... who would have thought I would be in London twice in one year?  My only hope is that I have time to hit up M&S Food in my short layover!

I did take a break from keto the month of July but have been back since the first of August.  I feel like my body isn't adapting as easily as it has in the past.  Unfortunately it is gong to be difficult to stay keto with all the travel.  I'm not worried about Minneapolis or San Francisco but India just isn't going to happen. I love Indian food so I want to eat the carbs but also, it would be difficult to seek out foods that are't made with rice or potatoes.  I am looking forward to the chai though. I can only imagine how yummy it is in India.

Josh & I have also started on our goal to get tattoos that we have been wanting.  He went first.  We spent 5 hours a couple of weeks ago and he has about 2-3 hours left to go to complete his.  It is rather large and includes a silhouette of the girls faces with scenes in each one that are special to each daughter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Low Carb Southern Tomato Pie

After returning from Savannah, I have been craving southern foods moreso than normal.  I started looking up recipes and came across a recipe for Low Carb Tomato Pie and let me tell you, it doesn't disappoint!

Low Carb Southern Tomato Pie

3/4 C Almond Flour
1/3 C Oat Fiber or 2 Tbs of Coconut Flour
1 C Shredded Parmesan
1 Egg
2 Tbs Butter

Mix ingredients and press into 9" pie plate.  Bake on 350 for 15 minutes.

4 large tomatoes, sliced
1 C Shredded Cheese of your choice, I used Colby Jack
1/2 C Mayo (the real stuff)
1/4 C Chopped Bacon
Italian Seasoning

After the crust is done lay sliced tomatoes on crust.  Sprinkle tomatoes with chopped bacon.  Mix mayo and shredded cheese together in a separate bowl.  Slather the top of the pie with the mayo mixture to evenly distribute. Sprinkle top with Italian seasoning.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Serve warm or chilled.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Savannah, Georgia Mother Daughter Weekend

For my mom's 60th birthday this year my sister and I surprised her with a mother daughter weekend in Savannah, Georgia.  She has always wanted to visit and I happen to love the town as it is at the heart of the south.  To inform her of her upcoming trip, I faked a letter from Paula Deen inviting her to visit her hometown.  The letter also informed her that she had reservations to eat at her restaurant, Lady & Son's on her actual birthday.

We flew into Atlanta and had about a 4 hour drive into Savannah.  Upon arriving, we decided to check out the the shopping areas while we waited for time to check in.  Public parking garages are pretty easy to find although the streets can be pretty congested with traffic at times.  Most people staying near River Street hotels find it easiest to park their car at the hotel and walk or taking public transportation (trolleys) everywhere.

We stayed at Hotel Indigo which was right next to City Market, central to everything.  Parking was only via valet but as I mentioned, everything was within walking distance... if you could stand the heat and humidity!  Our room was nice and the hotel was very pretty. The customer service wasn't so great though - we were originally given a key to a room that had not been cleaned yet that day ...

We ate at some nice places --

Pie Society - A British Bakery that had authentic Pastys and Sausage Rolls.  So good we actually ate there twice!

Tequila's Town - Mexican restaurant with some different dishes than I typically see on the menu at other Mexican places. It was good, not excellent, but good.

Gryphon Tea Room - ran by SCAD students was my absolute favorite place we ate.  The food was excellent as was the tea but the atmosphere was awesome.  Dining tables were set up in a library-like setting, with cases and shelves of books and antique furniture.  I had the Vanilla Lavendar Tea Latte and it was sooo good... even if it was hot tea in Savannah...

Lady & Son's  - Paula Deen's restaurant that serves southern home cookin.  This was my second visit and it didn't disappoint.  I personally liked the hoecakes and biscuits the best but I'm also not normally able to eat carbs so I took full advantage.  The sweet potatoes were really good and the fried chicken was perfect.

Leopold's Ice Cream - My sister waited in the hour long line to get some of this.  I only tasted a bite but it was really creamy and I can see why it was famous.

Wet Willies - technically a daquiri bar but also served food.  We only enjoyed the drinks but they were good... a little to sweet for me so I ended up not finishing my Monkey Shine & Pina Colada mix.

Paula Deen's Creek House - This one has a funny story.  By some dumb luck we stumbled onto this place on our way to Tybee Island on it's grand opening day.  We were seated immediately and joked it would be so funny if she was actually there for her grand opening and given the fact that we faked a letter from her to mom.  Guess what?  She was there!  So was most of her family.  And we got pics with her and my mom fan-girled out.  Paula was so sweet and wished my mom happy birthday.  It couldn't have worked out any better than if we would have planned it!  The food was excellent and I loved the pimento cheese appetizer... I have this thing for pimento cheese.

A Lowcountry Backyard - We found this place as we were pulling into Hilton Head, SC.  We made a day trip of it and drove 45 min north to check it out.  This place was #2 on my list but overall the best food that we ate.  Gryphon won for overall experience but this place had a grilled pimento cheese sandwich with bacon on flatbread... and it doesn't get much better than this.

You might be surprised that neither of the Paula Deen restaurants were my favorite... to be honest it is just reflective of how good the eats were on this trip.  Everything was so so good.

We actually did do more than just eat... if you can believe that.

We visited Wormsloe Historic Site which was so beautiful.  It would have been nice to be able to walk around but it was hot and I knew there were probably all kinds of snakes around... I saw a snake book a la bird seeker book and thought to myself, no way, no how.

We visited Bonaventure Cemetary.  I love this place. I could stay there all day... so beautiful and creepy all at the same time.  The epitome of southern gothic.

We did the Ghost and Gravestones trolley tour. I've done a different ghost tour on a prior visit and I thought this one was a bit hokey but I still had a good time.

We drove out to Tybee Island.  Some people just use golf carts to get around here.  I'd love to spend more time on this island, seems very laid back.

We did plenty of shopping.  Some our favorite places were: Savannah's Candy Kitchen... I ate a lot of pralines...The Spice & Tea Exchange, The Paris Market... my favorite shop in Savannah, Byrd's Famous Cookies and  Savannah Bee Company... all things made of honey.

On our way back to Atlanta we stopped at a little french restaurant with a bakery and gift shop attached.  I can't find the name of it now for the life of me but I really enjoyed the Croque Monsieur I had there as well.