Monday, August 22, 2011

Camera Envy

I doubt that many or any of you noticed the improved photo quality from our previous post about poor Algebra, but to me the improvement is significant.  I've been using a mid/high end point and shoot since 2008 and have strongly been contemplating an upgrade to a dSLR.  One of the benefits of having a photography major for a sister is that I got to test drive her dSLR a Canon EOS Rebel T2i with an f1.8 prime lens when we were back in Ohio last week. For the last few months (ie a year) I've been trying to rationalize a camera upgrade and I foolishly thought that some aspects I was lacking were a result of technical skill instead of not equipment, but after using a significantly better camera, I can tell that I was wrong.  After figuring out the basics of the controls it didn't take long before I was shooting like I have wanted to for months.

Yes these are just feet, but the control over depth of field (the sharpness and blur) is what I've been looking for and just can't get from my current camera.

Another example of Allie's awesome camera.

I'm certain now that a camera upgrade is in the imminent future, but I do suppose that it should wait until after we've settled into our new apartment (still not found yet).  I've narrowed it down to either the Canon EOS 60D or the Canon EOS Rebel T3i.  Until then I'll just have to settle for a serious case of camera envy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Awwws Kitty

Algebra has had a hard couple of days as evidenced by the photo above.  She went to the vet on Tuesday for surgery and within a few hours of picking her up yesterday she'd pulled out almost all of her sutures.  So we picked up this awesome collar from the vet and she's had it on for most of the day yesterday and today.  It also messes with her balance and along with the pain killers from the vet, she's one pathetic little kitty.  She's back at the vet today getting the sutures redone and an antibiotic shot to help prevent infection.

Poor kitty has also had to do an unusual amount of riding in cars these last few days.  Since she wasn't doing well with the sutures and collar yesterday, we had to take her with us when we helped Allie move in to school. She actually does remarkably well in the car and doesn't really fuss or cry; she just spent the time sitting on my lap trying not to randomly fall off because of her less than stellar balance.

Between getting ready for college move in day and cleaning up the house a bit it's been insanely busy the last few days, but it's so refreshing to be able to be busy and active, especially outside, without the hot desert sun beating down on us.  We've actually been cold during the nights when it's gotten down into the low 60s and high 50s (that's 15-17 C for all you international readers).  It's been months since we've seen temperatures that cold.

In other news, Steve has successfully gotten a job! Super yay!  We'll be moving to Michigan, starting apartment hunting, and browsing for furniture for said apartment over the next week or so.  I still haven't had much luck, but hopefully that will improve soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kandy: Trip to the Tea Museum

A short 4 km drive from Kandy is a fabulous Tea Museum.  The old tea factory has been converted into a museum and goes through the history of tea production in Sri Lanka and the tea making process, which is more complicated than one might think!

Sri Lanka Tea Museum

Hand drawn factory plans

An old liquid chromatograph used for tea testing.  They had lots of old sciency instruments used to do testing and research on tea leaves.

Drying racks for the tea leaves to dry on.  This whole floor would have been covered in these racks in an operating factory.  The building was windows on all four sides so the air could circulate and help dry the tea.   The huge walls of windows were absolutely gorgeous; I'd love to live somewhere with so many windows.

A shaker machine to shake out small particles.

Steve hanging out on the top floor.  When we got to the top floor of the museum, they have a little tea shop where you can have a free cuppa tea.  I was constantly shocked by how tasty the tea was, and I'm not even a huge fan of tea.  But I suppose packaged tea bags don't compare to quality loose leaf tea.

They even had this awesome working telescope to get a good view of all of the surrounding areas.

We walked about half way back to Kandy, which was much easier since it was almost completely downhill.  On the way we passed this goat getting some lunch in a nearby field.

We walked past so many tea fields.  Most of these weren't being picked at the time; we didn't see tea harvesting until we passed some on the train ride to Nuwara Eliya.

Check out the rest of our Sri Lanka travels:
Kandy: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, 2
Kandy: Udawattakele National Sanctuary 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Analog Clocks and Cheap Ice Cream

It dawned on me as Algebra was sitting, staring at the analog clock on the wall, that she's likely never seen one before.  For almost a year, we lived with only a few digital clocks, and it was a huge irritation.  I love clocks and to easily be able to tell what time it is.  Thankfully, we've now got a backwards clock, a throwback to the good old college days when we had one hanging in our dorm room.

We've been positively busy since we got home, and it has been awesome.  It's so nice and cool, one day I even wore long sleeves outside for most of the day!  We've mostly unpacked in our temporary living space, and Algebra has settled in nicely, although the other family cats don't seem to have any affection towards her.

Some of the weeks grand but simple joys have included

Visiting the local farmer's market and making peach cobbler from our finds
Finally seeing HP 7 part deux (totally worth the wait)
Visiting the local ice cream shop for a butterfinger clipper (fulfilling my need for traditional ice cream and a butterfinger bar)
Cleaning like a madwoman and visiting goodwill twice in the same day
Replacing a microwave and a dishwasher for my parents (all Steve there)

I'm still amazed on a daily basis how easy and cheap most things are here.  A trip to goodwill took 10 minutes, a trip to the store for cough drops took 5 minutes and less than $2, ice cream wasn't $8 for one liter!  Life is so much easier to enjoy when all of the small aspects of life aren't a hassle.  On the other hand, there are so many tasty junk snacks that are now so easy and cheap to get!

We're driving up for an afternoon baseball game today, and then a week of who knows what, but hopefully some crafting!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Party in the USA

Whew, it's been one heck of a week.  I finished my last class a week ago and then we spent most of last week packing and giving away our stuff to get ready to move back home.  And boy did we have a lot of stuff to give away.  Even after only one year of living in Saudi, there was so much stuff that we accumulated that we just could not or did not need to bring back with us.

Thankfully, we were able to give away or sell almost all of it before we left.  Of all the stuff pictured, we ended up with one small pile left at the end that a friend very graciously hauled to the recycling center for us.  We even managed to give away our leftover dried goods, which means less wasted food!

After packing, repacking, cursing the amount of stuff we have, and weighing our bags half a dozen times we finally got everything packed and ready to go.  Packing and purging stuff wasn't all that was on our mind; we were also still fighting to get all of the "required" documents for Algebra to come home with us.  Steve ended up having to make an impromptu trip to Jeddah on Saturday night to pick up the final papers.

The two flights home certainly were not as bad as they could have been.  The traffic in the Jeddah airport was much lighter than we expected; we thought it was going to be more along the lines of last November when we went to Cairo.  The only hassels we had were the stupid service fees that Lufthansa tacked on to the pet and extra baggage fee.  Lord knows why they need an extra service fee, because the first fee is paying for the service they provide, so it's just a gouging mechanism.  Steve valiantly argued with the check in guy to no avail, but sometimes the fight is more important than the win.  I wouldn't mind as much about extra fees if they would just disclose them from the beginning.

Both of our flights, to Frankfurt and then to Detroit were long and we both only managed to sleep a little.  I spent most of the flights watching movies.  I watched an old episode of Glee, Water for Elephants, Gnomeo and Juliet, and Mary Poppins.  Gnomeo and Juliet was as awful as it sounds, I promise, although it did have a few funny one liners.

In between our two flights we had a seven hour layover in Frankfurt, and I'm disappointed to say that it was mostly miserable.  There wasn't a lounge we could buy into, so we spent the time trying to get some sleep on the not so awesome airport seats.  The airport as a whole was also a bit confusing to get around.  When we first got there, we were trying to get to the food court area, which we could see through the glass windows, but we didn't realize that to get to it, we had to go through security.  Thankfully, the info booth was staffed with helpful workers who pointed us in the right direction.

Overall, Algebra did a great job traveling too.  She was scared almost the entire time, but wasn't overly loud and most people (including the flight attendants) didn't even realize she was on the plane.  After all the hard work that went into getting all of her travel documents in order, not one single person asked to look at them. Not in Jeddah, not in customs, not anywhere.

Since we've been back, we've been enjoying some of the finer aspects of life that weren't available (or at a reasonable price) in Saudi, like this tasty egg sandwich made with an English muffin!

We also went to see Harry Potter yesterday, and it was totally worth the extra wait!