Thursday, December 29, 2011

NYR 12-27-11- the death of a gingerbread house

Remember how all our masterpiece gingerbread house looked when it was first completed?


Fast forward to Christmas Day, the magical time when Mac was promised that he could eat the gingerbread house. Now I have no idea why one would want to eat a cardboard-like gingerbread structure that had been exposed to air for a couple weeks after being wrapped up in plastic and sitting in a Target warehouse for who knows how long. But I'm not 9 years old so who I am to wonder?
(notice the bite marks.)

Fast forward two days after Christmas and it just keeps getting smaller. (notice more bite marks.)

For the great pleasure this gingerbread house kit provided, I am truly thankful. (But it's going in the trash now with Mac's blessing.)

NYR 12-26-11 - we've undecked the halls

I hate to seem like the Grinch, but I took down every last stitch of Christmas in our house today. The embassy was closed so I didn't have to go to work, which meant it was the only free day until we leave for vacation on Saturday. Everything was down and put away by noon.

And then because we'd used our fireplace for the first time ever, I finally got the inspiration for how our living room furniture should be configured. I've really detested the layout for all these months, and then it hit me! So while Jimmy and Mac were at the park playing baseball, I moved the furniture around. And I LOVE the result. We should have built a fire 16 months ago.

After Jimmy and Mac came back from the park, Jimmy used his new hamburger-making kit from Sur la Table to create a masterpiece of a hamburger which he grilled and we ate on the balcony because it was a picture-perfect day in Bogota.

And lest you think that we've totally lost all Christmas spirit, we went out with friends to view Christmas lights in the city. It was all quite festive and beautiful and we had a great evening. We saw some interesting food for sale,

























... Asian-inspired Smurfs as well as very surprised-looking Smurfs,


























...a very festive llama (who had boots on his back legs. Seriously.),













...and, of course, beautiful lights.







For a great day, I am truly thankful.

NYR - Christmas Day!

On Christmas Day, we did not get out of our pajamas which meant the day went exactly according to plan.

Mac slept in until 8 and then he came downstairs to see what Santa brought. Jimmy lit a fire in our fireplace for the first time since we've lived here. The eco-logs are pretty interesting here. Note the photo below and the two crazy flames shooting out of the sides:

After we enjoyed opening our presents - I got an emerald ring which will always be a very nice memento our time in emerald-mining Colombia - we enjoyed a yummy breakfast. The non-egg-eating 1/3 of the family ate waffles while the egg-eating 2/3 of us ate the most divine breakfast sandwiches that you've really ever tasted. It was a few of my favorite things - a baguette, eggs, bacon, cheese and red peppers - all rolled into one yummy, fattening breakfast.

Then we settled in to play with our new stuff and to cook Christmas dinner. And yes, I did that in my pjs, too. I cooked a 25-pound turkey for three people. We will be eating turkey until we leave this country. And that's in another 18 months. I'm talking a.lot.of.turkey.

We sat down to our Christmas feast around 3 and in about 16 minutes, consumed a meal that took me hours to make. Sigh.

We went back to resting and watching tv and playing with our toys until we all decided around 6 that we needed to shower and put on clean pjs.

It was a great day and we hope yours was, too. For happy, stress-free holidays, I am truly thankful.

Merry Christmas from the Storys!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

‎"We aren't here to adore a baby. We are here to worship a king." - Steven Furtick (a childhood friend from Moncks Corner and now lead preacher at Elevation Church)

Click here for my favorite, non-traditional Christmas song celebrating the arrival of the King.

NYR - one week before Christmas!

What I'm thankful for this week:

12-19-11 - only 8 more work days until we leave for Hawaii.

12-20-11 - a family dinner out at Sr. Choo (remember our new favorite Chinese restaurant?). Tonight we took Mac (always a gamble with ethnic food that doesn't involve pasta) and he loved it. We got off to a great start because the first item on the appetizer menu was called "Bang Bang Chicken Wraps". Mac's "lovey" from the time he was about 1 until he was about 3 was a plastic hammer from a toolkit my sister and brother-in-law brought him as a gift when he was a baby in Mozambique. He called this hammer "Bang-Bang" and took it everywhere with us. And by "everywhere", I mean "everywhere" (literally). I remember Mac having a meltdown in an airport when a TSA agent made him give up Bang-Bang to go through the x-ray scanner - major drama. I remember leaving Bang-Bang behind in the gift shop in the zoo in Melbourne, Australia and hurriedly buying a replacement to get us through the night before our friend Jenny could go back to retrieve the hammer the next day. We have a great affinity for "Bang-Bang anything" at our house and Bang Bang Chicken Wraps at Sr. Choo did not disappoint.

12-21-11 - my book club's ornament exchange where I enjoyed the most amazing butternut-apple soup topped with fried scallions and a curried yogurt sauce. Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds. And I got an awesome globe ornament too!

12-22-11 - Two years ago, I bought a Lands End Dory jacket that I raved about. You may remember my ravings? I have worn that jacket (and washed it) so many times that I'm really surprised it's still together. I bought a supplemental (as opposed to replacement) Dory jacket a few weeks ago because it was on sale for $26 (including shipping). How can you go wrong with a $26 jacket from Lands End??? I like it a lot, but I have to tell you it's not the same jacket. They have changed the design a lot and I don't like the design or detail nearly as much. But for $26? It's a keeper.

12-23-11 - Today we got early release from the embassy for the holiday weekend. It sounds like a good behavior parole program and maybe that's sort of what it is. Regardless, I was so happy to be out of that building at 2:30. The other thing I'm thankful for is that Mac had a sleepover at our house with 2 friends and they behaved perfectly. No squabbling, no bickering, just happy play and giggling.

12-24-11 - Tonight we hosted a Christmas Eve get-together for friends here in Bogota. It was a really nice, relaxing evening of drinks and nibbles with dear sweet friends who I am so grateful to have in our lives.

NYR - two weeks before Christmas!

What I'm thankful for this week:

12-12-11 - being done with our singular Christmas arts and crafts project of the season.

12-13-11 - a great parent-teacher conference to mark the end of the first trimester. We've got a great kid.

12-14-11 - the office Christmas party out at this place in the country that was a great cultural experience for Jimmy and me. There was everything from horses (with painted rear ends) to dancing girls to bullfights (where the toreadors were volunteers from the audience)!


12-15-11 - Jimmy's participation in a "60 Minutes" interview that may come to a tv near you in a few months or may not. Stay tuned - I'll definitely keep you posted.

12-16-11 - our first Colombian novena, which is a religious "party" that's held in people's homes every night for the 9 nights before Christmas. The one we attended featured lovely readings, great spiritual meaning, delicious food, and a musician and a magician. It pretty much covered all the bases of a great party.

12-17-11 - playing tennis for the second time since October. Sigh...

and

12-18-11 - a day of rest.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NYR 12-11-11 - expo artesania!

This afternoon we went to the famous Expo Artesania here in Bogota, which is held every December for 2 weeks. It's a wonderful display of the best craftsmen, furniture-makers, indigenous artisans, etc in the country. It's an amazing collection of talent, and I'm so grateful I got to experience it again.

NYR 12-10-11 - fa-la-la-la-la-la

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around these parts and for this festive air, I am truly thankful!

NYR 12-9-11 - Sr. Choo

Tonight Jimmy and I had a date night that wasn't really meant to be a date night.

We attended a work-related Christmas party briefly and then went to the newly opened Sr. Choo for some amazing Asian food.

Our normal Chinese restaurant here in town is sort of like your grandma's version of a Chinese restaurant. But Sr. Choo? Well, it's like the Chinese restaurant for the cool kids. They even have this awesome green dragon that runs the length of the restaurant's ceiling. Plus the food was excellent. A green dragon and great food? We were sold.

For great food and a great unexpected date night with my beloved, I am truly thankful.

NYR 12-8-11 - local holiday

Today was a Colombian holiday of some stripe and we decided we weren't getting out of our pajamas all day. It was a heavenly day of rest, and I, for one, am truly thankful for that!

NYR 12-7-11 - hot water bottle?

Last night Ruth watched Mac while we went to the Christmas party. When we got home, she said that he was very cold and so she made him a hot water bottle. Now Mac has a true talent for bamboozling Ruth to get more Coca Cola, to stay up later, to avoid a shower, etc. I was sure this "too cold to sleep" was yet another ruse to stay up later than bedtime.

But we don't own a hot water bottle, so I was very confused as to what she meant when she said she "made" him a hot water bottle.

Before I went to bed, I checked around his bed as best I could without waking him up to see if there was some hot water device that needed to be removed. I felt nothing so I went to bed.

This morning when I woke Mac up for school, he had a 2-liter Sprite bottle filled up with what used to be hot water stuck up under his armpit.

Ruth had literally made a hot water bottle.

Which Mac thinks is the most brilliant invention ever.

For sweet Ruth who's so clever, I am truly thankful.

NYR 12-6-11 - catching up with old friends


We've had the great pleasure of catching up with lots of old friends here in Bogota. Surprisingly, there are more people we know coming to do business here in Bogota than anywhere else we've been.

Tonight Jimmy and I scored an invitation to a very cool Christmas Party at Andres Carne de Res here in the city. A dear friend from Guadalajara days who now works for a shipping company with a huge presence in Colombia got us on the list. We felt a bit awkward because everybody at the party was either an employee or customer, but we can pretend with the best of them. And they were expecting 180 people so what's 2 more?

We had our photo taken by the official photographer of the event, which I include here (but to protect the innocent employees and customers, I've cut that other guy in the photo out).

For a nice date night out at Andres and a chance to see an old friend, I am truly thankful.

NYR 12-5-11 - here comes the sun...


After a lot of rain here in the BOG, I am truly thankful for this view from our balcony:

NYR 12-4-11- Mac's 9th Birthday Party


Because of scheduling conflicts and the Thanksgiving holiday, we finally hosted Mac's 9th birthday party today.

And boy, was it an ordeal.

Mac wanted a sleepover (Plan A), but because of all these scheduling conflicts, it would have been impossible to have the sleepover until the Christmas holidays, which seemed a long time away for a November 20th birthday.

So then he thought a movie date (Plan B) would be fun. The problem is that most children's movies here are not English-language, but rather are dubbed in Spanish. We knew that "Arthur Christmas" was coming out on December 2 and we only needed to find out whether it was in English because that's the movie Mac really wanted to see. I called the theater a week ahead of time but they said they wouldn't know if it would play in English until Thursday, December 1. No need for advance planning, ladies and gentlemen.

When I called the theater on Thursday, they said the moving wasn't playing in English but we could certainly come to see "Operacion Regalo" dubbed in Spanish. We didn't want to see "Operacion Regalo". We wanted "Arthur Christmas", lady.

On to Plan C. Mac decided that riding go-carts at an amusement park near his school would be fun. So I called the amusement park on Friday, and the lady assured me they were open on Sunday from 9am-3pm. So we arranged for the 4 other boys to be here by 12:30 after church so we could take off for the park.

On Sunday morning, I decided to check the park's website for more information and there was a big notice that said the park was closed on Sunday for private parties.

Really?

Moving on to Plan D, we decided to order in KFC for lunch and have an old-fashioned playdate birthday party. Long gone are the days of my micro-planning every game, craft project, cake, etc decorated according to the party theme.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

(For the record, the cake had "Cars"-themed sprinkles to go with Plan C's go-"car"t theme. Too bad that didn't make a whole lot of sense with the in-house playdate party....)

NYR 12-3-11 - TGIS

Thank God it's Saturday because Saturdays are my new most favorite day of the week!

NYR 12-2-11 - epic failure as a working mom

Today was Mac's Christmas concert which took place as part of the school's Christmas festivities in the afternoon. Jimmy was traveling so I took off part of the afternoon so I could get out to the school by the concert's 3:30pm start time.

Normally the commute from the embassy to the school is around 45 minutes if things are moving.

Normally events at school never start on time.

Nothing worked according to "normal" today.

It was raining and it took me 75 minutes to get from the embassy to school. In the parking lot that was the highway out to school, I texted a friend to ask her if they were running on time. And they were.

It was not a good day. Sigh.

After I screeched down the school's street and parked illegally, I ran in past the school guard and into the auditorium to hear applause. Now there were a lot of performances in the concert (for two grades), so it could have been some other group but in in my heart of hearts, I knew that applause was Mac's group (a performance of "stomp" since we've given up the violin). I stood through the violins and the cellos before asking a teacher if Stomp had already occurred.

They were first.

Of course.

I was devastated. So I left the auditorium before I started crying in front of all these parents. I went to find Mac and decided I had to 'fess up. Thankfully, he wasn't upset at all with me which was great because I was plenty of upset enough for both of us.

It's days like these when I'm ready to quit work and just devote myself to full-time parenting. The old me would have been there with an hour to spare, with a fully charged videocamera and still camera. The new me can't even get there in time to find a free seat in the auditorium.

For surviving my first epic failure as a working mom - and so soon after I stated - WOW! - and for having a child gracious enough to offer forgiveness, I am truly thankful.

Monday, December 5, 2011

NYR 12-1-11 - on the road again, once again

Today I took my second work trip. Another day trip to a place much less dangerous than yesterday's trip, so I felt much more at ease.

I have zero military experience and don't think I've been on a military base but two or three times in my entire life. So two days in a row makes me feel qualified to appear in Mash should they ever bring that series back to life.

Today's trip was way more civilized; I even got lunch at the fancy military club off-base. After yesterday's lunch of one of my granola bars, a piece of fish overlooking the swimming pool seemed downright luxurious.

I took a ton of photos on the charter plane coming back so I could capture what most of this country looks like but which nobody gets to see up close. It is truly a stunning country. (Look for the rainbow photo as we entered a storm. Also look for the photo of just one example of the greenhouses that abound in this country - proof of where all your cut flowers come from!)





For the opportunity to live in such a beautiful place and to finally get to see it, I am truly thankful.

NYR 11-30-11- traveling on the job

Today I took my first work trip. It was just a day trip, but I was scared. Not scared of doing the work that was necessary on the trip, but scared of where I was going. Remember how I told you months ago that I've read the books that former hostages of the FARC have written? And how I know I'm not of the material that could be tied to a tree for years or chained to other people and marched through the jungle for weeks on end? I may or may not have been at a location where something like that could happen.

I prayed and prayed and prayed on that airplane that God would just get me in and get me back out.

Because let me tell you, I saw a whole lot of jungle out of that airplane window and not a whole lot of malls and movie theaters and McDonald's. I do love a hot french fry every now and then and I don't think you get those when you're tied to a tree for years on end. I'd packed a couple granola bars and some chocolate wafer cookies but if anything happened to me, I know I'd be a nervous eater and those provisions would disappear in about 14 seconds. All I'd have left to show for myself is some bits of granola stuck in my teeth which might provide some sort of residual nourishment.

All's well that ends well because I am obviously back safe and sound in one piece. And the place really was stunningly beautiful. If it were anywhere else, there would be tennis clubs and golf resorts and expensive weekend homes shaded by all those gorgeous palm trees.

I took just one photo today. It was on the base airstrip before we left. I thought this Adirondack-style chair made from a used pallet was very nearly the most ingenious recycling I've ever seen.

For living to tell the tale, I am truly thankful. Seriously.

NYR 11-29-11 - reliving the memories

The rain has settled into Bogota. It's chilly and rainy and pretty much miserable all the time. Actually that's not true. There are a few hours of beautiful sunshine that lull you into thinking that the rain is ending. But then by mid- to late-morning, the clouds roll in and the rain starts. And the rain stays. And it's not pretty. We're talking pajama-wearing, on-the-couch watching Food Network, eating bonbons while you bulk up for a long winter's nap kind of weather.

I didn't take many photos when I was in DC for my training but I was just looking through the ones I did take, which happened to be on the most magnificent fall day that you can imagine. Blue skies, crisp air and beautiful, fresh air.


For the ability to experience this truly fabulous display of Mother Nature the first time and to re-experience it with photos during these dismal days of Bogotano winter, I am truly thankful.

NYR 11-28-11 - tae kwon do

Mac practices tae kwon do after school one day a week. He took it for one term last year and is now on his second term this year. He seems to be embracing it much more this year than last.

Today he moved up to another belt AND he broke a board in half. Pretty much a banner day all the way around.

As a side note, he and Jimmy practice their moves a lot around the house. Jimmy has never had any training in the discipline of tae kwon do or any martial art as far as I know. He practices a self-taught, Berkeley-County style of "martial art" which involves a lot of "hi-yah" utterances and redneck fighting.

Apparently Mac tried one of his father's moves at tae kwon do today and he was informed that particular maneuver was not allowed. Yet another example where the teaching should really be left to the experts. Thank goodness Mac had already gotten the new belt before the Kung Fu Panda struck.

For new belts and broken boards, I am truly thankful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

NYR - Thanksgiving Week

11-21-11: Today was my first day back at work after my 4-week training and my first day as a warranted contract officer, meaning I can obligate the US government to contracts. Y.I.K.E.S. I hope I don't end up in jail. If I do, it will be for something so unintentional that I'll cry everyday I sit in jail. For having a job for which there's a remote chance of going to jail, I (guess I) am thankful.

11-22-11: Today one of our oldest childhood friends Heidi and her husband Kevin arrived to spend Thanksgiving in Bogota. I love old friends because you don't have to put on airs or pretend that something is what it isn't. I am most truly thankful that Heidi and Kevin chose to spend Thanksgiving with us.

11-23-11: Today one of Jimmy's colleagues and friends from Afghanistan and his wife arrived to spend Thanksgiving in Bogota. Mike and Marcy had taken a very cool trip to Antarctica - they camped on Antarctica one night (as in on the ice, in a tent, on Antarctica) - and then stopped in Buenos Aires for a few days before joining us in Bogota for a couple nights. For the gift of new friendships, I am truly thankful.

11-24-11: My Facebook Thanksgiving post:

Today I am grateful that we get to celebrate Thanksgiving with our houseguests, including Jimmy's mom, one of our longest-term (so as to not use the term "oldest") friends Heidi Acker and her husband Kevin, and Jimmy's friend and his wife from Afghanistan days as well as friends in Bogota who hail from the US, Italy, Scotland, England and Australia. My life is rich in blessings and I count them today and everyday. Happy Thanksgiving to the rest of our friends and family, no matter where you eat your turkey today.
- November 24 at 11:51am near Bogotá

11-25-11: Today I went back to work and Jimmy was tasked (I use that in the nicest possible way) with taking our guests around. For many, many years, I have been the tour guide in our family when people came to visit. Turnabout is fair play and for that, I am truly thankful!

11-26-11: Today we introduced our guests to the fabulous Andres Carne de Res out in Chia. I will post some photos later so you can live vicariously. I promise if you come to see us, we'll take you there, too! For the wonderful, wacky Andres, I am truly thankful.

11-27-11: Today I got my house back in order. After being away for 4 weeks and letting things go for the week I've been back, things aren't where or how I want them to be. I love, crave, need, desire order and this exercise made me feel better. For that, I am truly thankful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

NYR 11-20-11 - the boy turns 9



Today Mac turned 9.


9.



Nine.



N.I.N.E.!


How did that happen?

When he was born, I was sure I could never love him or want to protect him more than I did that first night in the hospital when I refused to let myself sleep so I could stare at him and make sure he was still breathing.

I no longer stare at his chest all through the night to make sure it's rising and falling with his breaths, but I do still check on his sleeping body just before I go to bed. I stand still by his bed long enough to make sure I can see his chest rising and falling.

I've learned in 9 years that a mother's love on the birth date of her child is just a drop in the bucket compared to the love that swells with each passing minute that child is in her life.

For the best gift of my life, I am truly thankful.

NYR 11-19-11 - leaving on a jet plane

For going home to the BOG to my family, I am ever so truly thankful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NYR 11-18-11 - another 100?

BOO-YAH!

I have successfully completed my course with yes, another 100. The old girl's still got it.

Now I'm just waiting for somebody to tell me when the graduation ceremony is. I'm pretty sure I could be named Valedictorian for once in my life. Valedictorian of the GSO Acquisitions Module... it has a nice, resume-building ring to it, no?

For finishing the course, passing the tests, and confirming that I no longer have sufficient stamina or brain power to ever consider going back to school for an advanced degree, I am truly thankful.

NYR 11-5-11 through 11-17-11: A Summary

I am truly thankful for:

11-5-11: Being with the people I love.

11-6-11: Visits that are good for the soul.

11-7-11: The best snack. Ever.

11-9-11: Delicious pizza with a friend all the way from Mozambique days. Summer is still the same breath of fresh, happy air. Her parents very aptly named her.

11-10-11: Mexican food with some spicy chicks from Bogota days.

11-11-11: A holiday from school. I've missed two Colombian holidays during my time in DC. Finally, a holiday I can celebrate.

11-12-11: A BEAUTIFUL fall day in Washington, DC. I'm talking "perfection". I explored some museums (okay, really the gift shops), I checked out the newly dedicated Martin Luther King Memorial, I ate lunch at my favorite DC restaurant Founding Farmers, and I walked. Oh, how I walked. I google-mapped my route because I honestly felt like I walked about 17 miles. It turns out it was only 6.4 miles but I think their calculations might be off slightly. All I know is my feet and legs HURT.

11-13-11: A fabulous Brazilian lunch with some State Department friends from different posts. It was SUCH a great time.

11-14-11: A delicious cheeseburger - called The MACK - with some classmates who might have invited me along just to be the "den mother". I found out one of them graduated from college in 2010. Yes, that was last year. That means he's 23. A mere child. I learned that people that young are called millenials. There you go.

11-15-11: I LOVE this cooking store and wish I owned one.

11-16-11: dinner out with Jimmy's good friend from grad school. I had a delicious steak and enjoyed Matt's always-smart-and-interesting discussions.

11-17-11: My pre-game dinner at Five Guys. I'm sort of like a superstitious football player who does the same pre-game ritual before every game because it worked once before. I'm convinced there's brain power in those Five Guys burgers. It worked two weeks ago as a pre-test meal, so why not this time, too?

Friday, November 4, 2011

NYR 11-4-11-a perfect score

Today I scored 100 on my midterm.

Yes, that is a perfect score.

Yes, I am an over-achiever.

No, I did not sleep two winks last night because of anxiety. It took a good two hours after i got the test results for the knots in my stomach to unkink.

I am too old for this stress, and I am way too old to ever consider going back to school. Too.much.pressure.

For happy endngs on the midterm, I am truly thankful. This really was a case of answered prayers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NYR 11-3-11 - Five Guys

Tomorrow is my big mid-term exam. If I don't pass it (and the final in two weeks), I don't get my contract warrant and my contracting career ends approximately 4 weeks after it started. I feel E.NOR.MOUS pressure.

I came home from class this afternoon and immediately started studying. I made a deal with myself that if I studied until a certain time, I could walk over to Five Guys and get a burger and fries for dinner.

Bribery with food speaks to me, so I studied hard and left promptly for my takeout dinner at the appointed hour.

I got back to the hotel room (so I could continue studying over dinner) and immediately devoured my supper. I consumed approximately 4,269 calories in approximately 7 minutes.

Thank you, Five Guys. I love every single one of you.

NYR 11-2-11 - this makes me happy



Mac really better like football because he got all his gear in the mail today. (Jimmy had to order a facemask. Who knew that helmets didn't come with facemasks?)

Receiving this photo made my day. For that sweet boy (even with that mean football player face he's sporting), I am so thankful.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NYR 11-1-11 - the nice weather is back

Today as I rode the shuttle home from the training facility on a really lovely fall afternoon, I tried to soak up all the autumn-ness in the air. The sun was shining and the leaves were such beautiful shades of red and orange and yellow. As much as we love Bogota, there is no fall season there with all these vibrant colors.

For the opportunity to witness all this fall glory, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-31-11 - the day for ghosts and goblins


Sending Happy Halloween wishes from our zombie to you!

For Bubby's extraordinary makeup talents and costume design skills, I am truly thankful. (Otherwise, Mac as a zombie would not have looked anything like that!).

NYR 10-30-11 - too much Target

I have now officially sworn off shopping with my Norwegian friend. Why? Because we spent 5 hours in Target today.

No, I am not kidding.

And yes, I am prone to exaggeration, but I am not exaggerating on this one.

My friend had heard about the glories of Target and wanted to experience this fantastic store firsthand. I am a Target lover, so I was happy to go along.

But even a Target lover has her limits. My previous record for maximum time spent in a Target on one shopping trip might be one hour.

Maybe.

If we round up.

We shopped - without food, I might add - from 10:30am until 3:30pm. I had a 30-minute conversation with my mother just leaning on the buggy while my friend shopped. I saw things in Target that I had no idea they sold. I had time to investigate everything.

For scratching "Target shopping trip" off my to-do list, I am truly thankful. I may never go to Target ever again.

(In good news, if you average out what I spent per hour, I spent much, much less on this trip than I typically do on a shorter Target trip!)

NYR 10-29-11 - shopping marathon

I've been hanging out with a girl from Norway who's attending my class. We decided to go shopping today to avoid the snow (SNOW!) that was forecast to fall today in Washington, DC as part of that freak snowstorm that moved up through the Northeast.

I walked to her hotel by the appointed meeting time of 9:30 and we promptly caught the Metro to Pentagon City, which was my favorite mall back in the day when we lived here.

Now I am not a shopper. I know what I need and I go with a laser-like focus through a store or mall until I find what I need. Then I leave and find something more pleasant to do.

That is not how my Norwegian friend shops. She's more of a long-haul mall-goer. Whereas I am a sprinter shopper, she's a marathon shopper. Between the mall and two mini-malls within walking distance, we shopped until 6:30 when we met a friend from Brasilia days for dinner.

I was D.O.N.E.

By the time we ate dinner and Metro-ed back to our respective hotels, I finally walked into my hotel room at 9:30.

I was really D.O.N.E. by then.

The positive outcome is that I got some great clothes, and for that I am truly thankful.

P.S. By all accounts, it did snow a little in our neighborhood, but I never saw it because it doesn't snow inside shopping malls.

NYR 10-28-11 - TGIF

I have studied more this week, I think, than I have since college. My brain hurts, my mind is tired, and I just hope I'll remember everything I am learning.

For Friday coming around - thank you Lord, I am truly grateful.

NYR 10-27-11 - dinner with a Bogota friend

The more we move around the globe, the more I appreciate visiting with friends from different parts of our lives. It takes effort to keep up these friendships but they are so worth it.

Tonight I had dinner with a friend who left Bogota this past summer, and I am truly thankful for the effort she made to come out to meet me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NYR 10-26-11 - it's the little things that will make you crazy

1. People listen to their iPods entirely too loud. Like they are going to be deaf from how loud they listen to their iPods. And Susan, how do you know this, you might ask? Well, my dear reader friend, I know this because when somebody sits down next to me on the shuttle going to the training facility, I can hear the words of the songs that they're listening to. Surely that is too loud.

2. I am very sensitive to noises. Not just any noise but there are some noises that will drive me crazy. A few months ago, I saw a tv feature on a disorder where noises make people go nuts. Based on what I saw, it's entirely possibly I have this disorder, but there's no cure for it, so I figure there's no need to join the support group. (And these people really were crazy from the noises to the point where they had to be by themselves and I'm not that bad yet.)

Anyway, the noises that can drive me crazy are things like people eating popcorn in the movie theater. Or people eating bananas if the banana goes all squishy in their mouths and they make squishy noises while they're eating. Or people crunching ice. OR THE GIRL WHO SITS NEXT TO ME IN CLASS WHO CHEWS GUM AND MAKES TOO MUCH NOISE WHILE SHE'S CHEWING.

Seriously, she is going to make me lose my ever-loving mind. It's a good thing she's such a really nice young woman because otherwise I probably wouldn't be able to handle the chewing noise and I'd lose all civility and have to say something, which would be rude.

For knowing that I won't have to live with these daily pet peeves forever, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-25-11 - a perfect fall afternoon

This afternoon when I got out of class at 4pm, I decided to walk the 3 or 4 blocks from my hotel to the shopping area in my hotel's neighborhood. And it was like heaven on earth. I went from Pottery Barn to Williams Sonoma to Loft to Barnes & Noble to Ann Taylor to Crate and Barrel to The Container Store to Baja Fresh for dinner.

'Nuff said?

Yeah, I thought so.

For some pretty amazing window shopping (which I never do in Bogota), I am truly thankful.

Oh, and it was perfect fall weather which made my window shopping even better!

NYR 10-24-11 - first day of class

This will sound juvenile and immature, but I hate being in situations when I don't know how things work. You know what I'm talking about?

For instance, today, I needed to catch a shuttle from a location about a mile from my hotel that would take me to the training facility. Sound easy in theory, but I wasn't really sure where I was going to catch the shuttle and then I was nervous about whether I'd recognize the shuttle as being the shuttle I needed (what if I got on the wrong one and ended up at the airport or something?), and then how would it work when I got to the training facility and then what would happen if they didn't accept my embassy badge, blah, blah, blah.

I am a Nervous Nellie worrier. Mac's teacher last year said that I suffered from what he termed Neurotic American Disorder, and it's totally true. I am a class A, numero uno, primo worrywart. These worries keep me up at night and make me stress beyond what is surely normal for a regular human being.

It probably goes without saying, but I managed to walk to the location where I was to catch the shuttle (using the very detailed map I'd printed from Google Maps), I caught what was the only shuttle that stops at that location, I got off at the right place at the training facility and I managed to get through security.

All that time I spent worrying was for naught and for that, I am truly thankful.

(But I possibly should look into tranquilizer usage.)

NYR 10-23-11 - a trip to DC

Today I flew to DC for a month of training. I had to leave Mac and Jimmy behind and that was really, really sad. I could hear Mac telling me "goodbye" as our apartment building elevator descended. That pulls at the heartstrings.

I made it to DC with no problems and got checked into my hotel about 8pm. I chose to stay in a hotel in the neighborhood we used to live in when Jimmy first joined the foreign service (which is my favorite area of Northern Virginia). I was feeling a teensy bit sorry for myself, being here all by myself for such a long time, so I decided ordering from what used to be our favorite Thai restaurant when we lived here would make me feel better.

It was good, and I over-indulged, but it was definitely better before.

Or maybe it was definitely better shared with Jimmy and friends.

Regardless, for eating pretty decent Thai when there's no Thai to be had in Bogota, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-22-11 - Mac playing football


There's a guy at the embassy who played college football and who now coaches a little group of boys in football. Mac hasn't wanted to go up until his football-filled trip to SC a couple weeks ago. Jimmy took him to "play" today and he loved it.

They practiced and played for over 2.5 hours, and he still loved it even after all that exercise.

So now we've ordered all the gear so he doesn't have to use the sweaty, borrowed, smelly stuff, which means he'll probably hate it by next Saturday.

For a Saturday afternoon of football, I am truly thankful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NYR 10-21-11 - my husband in the news

In case you missed my Facebook post, click here to see my adorable and super-smart husband's entre into the international news scene.

Jimmy's part of this interview was filmed several weeks ago after a lot of debate. Could he do it?; would the Ambassador and Washington, DC approve his doing the interview?; what about the very high, very real risk of negative spin?; etc. There was enormous potential for disaster since the story's original bent was to favor the family whose lives were destroyed by aerial eradication.

Once everybody signed off on it, Jimmy taped the interview via Skype. And then we waited with that awful, uneasy feeling that if they cut and splice it, they could make him say anything and look awful.

Needless to say, when the interview aired this week on CNN-International, we were all very, very pleased. And the higher-ups must have been pleased as well because nobody called him to tell him he was being kicked out of the country (which could have happened had he screwed up).

For a happy ending to this story, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-20-11 - a cocktail party

Tonight we hosted a cocktail party to "introduce" Jimmy's new deputy director to official contacts. Thankfully the office hired a caterer so my only real job was to make sure there were flowers in the house. To accomplish that task, and with no time to go to the big flower market with that pesky job that now consumes my entire days, we stopped at the funeral flower market on the way home. The vendors tried to sell me some gorgeous funeral sprays and arrangements but I declined those until one vendor offered to let me into her little warehouse of flowers where I could just buy stems to make my own arrangements.

As an aside, since Jimmy and I left work at the same time today, I rode home with him, his driver and bodyguard. The driver stayed with the car while the guard came with us to protect Jimmy. I looked like a VERY important person, however, because it appeared I had both a Colombian and an American guard protecting the senora while she shopped!

For fresh flowers and parties for which I don't have to cook, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-19-11 - cooking ahead

This past weekend when I was home alone, I planned ahead and cooked various things to eat this week and also to freeze. You know us working girls have to be organized like that, because if we're not, it might be PB&Js for everybody. Or maybe that's just this working girl who feels like things, like a well-balanced dinner for the family, could seriously fall through the cracks after a long day at the office. Sigh.

I was so happy to not have to plan much in the way of dinner this week. For that small favor, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-18-11 - another day, another dollar

As nerdy as it sounds, I love working in an office, especially with lots of activity like the one I'm currently in. There's just a lot of energy, a lot of movement, and I'm learning new things. And for all that, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-17-11 - Monday holidays

For Monday holidays (this time a Colombian one) - especially now that I'm working and can really appreciate them again - and for a great day being with my boys and Bubby, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NYR 10-16-11 - my boys come home today

After a 10-day vacation, my boys come back to Bogota today! The plane supposedly lands in another 20 minutes and they'll make their way home after clearing immigration, customs, and baggage claim. I am so excited to see them that I can hardly stand it!

My mother-in-law is also traveling with them as she has graciously agreed to stay here while I go to Washington for my month-long training even though Jimmy assured me that he could handle it on his own for four weeks.

Right. He obviously thinks I fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

So we are excited for Bubby to be here in general, but I am really grateful that she can stay so long to help me out. It's a huge concern lifted off of me to know that she's here for Jimmy and Mac.

For happy homecomings and big Bubby welcomes, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-15-11 - baked potatoes

If you live in the US, you probably take for granted a good baked potato because you can get one just about anywhere. I'm talking big Russet potatoes that are baked to a perfect soft texture before you add all that deliciousness in the form of butter, sour cream, bacon, cheese, etc.

If you live in Colombia, you probably do not take for granted a good baked potato, namely because you can't get one here.

They have lots of potatoes here that are suitable for other purposes, but you just can't get your hands on a big Russet potato substitute. Normally when we have Colombian baked potatoes, we have to use potatoes the size of a tennis ball and the texture is never right.

My friend got her hands on some Russet potatoes and I was the lucky recipient of a great baked potato at her house tonight. Y.U.M.

For pleasure in the little things in life and friends who are willing to share them, I am truly thankful!

NYR 10-14-11 - TGIF

For a renewed appreciation of Fridays after my first week back at work, I am so thankful.

NYR 10-13-11 -God bless the Swiss

At my last dental check-up, my dentist here suggested that I buy and use a very specific model of this toothbrush that was engineered by the Swiss. They only sell the toothbrush at very limited pharmacies and so it took me awhile to get one.

This toothbrush looks like a baby toothbrush. It has a very small head and very soft bristles.

Both of which I can't stand.

Which is why my gums have been brushed to the point that they're receding.

Which is why the dentist suggested this specific model of toothbrush.

This toothhbrush comes with a price tag that you might expect with it being Swiss and all. I mean, they don't give their chocolate away for free and neither do they give their toothbrushes away for free.

I opened up the package and in addition to the baby toothbrush, there was a toothbrush cover and instructions.

These are not your typical Oral-B instructions which if those even exist, probably just say something like "this is not a toy".

Those paltry directions just don't cut it for the Swiss.

Here are the instructions that came with my new toothbrush:

Skip over to Column B for the English (GB for Great Britain) instructions.

Who knew that you had lingual and buccal surfaces on your teeth? And that's before you get to the occlusal surfaces.

What does this even mean?

I don't really know except that I love Item #5 - After the buccal cleaning, lingual cleaning is on.

That sounds like a threat to me. The Soral Curaprox is telling the lingual teeth that it's bringing it after the buccal cleaning.

For those crazy Swiss, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NYR 10-12-11 - a lost tooth

Mac lost a tooth today.

And I wasn't there.

Sigh.

This is the first tooth that he's lost for which I was not present and/or could not ensure the Tooth Fairy was present.

Sigh.

I really hope the Tooth Fairy comes tonight. I really, really hope for that.

For boys who grow up and don't need their moms so much anymore, I am truly thankful. I guess.

NYR 10-11-11 - first day on the job

Today I did something I haven't done in years (except for those couple weeks in August 2009 and except for years and years of child-rearing).

I started a new job.

YIKES. I was so nervous. It was like the first day of school all over again. I even had to lay my clothes out last night.

The day wasn't terribly exciting -just lots and lots of reading until I was bleary-eyed - but I did like being back in an office.

Sad, right?

For new jobs and feeling relevant again, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-10-11 - and reality sets in

This afternoon I came home to a very sad, very quiet, very empty house. Jimmy and Mac have been gone for 4 days and that was fine when I was away with friends to keep me occupied. But coming home to an empty house that's normally loud and occupied stinks. Realizing that I still have 5.5 days to go does not make it any better.

I may have had a mini-meltdown. Or it may have been a quite large meltdown.

The thing that makes this all stink even worse is that this separation is a trial run for the month-long training I'm going to have to go to in Washington, DC in a couple weeks. I'm pretty sure I will not survive a month on my own. Jimmy's one thing, but we've gotten used to long separations with his travel and Afghanistan schedule. Mac is a different beast altogether. The longest I've been away from him is 4 or 5 days. I honestly feel like the lifeblood has been sucked out of me.

Sigh.

For my boys having some long overdue boys-only time, I am truly thankful. I guess.

NYR 10-9-11 - fresh air

I don't know what the altitude in Anapoima is, but it's lower than Bogota and much nicer in terms of weather. We got dramatic rainstorms each day during the weekend but it wasn't the dreaded all-day rain that's returned to Bogota in the last few days, and we definitely got plenty of sun. The vista in Anapoima is pretty amazing - there are mountains all around you while you're enjoying what feels like a very non-mountainous climate of sun and warmth.

For today's hike in the mountains and for breathing all that fresh air, my soul and I are truly thankful.

NYR 10-8-11 - a weekend away

Yesterday Jimmy and Mac left for a boys-only trip to the US. Jimmy's been waiting for Mac to get to an age where they could go off on such a trip and finally, all the pieces fell into place and they went for 10 days. (Don't worry - we didn't pull Mac out of school; he's on the Colombia-wide mid-October break.)

Five other families/couples were going to Anapoima for the long Columbus Day weekend and they took pity on me and let me come.

For time in the sun, swimming in the pool and hanging out with friends, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-7-11 - Girls' Night In

Today I hosted a Girls' Night In for a really great group of ladies here in Bogota. Everybody brought food, which was all delicious, and the conversation was also pretty delicious.

For girl power, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-6-11 - tennis

Today was my last weekday tennis class before I start work next week.

Sigh.

For new beginnings, even when that means letting go of great things from the past, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-5-11 - keeping your kids off drugs

Today I attended a seminar on keeping your kids off drugs and talking to your kids about drug use that was led by a DEA agent based in California. Let me tell you what: drug abuse is apparently a long way from what it was 20 years ago. Prescription drug abuse is rampant. This guy told stories and gave statistics that were A.LARM.ING. Lock your medicine cabinets up because even if your children wouldn't touch it, their friends might.

For learning some seriously frightening new information and tucking it in my parental arsenal, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-4-11 - Italian cooking class

Today I took an Italian cooking class taught by a friend who is from Rome. We cooked (or really she cooked) and we ate the fruits of her labor.

Oh. my.

I give you the meal from start to finish:

Bruschetta (or what was left of it) for a little teaser during the class


Pasta alla Carbonara


Pollo alla Romana


Fragole con Mousse di Ricotta for dessert!

For a fabulous day of good friends and fabulous food, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-3-11 - game changer

If you live at any altitude higher than 3000 feet, you must buy this cookbook.

Pie in the Sky Successful Baking at High Altitudes: 100 Cakes, Pies, Cookies, Breads, and Pastries Home-tested for Baking at Sea Level, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000, and 10,000 feet (and Anywhere in Between) - by Susan Gold Purdy

I am serious. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.

Buy this book.

NOW.

(You really shouldn't even be reading more right now if you live above 3000 feet. You should be on amazon.com or heading to your local Barnes & Noble to buy this book. Did I mention I was serious about this?)

I am telling you that it is a game changer in high-altitude baking. (Or at least the two recipes I have tried - oatmeal cookies and a 1-2-3-4 cake - turned out perfectly, which makes it a game changer for me!)

The author has tested and re-tested 100 recipes at different altitudes and has tweaked them so that they work anywhere from 3000 feet to 10,000 feet. It's like a huge science fair project that took her all over the country. She's even made it easy with columns for 3000, 5000, 7000, and 10,000 feet. The guesswork is totally gone because she tells you exactly what ingredients, what temperature, baking time, etc that you need to use at your particular altitude.

I read this book from cover to cover like a novel because it was so interesting. Bogota is approximately 8500 feet, and I needed to find out how to adapt when you fall between the 7000 and 10,000 feet columns. The author said that if you were above 8500 feet, you should go with the 10,000 feet column, and if you were between 7000-8500 feet, you need to stick with 7000 feet. When you're at "approximately 8500 feet", what does that mean? So I brought up our GPS, turned it on and stuck it out the window to pick up the satellite. Turns out our apartment is at 8564 feet, which I thought was really close enough to 8500 to stick with the 7000 feet column. And everything, okay the two things I've tried, turned out sooooo well.

For (hopefully) worry-free, stress-free baking at altitude, I am so truly grateful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NYR 10-2-11 - homework

Let me start by telling you that I really hate homework. I used to love homework when I was in school, but I've done 12 years plus 4 college years' worth of homework. And I think that's enough.

Mac doesn't seem to have the same love of homework that I once had. He doesn't want to just buckle down and get it down. He's easily distracted and can come up with 72 things he'd rather be doing. All of this, of course, means that I feel like I have to sit there, breathing down his neck to keep him focused on the task at hand. Which, of course, makes me feel like I'm doing the homework myself. Which I hate because, you see, I already know the 8 times table and I don't care if I don't know anything about the Tudors (God bless the British and their history).

Because we knew (hoped!) that I was going to start work, a few weeks ago we instituted a rule where the weekly homework assignments (that come out on Friday and are due the following Friday) have to be pretty well executed over the weekend so the weekday afternoons aren't so chaotic and fraught with histrionics.

Jimmy also decided that Mac needed a desk of his own instead of doing his homework on the dining room table. So I cleaned out our multi-purpose room that held this ridiculous piece of exercise equipment that was primarily used for a coat rack and jungle gym for Mac and his visiting friends, the Wii tv, the filing cabinet, a desk that you couldn't see because it was covered in stuff that needed to go in the filing cabinet, a catch-all bookshelf and keyboard.

Now the room has the filing cabinet (because it's really ugly and that's the only good hiding spot in the house for it), the keyboard, the bookshelf which now has all Mac's art supplies on it, and the uncovered desk.

And I have to hand it to Jimmy - it is really nice for Mac to have a dedicated study area with all his supplies close at hand. He's still easily distracted, but at least he's not eating Doritos at the dining table while running around trying to find the colored pencils while trying to work on his learning log entry for the week.

For better study habits and such a smart husband, I am truly thankful.

NYR 10-1-11 - one for the L column but a bigger one for the W column

Sadly, the Gamecocks didn't pull it out today, thanks in large part (in my very humble opinion) to that Stephen Garcia. I think that boy's more trouble than he's worth. Jimmy was in such a foul mood that he almost didn't go to a dinner party to which we'd been invited. F.O.U.L. mood. To put it into perspective for you South Carolina folks, after the USC game ended, we switched to the Clemson game and he started doing Clemson cheers. I'm telling you, that was almost cause for me to call a psychiatrist to see if he'd make a house call.

But on this sad day in Gamecock land, we had a bright moment or two. Mac was playing "commando soldier" or some such thing and this is what he put together for his uniform.
It's a good look and incorporates so many different elements: pajamas, an "Indiana Jones" hat, Jimmy's goggles and headlamp from Afghanistan days, Mac's tae kwon do uniform belt, a Nerf gun, and miscellaneous camera cases and other bags on the belt for other weaponry storage.

But even commando soldiers get tired and have to take a break to play video games (with their goggles still on but you'll notice with the dark shade put in now - because you never know when there might an incoming)...

For really the most adorable kid in the world (that's the "W" in the post title), I am truly thankful.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NYR 9-30-11 - the glass factory

Today I went with two new arrivals to "the glass factory". We embassy people call it "the glass factory" but nobody else calls it that. Colombians have no idea what we're talking about because it has a real name, but none of us knows it.

So we went to the glass factory where I got 2 vases that are each about 18" tall, 5 fish bowl-type bowls, and 2 adorable mini-milk bottles.

Guess how much I paid for all that?

No really, guess.

Okay, do you have your number in your head?










I got all that for about $25.

That place is a steal of a deal.

For "the glass factory", I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-29-11 - book club

I love book club because not only do you read books that might never cross your radar, you just learn a whole lot at the meeting.

You gain insight into your fellow members' lives, gather different perspectives on the book and author, sometimes learn some good dirt, and you most assuredly always laugh.

For all that, I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-28-11 - it's official...

... I'm going back to work.

For finally getting the approval from Washington (in terms of nepotism since I'm sharing a bed with the man who runs the office I'll be contracting for) to do this job, I am truly thankful (I think).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

NYR 9-27-11 - the day that would not end

This morning I left home at 6:30am to pick up two other moms to make it to school for a 7:30am meeting. I don't need to be doing much at 6:30am, much less be up, dressed in my going-to-a-meeting clothes and driving a car. But we made it and learned all sorts of things about the overnight camps our children will be attending. Mac will be going here, and it looks so beautiful that I almost wish I could chaperone a group of 8 year-old children there for a camping trip.

Just kidding.

After the school meeting, I took these new ladies to the newcomers coffee at the ambassador's residence. I got an invitation to attend because of Jimmy's position, but whatever. I'll take coffee and cookies and empanadas any day of the week, no matter how the invite came in. I like good food in a beautiful house.

After the newcomers coffee, I attended a meeting of American parents as we prepare for the school's big-deal, annual international fair which takes place next Friday. The American kids are going to do a dance montage to music from Grease. Very Americana. But my involvement is minimal because do you remember how fast they hand jive in Grease? Watch it again and tell me if your 40 year-old body moves fast enough to teach a bunch of 10 year-olds how to hand jive.

Then I came home and CO.LLAPSED. This was one tired Moma.

Jimmy had a work function tonight so as soon as Mac got in the bed, I got in my bed, took an Ambien and drifted off to la-la land.

For busy days that thankfully have an end, I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-26-11 - I can die a Colombian death now...

... because I have been in the society pages.

I was forwarded this photo (I'm on bottom right) from a public diplomacy friend at the embassy who saw me with her eagle eye!!

I'm sure I'd be in the pages much more frequently if I were ever invited to these events. Thankfully, my sweet friend (the girl on the other side of the photo)'s husband got me on the invite to the Queen's Birthday Party.

For my Colombian social debut, I'm so truly thankful (to be read with sarcasm).

Monday, September 26, 2011

NYR 9-25-11 - The Amazing Race

This afternoon, Jimmy, Mac and I went to our favorite little neighborhood Italian place for an early supper. When we walked up, they had all these Amazing Race props and decorations everywhere outside and inside.

We saw the manager when we walked in and I told him I loved all the decorations since TAR is one of my favorite shows. I also told him the new US season started tonight and so we were eating early so I could get home in time to watch it. He said that the Latin America season also started tonight and they were having a party to celebrate it.

We were waiting for our dinner when they started up the TV that was projected on this enormous movie screen on one side of the restaurant that I'd not noticed until then. By the time we were finished eating, the restaurant was hopping with people, all of whom knew each other. We had clearly crashed a party that we weren't invited to.

We paid the bill and on our way out, I asked the manager why they were hosting the viewing party and he said the owner of the restaurant was a contestant with his girlfriend in the Latin America version. WOW.

Last year my American hairdresser's daughter was a contestant on the US version and now one of my favorite restaurant's owner is a contestant on the Latin American version? I feel like I'm practically on the show.

Naturally I came home and googled the Latin American show. And while Juan Del Mar (the owner) doesn't have a linked profile, his girlfriend does. She's none other than Toya Montoya.

Doesn't ring any bells?

Yeah, it didn't for me either.

But it turns out she's a famous Colombian model. The first picture I saw of her online was of a photo shoot she did in the Galapagos Islands where let's just say she was one with nature. It was hard to concentrate on her face because there was so much of her shown in the picture.

Here's the official Latin American TAR photo. Juan and Toya, my new Colombian BFFs (HA!) who were both at the party, are on the upper left hand side in the red jackets.

For the ability to feed my TAR addiction, even in a foreign country, I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-24-11 - another Carolina win

For another Carolina win, I am so deeply, happily, gratefully thankful.

NYR 9-23-11 - Italian heaven

Tonight we went over to our friends' apartment for dinner. She is from Rome and I knew the meal would be spectacular and it did not disappoint.

When we first arrived, she served this beautiful bruschetta with tomatoes that looked like they were straight off the vine in Johns Island. So beautiful and red and gorgeous.

Our first course was a divine risotto, after which I was stuffed because heaven forbid, I leave any on my plate. The next course was roasted pork loin, the most fabulous crunchy-on-the-outside/tender-on-the-inside roasted potatoes, and peas. Dessert was zabaglione with strawberries.

A meal totally to swoon over. In fact, if I were on death row, I might have Angela cook my last meal.

For a delicious meal shared with wonderful and entertaining people, I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-22-11 - Brazilian capoeira

Yesterday morning I went to my weekly kick boxing class, but to mix things up, the instructor taught a capoeira class. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts that is really intricate and looks like a dance between partners. You can YouTube it if you'd like to see a performance of it. It's beautiful to watch.

I lived for four years in Brazil and never ever took a capoeira class.

And after one class of it, I know why.

You hurt like CRAZY afterwards.

There's a lot of squatting and core control so my legs and back hurt like nobody's business today.

For great exercise and a body that will still do some of these moves, even if it's not pretty and looks NOTHING like real capoeira, I am truly thankful.

NYR 9-21-11 - school volunteering

I told Mac's teacher at the beginning of the school year that I would be happy to volunteer for whatever she needed done, but she's really Johnny-on-the-spot and doesn't need any help (except for the normal stuff like class parties). But then Mac saw some of his friends' parents volunteering in his friends' classrooms and put a major guilt trip on me about my not volunteering. So I, in turn, put the guilt trip on the teacher who said I could come for library time.

Now when I heard that, I thought that would be great. I'd just read some books or listen to the children read to me and that would be that.

Wrong.

Mac's teacher is super-creative and artsy, both of which I am not.

When I got to school today, she told me that I'd go over some of their reading responses with them individually and then we'd break into small groups. I was still with her at this point.

She said that we'd read one chapter of a book together with the group (there would just be 4 kids in the group but I'd do two different groups over the course of the morning).

Still with her.

And then, and THEN I'd work with the group to come up with a verbal way to present that chapter to the other group. It could be a poem, a song, a short play, etc.

And this is where she lost me.

Did I mention I am not creative and this is the sort of assignment that could cause me to break out in hives?

I got a great group of really smart kids. Three of the four, I think, are really left-brained and then there was the Brazilian girl - no offense to my dear Brazilian friends - who was totally, 100% right-brained Brazilian.

We whipped through the chapter, and they totally got the vocabulary and the comprehension but only the Brazilian girl had ideas for how to present it. Her first suggestion for presentation was that we write and present a poem that used similes and metaphors (which they've just studied). But we decided it's a little hard to write a narrative in simile or metaphor.

Then I suggested that perhaps we make a song.

To which Brazilian girl suggested we could dance like Jennifer Lopez. I looked at the three other students who looked stricken with panic at the thought of doing some Jenny from the Block moves.

Then I suggested that perhaps we could think of a song that we all knew the tune to and we could make up some words to the well-known tune. I threw out "Old McDonald Had a Farm" as an idea.

To which Brazilian girl said she thought a Britney Spears number would be more fun.

Another panic-stricken moment before I realized that I needed to grab this bull by the horns and lead her into less provocative territory.

I suggested the "Happy Birthday" song, we came up with appropriate words that involved no hip-shaking, sashaying dance moves. We really rocked it, if I do say so myself. I've set a pretty high bar for my creativity, I think.

For a really fun morning that made me laugh and for this adorable girl who took me right back to Brazil, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

the new tv line-up: the good news and the bad news

The good news: "Modern Family" starts back tomorrow night and "The Amazing Race" starts back on Sunday night. I really, really want to audition for this show with Jimmy because I know we could win, but I don't think he's terribly interested. Would somebody please be my travel partner and let's audition? I would be in it to win it with you.

The bad news: I don't know how I missed it, but I have just learned that "Brothers and Sisters" is done. And I am devastated.

Crushed.

Saddened.

Empty.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED that show. We even named our GPS "Nora" after Sally Field's passive-aggressive character. When I think of all the dumb, silly, mindless tv that's allowed to stay on, my spirits sink even more to know that I won't get to visit with the Walkers every Sunday night. Sigh.

My trifecta of network television viewing is now down to two shows. (What is the double version of a trifecta? A dufecta?) If those two shows get cancelled, network television is dead to me. (Unless Carolina is playing, in which case I'll be forced to watch whether I want to or not.)

In the meantime, happy watching of "Modern Family" and "The Amazing Race". Don't call my house on Wednesday nights at 9pm EST or on Sunday nights at 8pm EST. I won't answer.

NYR 9-20-11: The Pioneer Woman, part 2

In my earlier post, I forgot to mention that I watched TPW on Food Network on Saturday morning, which is how I got turned on to her. She has a new show so you can see her in action instead of just reading her in action!

For Jimmy's breakfast today, I made him TPW's husband's favorite breakfast from childhood: egg-in-a-hole. For the full recipe, which is quite simply the fastest, quickest way EVER to make an egg breakfast (but you have to like a runny yolk), go here.

Jimmy is now a TPW convert, based on this single culinary experience.

I also hear from my Canadian contingent (that would be a single person and I'm not sure if contingent can mean a delegation of one??) that TPW has a great iced coffee recipe, which you can read here. The really awesome thing about this recipe is that you can make a humongous batch of coffee concentrate, keep it in your fridge and use it to make an iced coffee whenever you feel the urge. I like a girl who plans ahead.

For the successful introduction of TPW into our lives and for the egg-in-a-hole breakfast, I am truly thankful.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NYR 9-19-11 - feeling sooooo much better

It's been a long week of stomach illness. But today I woke up and didn't have any of that uneasy unsettled feeling that you have when you know you have a tummy virus and it could erupt at any moment.

I felt well enough to go to tennis, which I hadn't been to in a week, and then I went for a haircut and stopped on the way home by the cupcake place for some "Moma is well, let's celebrate" cupcakes and muffins.

I would like to digress for a moment and tell you that if I ever open a cupcake store, which I will never do because I hate baking, but if I did, I would send customers home with bags that looked like this:

Then they could get home and pull out this pretty peekaboo box with the little cut-outs so they could see their delicacies inside:

And then when they opened up that pretty pink box with the complementary brown ribbon, they'd see all these little pretty gems:

But since I'll never be a professional (or amateur) baker, I'll just be thankful today that somebody else is and that I am feeling well enough to partake of their goodies!