Friday, February 28, 2014

NYR 2-26-14 to 2-28-14

As you may know, I really dislike baking.  I love to cook, but baking?  Not so much.

But after a successful focaccia-baking experience last week, I've been on a baking tear this week.

On Tuesday, I baked two pound cakes for a funeral luncheon at church.  I didn't taste them but they looked beautiful.

On Wednesday, because it was early release and we had allllllll afternoon together, I suggested to Mac that we bake some type of yeast bread. The focaccia has been such a hit that I thought we could make that again together.  Mac's response?  "Mom, there are 7 billion people in the world, and we should all be trying to be different and innovative.  Why would you make something you already know how to make when you could try something different.  Let's make flat bread!"  Ummmmm, okay.  Let's make flat bread.  It was a lot of fun and a little bit messy, but the bread was great. 

I also made the Barefoot Contessa's banana nut muffins that evening to use some bananas that we're going bad.  These are gooooooood and hard to stop at one. They're full of mashed and chunked bananas, nuts and coconut. YUM.  (As a side note, the BC is my most favorite cookbook author and tv cook of all time and she's speaking next week in Washington.  I just got my ticket yesterday and I'm fairly bursting with excitement to hear her live.). (As another aside, I didn't bake on Thursday so we're pretending like I baked the muffins on Thursday so it seems like I baked nearly every day this week.)

Today, I baked dulce de leche brownies to take to a dinner tonight.  It's the first time I've used this recipe, so fingers crossed they taste good.

For successful baking - without any high-altitude adjustments! - I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

NYR 2-25-14

1.  For lunch with four lady friends from Bogota, three of whom I've not seen in 1.5 years, I am truly thankful.  The effect on the soul of a good catch-up over a meal cannot be overstated.

2.  This morning I had my first ice skating lesson. There was one other middle-aged woman in the Adult 1 class with me.  She had never been on ice skates until today, so compared to her, I was very advanced. I learned how to swizzle (not to be confused with twizzle, which was a big deal with the Olympic ice dancers), how to squat while skating (maybe that improves balance skills?) and how to stop like an ice hockey player. Except not really.  I lacked the panache of an ice hockey player and am not entirely confident I could stop using this newly acquired skill if I had to.  But I'm going back on Friday for my public skate time so I can practice. I don't want to lose my position as "student who falls the fewest times" next week on lesson 2.  For a great time, for muscles that are a little sore from that squatting and for no broken bones or spills, I am truly thankful.  

NYR 2-24-14

For three consecutive days with over 12,000 steps each day on my Fitbit, I am truly thankful.  Maybe my winter hibernation is soon going to be over?

Monday, February 24, 2014

NYR 2-23-14

1.  The weather - THIS weather - has been incredible. I'm so thankful for this taste of spring and can't wait for the season to arrive in full!

2.  Today Mac had his Little League tryout. Well they don't call it a "tryout", but an evaluation. In front of all the "player agents" who decide on the drafts for the teams.  For Little League.  

Agents. In Little League.  


Jimmy tells me this is standard for Little Leagues, but I think it's overkill.  (Don't worry - I kept my opinion to myself at the tryout.)

When Mac last played Little League, he was 7 and in the first grade in South Carolina.  Had we lived in the US since then, he would have continued to play but as it is, he's lost all these years while everyone else his age who started that young has continued to play.  

That paragraph is meant to illustrate why I was very nervous about his tryout.  He loves baseball and I was terrified that if he did poorly, he wouldn't feel the love anymore or even want to play.  I almost sat in the car during the tryout just so I wouldn't have to witness any shortcomings.

But Jimmy was right.  Mac is good at baseball!  The tryout consisted of two rounds of batting three balls each (he hit 5 out of 6), catching 3 grounders and throwing them to first base (he was 3 for 3), catching 3 pop flies and throwing the ball home (he only caught one but acted quickly to get the ball home) and pitching one ball (he pitched in the strike zone but not very hard).  Mac was in a group of about 8 similarly aged boys, none of whom he knew.
(Batting - wearing his USC Beast Mode t-shirt!) 

(Fielding grounders)


You may have heard a loud sigh of relief from three very happy people when 6pm rolled around and the tryout ended.  Poor Mac told us later that he was very nervous and his legs were shaking. Poor little thing.  

There's one more weekend of tryouts and then I guess they name the teams and practice starts for a few weeks before opening weekend in early April.

For a successful baseball "evaluation", I am truly thankful. 

NYR 2-22-14

As I wrote earlier in the week, Mac went on an ice skating field trip with school.  He loved it so much that he asked to go back today.  Jimmy went with us but bowed out of the skating because he's running a half-marathon in a couple weeks and was a little worried about pulling muscles or incurring some greater injury so it was up to me to skate with Mac.

If you're reading this and you grew up in certain parts of the South Carolina Lowcountry in a certain era, you will know the Berchador roller skating rink in Goose Creek.  I spent a lot of Saturday afternoons skating there as a child, and if not there, then around the patio that used to be at my parents' house.  I was pretty sure my mad roller skating skills would translate into a successful figure skating Olympic gold medal if I were just given the chance to ice skate.  Sadly I've only ice skated twice in my 42 years before tonight, so that's why you've never seen me in the Olympics. 

Mac and I went out with the masses of people there for public skate and I was a little intimidated. I held on to the wall for most of the first lap, but then I got my legs under me and really enjoyed it.  In between dodging these little 7 year-old punks who were practicing their hockey skating and the 4-abreast teenaged girls who were barely moving because they were chitchatting so much, I was really not bad. I felt like a kid again at the Berchador, practicing all my skating moves!  And I was at least better than Mac who had to get off the ice about every lap to go to the bathroom or get water or take off his hoodie or rest.  His breaks were just an excuse to get away from me because I was so much better at ice skating than he is and he could not stand it.  

So guess what I've done?

I've signed up for group adult ice skating classes!  


The classes are a half-hour long, start on Tuesday morning, and run for 7 weeks.  Then I guess I graduate to the next level - Adult 2 - if I want to continue. 

For doing something way outside my comfort zone, I'm truly thankful. Wish me luck!! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

NYR 2-21-14

Don't judge me as a parent, but today was the first day in his life when Mac has cleaned his room and bathroom all by himself from top to bottom.  Well maybe not top to bottom, but multiple cleaning products were involved as were dusting cloths, the vacuum cleaner and a mop.  Soup to nuts cleaning.

I realize that most American children start cleaning their own space as soon as they're old enough to know not to eat the cleaning products, but American children of foreign service officers, particularly those who are born into the foreign service and who have spent about 80% of their lives outside the US where they've been lucky enough to have a housekeeper who cleans the house at least a couple times a week, are not subjected to such menial activities like normal chores.  

It's a rude awakening to one's system to have to clean after you've been so spoiled. But after cleaning a really dirty toilet one time too many, I decided if Mac cleaned it himself, he would improve his aim and learn the art of cleaning a bathroom.  And then he did such a great job with the bathroom that I added the bedroom (which he has been cleaning).  He really wanted to mop and I told him he couldn't mop until everything was cleaned and vacuumed first.  So he did it all without complaint and he did a really great job, and for that I am truly thankful. 

Too bad he doesn't realize this wasn't a one-off thing.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A minor little rant

Dear friends,

I really - REALLY - hate reading posts on Facebook that people forward without fact-checking.  Same goes for email forwards. Take 2 seconds and verify the facts on Snopes or by some other means.  Please don't spread misleading or untrue information just because you got all riled up about it and accepted that it was true. Just because you bought it, hook, line and sinker, doesn't make if true.  It might just mean you need to think for yourself every once in awhile. 

And dear friends who are reading this, it's not anything you posted so thanks for letting me rant for a minute.


NYR 2-20-14

The foreign service community is really pretty small, and the longer you stay in and the more people you meet, the smaller the community gets. In May Jimmy will have been in the foreign service for 16 years, so on our 8th tour on 3 different continents, we don't need the full Kevin Bacon six degrees to separate ourselves from nearly anybody else in the foreign service. And I love that.  It makes a big world feel a little bit cozier.

Today I had coffee with the friend of a Bogota friend - thanks Kris! - who is now living in Northern VA.  It turns out that whether you have one child or four, whether you're done with your first tour or your seventh, whether you home school your kids or send your kid out to school, or whether you met your spouse when you were 8 or when you were 12 (both a rarity in the foreign service world), we're all in this life together. No matter the differences, we face similar challenges and share similar triumphs. And I love that.  It makes a big world feel a little bit cozier.

I'm thankful for these reminders today.  

NYR 2-19-14

Today Mac went on a field trip to ice skate at the rink a few blocks away from our apartment.   The field trip was reportedly organized for the 5th graders by the PE teachers in celebration of the Olympics. For all I know, the 5th graders go every year, whether it's an Olympics year or not.  But in any event, I'm so excited he got to go on his first ice skating expedition, I'm happy he had a great time with his friends and didn't break any bones, and I'm thankful that his school still believes that these types of field trips are important.  

NYR 2-18-14

For the demise of George, our snowman, I am truly thankful. 
George last Thursday, on the day of his birth.
George today, after rising temperatures forced him to lose his mind.

Monday, February 17, 2014

NYR 2-17-14

Today we celebrated Presidents Day with a field trip to George Washington's home at Mount Vernon.  We joined a lot of other people who, like us, were taking advantage of free admission to commemorate the holiday.  We didn't tour the house, but instead decided to walk around the grounds to soak up the cold, fresh air on a blue-sky day.
(Mac with the house in the background.)

(Washington's grave on the right -Martha's is on the left- with a Mason wreath.)

(Two wreaths laid today.  I didn't see who the closest one was from but the one with the red ribbons was from Fordham University.  What's the connection between Washington and Fordham???) 

(This wreath was placed on behalf of the President today.  Minus that kid's head and green hat. That's not on behalf of the President.)

On the way to Mount Vernon, Mac spotted a bald eagle perched high up on a leafless tree.  

Between the eagle spotting and a special Presidents Day celebration, it felt like a very American day, and for that, we are thankful. 

NYR 2-16-14

Today we went to Liberty Mountain Resort to ski.  Well, the boys went to ski.  I went to sit in the lodge and read the newspaper.

The resort is the same place we went snow tubing last month and is only 1 1/4 hours from us. They got more than 15 inches of new snow on Thursday and and another 3 inches on Friday.  We wanted to go on Saturday but because of the forecast for more snow on Saturday, we were nervous about driving our little car up into the mountains. 

So we waited until Sunday, along with about 7200 of our closest friends from the area who all had the same thought.  The place was a complete madhouse.  It took over an hour in line just to get equipment. 

(An idea of the craziness waiting to get skis)

With the exception of a quick lunch break for hamburgers alfresco in the falling snow, the boys skied for more than 4 hours.

I'm so thankful to live close enough to ski slopes to give Mac another chance to perfect his Bodie Miller-esque moves.

NYR 2-15-14

Today we saw "The Monument's Men". While I didn't think the movie was a great movie, I thought the true story behind the movie was a great and worthy story to tell.  So thankful that people were thinking to save the great works of art so that future generations could enjoy them.

NYR 2-14-14

Thankful to celebrate love.

Friday, February 14, 2014

NYR 2-13-14

For Jimmy making it home from El Salvador before the snowstorm hit, I am truly thankful.  The total snowfall at our building was 8". 
(The snowplowed pile went up the Stop sign.)

(Our snowman George. We didn't take snowman-building supplies with us to the park so we used sticks for everything, except for his snow-sculpted ears and nose.)

(Mac's snow fort built in the dirty snow that was plowed from our street. Gross but an effective fort.)

(The sidewalk in front of our building.)

(Our street before it was plowed.)

(The view from our bedroom window last night as we got ready to go to sleep:  the Bobcat Brigade ready for the overnight snowfall to start so they can keep cleaning the streets in our neighborhood.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

NYR 2-12-14

Today I got a haircut and I feel like a new woman.  Moving to a new city always presents new challenges, not the least of which is finding a hairdresser.  You can only go so long without getting a haircut before you look grungy.

So I Yelped salons and found one that sang my name out for a number of reasons:

1.  It's an Aveda salon and I {{{{ heart }}}} Aveda products (even though they no longer make the beloved tinted lip balm that I used for years).

2.  It's a no-tip salon, so you don't have to figure out how much to tip the shampoo person and the stylist and the person who brings you tea when you get there.

3.  They offer complimentary head and back massages, hand massages, mini-facials, and make-up touch-ups with every cut.  Plus there's no extra charge for a blowdry.  Oh, and they offer you coffee, tea or yummy infused water when you get there.  Oh, and they have complimentary bang trims in between appointments.  WHAT???

What's not to love about all these things?????

I chose my stylist based on the recommendations I read in Yelp and she was great.  She really listened to what I wanted, made sure that I was sure of what I really wanted, and then worked her magic.

Now I look like the girl from The Hunger Games who just got a pixie haircut in real life.

No, I'm just kidding.  Although I almost got that, I decided I'd be heartbroken to lose the long-ish hair I worked so hard to grow without trying something slightly different first. So it's slightly different but different enough to make me feel great.  I hope it looks half as good after the first washing as it does after leaving the salon.

For good haircuts and great service, I'm very thankful.

NYR 2-11-14

Your math equation of the day:

Shopping at IKEA
my friend Monique
a fabulous day with lots of laughing, some Swedish meatballs and more furniture to put together, all of which I am very thankful for today.

Monday, February 10, 2014

NYR 2-10-14

Today, on his birthday, I am thankful for my BFF's husband. He brought her another opportunity to love and to become a mother.  He's so patient and kind, and he's a wonderful husband, father, and son, and I'm a sucker for anybody who takes care of his mama.  He's always been a tremendous friend to Jimmy, Mac and me, and we are so thankful for his presence in our lives.  

NYR 2-9-14

Jimmy took Mac and his friend to see the new Lego movie this afternoon.  I was going to go but ended up bailing. 

And do you know what I did?  

I stretched out on the couch, pulled a nice warm blanket on top of me, turned on the Olympics, and snoozed until I woke up to see snow falling.  It was blissful and I am so thankful for a little Sunday afternoon nap.  I felt like my Dad!

NYR 2-8-14

When Jimmy and I lived in NYC 15.5 years ago, we went to see Stomp on Broadway. This show birthed the latent percussionist in me. I loved the syncopated rhythm and the transition of "noise" into music. For Christmas that year, the first of our marriage, Jimmy gave me a practice drum pad which was a much better alternative in our tiny NYC apartment than a full-blown drum set.

Fast forward more than a decade.  When Mac started school in Bogota, he had to choose which musical area he wanted to pursue as part of his curriculum.  The choices in the 2nd grade included violin and Stomp, among others.  Mac really wanted to play guitar but that wasn't offered until the 3rd grade. So he chose violin with the thinking that the violin was fairly close to the guitar and he could switch to guitar in the 3rd grade when it was first offered to students at his school.

I pleaded with him to choose Stomp.  I sang the virtues of percussion.  Beating on trash cans and making noise.  All to no avail.

He was adamant that he wanted to learn the violin.

I would love to believe that my son was a violin prodigy, but that was not the case. Playing the violin and practicing the violin was a torturous experience for those 9 months for all of us.  He wanted to switch to "Stump", as he called it, nearly from day one.  

He stuck it out but chose to do Stomp for the next two years.  He really seemed to love it, but maybe it was no practicing at home that he loved.  Or wearing jeans and t-shirts for the concerts. It was a much less traumatic experience for all of us involved, even if the musical education wasn't superior.  I'm sure he learned rhythm and who knows what else, but when we attended the concerts at school, it felt kind of like we were the bad kids who sat on the last pew at church to be as far away from the preacher's eye as possible. Our kid wasn't playing the violin or singing like an angel.  He was the one who looked like a thug beating on a bucket.  

Fast forward to now and Stomp came to DC.  We took Mac to an afternoon performance, and I do believe he was riveted by it if seeing him leaning forward in his chair for most of the show was any indication. If nothing else, I think he finally got the concept of what Stomp can be and for that, I'm most thankful. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

NYR 2-7-14 - my new car!!!!

Now that I have your attention, I really don't have a new car. Just a loaner car, but still.

It turns out that our Corolla has a recall issue.  Apparently there's something wrong with the airbags that can cause them to deploy at any moment, thereby causing risk of wreck and/or injury.  The car is 11 years old so the way I look at it is that if it hasn't happened yet, odds are in my favor that it never will.  BUT I'd hate to have a wreck because of malfunctioning airbags and have to explain my logic behind ignoring the recall notice I got in the mail.

So I made my appointment and off I went to the Toyota dealership this morning.

And wouldn't you know that they found some other things wrong with the car. 

This is why I HATE taking the car to the dealership for service: they always find something else wrong with the car. 

And it always involves a lot of money.


Today's bill comes to about half the value of the car.  

So I went in for a free service and came out with half a car.  


Of course they gave me the option of not fixing the problems (oil leaks) but what was I going to do?  Well, I did call Jimmy for support and when he have the green light, I signed on the dotted line.

I asked the service guy if he wanted the left kidney or the right kidney, and he very kindly asked if we were military or government.  I normally steer away from that loaded question, but I could smell a discount coming so I quickly answered "government" and we scored a 10% discount.  So it really came down to 40% of the car's value. Double hurray!

What I got from the deal was the use of a fabulous Prius while my car's being worked on.

The lady in charge of paperwork got me all squared away and took me out to this car that required lessons on how to use it. There's no keyed ignition and there's no gearshift.  There's a button to turn it on and a button to put it in park and this cute little mechanism to put it in drive or reverse. Adorable. ThIs is not your mama's 2003 Corolla. 

I've run errands that I didn't even need to run, just so I could drive the car.  I love and am so thankful for driving a new car that smells new and whose brakes don't announce your arrival from a block away.  This car is so quiet you can't even tell it's on!  

You're allowed to keep the loaner car for 24 hours after they call to tell you your car's ready. I pray it takes them 1.5 years to fix my car.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

NYR 2-6-14

It was report card day today.  Things were looking iffy for Mac in the math department but he pulled it out. In fact, all of his grades improved. 

He thought we were going to the dog shelter as soon as school got out to pick up his puppy. 

Um, no.

I believe the deal offered was improvement on two report cards, not just one.  But as we have another math test tomorrow and I don't want him to slam off to his room before he takes the practice test I've made, I'm not addressing that little sticking point yet.

For a good report card complete with improved grades, I am truly thankful. 

NYR 2-5-14

We went over to visit one of Jimmy's college friends whose wife just had a baby less than 2 weeks ago.  It was a lovely visit with a sweet, sweet family. 
(Mac's photo of new baby S.)

Baby S is beautiful and calm, and she smells sooooo yummy.

Thankful for getting my baby love on. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sad news

On Sunday morning we woke up to find our poor Glebe no longer with us. Glebe, you may remember, was Mac's fish.  

Mac got Glebe in October and he seemed to flourish for awhile.  
Then we went on an overnight trip in November and left Glebe for one night on his own.  Don't freak out - Betta fish only require food every couple days.

Well nutritional requirements are completely different from personality disorders.  

We came home to find he'd copped an attitude with us, as if to punish us for leaving him alone.  He didn't eat as much and appeared to be losing his orange color. I went to the pet store and bought him fancy food - a so-called dial-a-treat of dried blood worms, mysis and daphnia.  I have no idea what any of those things are, but the pet store man told me Betta fish love these treats. 

Glebe did not love them. He refused to eat the treats and so after feeding them to him, I'd have to later filter the uneaten floating detritus fromthe tank.

We hauled him to SC for Thanksgiving in a Rubbermaid cereal box that we bought just for him. He hated it.  He apparently was not a rambling fish.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Glebe was listless and didn't eat much. We moved his tank to a busier area of our apartment in case he was missing the action.  But that didn't bring him out of his depression.

We hauled him home again for Christmas and again, he was miserable. He didn't take advantage of the vertical space in the cereal container. 

After Christmas vacation, Glebe took to sticking his head and sometimes his full body into his fake aquarium trees or laying listlessly on the rocks or just floating, suspended, in the water.  It's winter and I sort of feel like sticking my head or my body into the covers most days.  Maybe Glebe, like me, had a touch of the winter blues so I installed the light feature of his tank so he could have some light therapy. We tried different colors, different rotations of the colors, etc. We turned the lamp on next to his tank so he'd have nice bright light. All to no avail.
 (Early in January)

(The day before he died)

(The day before he died)

He hung on until sometime on Saturday night.  Mac acted devastated for about 28 minutes, gave him an appropriate and solo send-off (complete with a rousing rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus") and then got over it.  He wants a replacement already, but I am diverting requests to go to the pet store.  

No New Fish!! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

NYR - wayyyyy behind

I'm really far behind on blogging my attitude of gratitude, but I have been very thankful for so many things over the last week:

1.  I had the horrible sinus/cold crud and had a bad couple days late last week. I'm very thankful I came out on the other side because it felt a little touch and go there for awhile. 

2.  I tried to make potstickers, aka pork dumplings, for the first time and they were delicious. Honestly I might could open a potsticker food truck.  Except that people might get tired of eating only dumplings all the time.

3.  We got to catch up with a friend from our first tour in Guadalajara over the weekend.  I love reunions. 

4.  We found a copycat recipe online for our most favorite wings in the world which are served at Home Team BBQ in Charleston and made them for the Super Bowl. Holy moly they were so good.  They required brining, smoking and frying so it was a labor of love, but they were worth every bit of the work. I shall add those wings to the potsticker menu at the food truck.  I think if Peyton Manning had eaten some before the game started, the outcome would have been entirely different. He would have been that inspired. 

5.  The temperatures got into the 50s this weekend which was heavenly. We only got a short, non-sticking snowfall for about an hour yesterday which made me so happy.  Tonight they're calling for freezing rain but I'm not entirely convinced it's coming and if it doesn't, that will be more than okay.  I am feeling positive that this interminable winter really will end at some point. 

6.  I stopped in at our neighborhood locally-owned coffee shop the other day.  As I pulled into the metered parking spot, this man came up to me and gave me his meter receipt to use as he'd paid for longer than he needed.  I'm so thankful for random acts of kindness. 

I hope you're warm  and well in your corner of the world!