We Are Now a Family of Four: Meet Seneca

Roughly two weeks ago D and I were eating at San Marco (a local pizza place near our home) with one of D’s co-workers after attending a farewell party for one of our awesome marines (who we already miss so much!) and another wonderful embassy co-worker. I was starving and really excited to get my usual mushroom pizza and Sport Actif (a local grapefruit and lemon soda, kind of like Squirt). I had been sick earlier that day, so I was tired and looking to eat my first real meal of the day.

Suddenly this tiny little ball of orange and white fur caught my eye. It was an itty-bitty, skinny kitten and he was wandering from table to table looking for food scraps. He was so tiny, grimy and obviously hungry and I was in love. At first sight, he was mine. I knew this kitty was going home with us. He had to, he needed us! I already knew his name and everything! He was Seneca and he belonged with us.

Seneca
Seneca: Look at that Togolese Sass!

My husband was not so convinced, he reminded me that we planned to get a puppy when we returned to the states after finishing our post in Togo. Having a ratio of more animals than adults can be really difficult in the Foreign Service. As much as I would love a puppy, this kitten needed us now and Togo doesn’t have any sort of shelter system. The hypothetical puppy that we would have adopted from the ASPCA still has a better chance at a good life than this vulnerable little tabby.

There was still one problem to consider, however. Winston.

100_6266

We already have one adult cat who is very skittish and we were worried that the kitten might expose him to some disease or another. D and I decided to take the kitten home (after bribing him with some ham), quarantine, and take him to a vet as soon as possible. This was a Thursday. We got him to a vet by Saturday morning. Thankfully the vet pronounced him healthy. He gave him worm medicine, de-flea’d and vaccinated him.

That Saturday he was officially pronounced a permanent part of our family 😀

We expected Seneca to be a bit feral but he has adjusted to being a loved on house cat quite quickly. He is lovable and constantly purring. He loves to cuddle and sleep on our chests.

Winston is starting to come around, at first there was much hissing but now Winston will just walk away when Seneca tries to play or love on him.

100_6275

We love our Togolese kitty and I knew my New Yorker cat would come around eventually. Probably.

We Have Our Second Post (and we haven’t even left for the first one)!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but time got away with me (heavily influenced by sheer lazy). About a month or so ago we found out our second post after Togo will be: (drum roll…)

Guangzhou, China! Flag courtesy of Wikipedia.

You might be wondering why we know our second post before we have even gone to our first. Well, when D came into the Foreign Service in September 2011, he came in with a critical needs language. Since D took CNL points upon joining the FS, we have to do our second post in China. We are beyond excited. Guangzhou is the third largest city in China and the weather is tropical so it won’t be a huge change from Togo weather.

At the end of February I finished my two month French class and I am still so amazed at what I was able to learn in two months. After two months I can read the French gossip rags with some proficiency (with the help of a dictionary), understand the gist of harder news stories and hold a conversation explaining my likes and dislikes, who I am and what I do etc.

Shortly after I finished French class, two of my closest friends visited. My friend B (who was one of my roommates in undergrad) and I went to the DC Zoo. So much fun, we saw the Giant pandas and red pandas! Life dream accomplished 😛 My friend R (one of my graduate school friends) visited for a day too. His visit was a surprise due to him taking a detour from his road trip plans. A very welcome change of plans! We had Vietnamese food and caught up. I had just seen him when D and I visited NYC over President’s Day weekend but there is never enough time to really spend with good friends.

We have a busy few weeks coming up, three more friends are coming to visit and we really need to start getting our consumables shipments together and planning for Togo (vaccinations, getting Winston’s vet stuff ready etc). 4 months to go! Our time in DC has gone by so quickly. It is really hard to believe that it has been nearly a year since I finished grad school and we started this crazy Foreign Service ride!

I’ve also been doing a lot of baking and sewing projects, so I might do a post on some of those soon as well! Hopefully sooner rather than later!

Hope everything is well with you and yours. Enjoy this crazy Spring time weather!

B

New Recipe: Ethiopian Spiced Pouch Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Onions

Hey y’all! I am trying to post more often but French class is eating my life at the moment. Class is going well!  I will never be able to write French poetry, but hopefully by the end of this class I will be able to get by in Togo. So things are looking up.

One of the reasons I created this blog was to share new recipes that I’ve been working on and my general interest in PFB*, I mean, the culinary arts.

If you haven’t seen the Ted Allen Onion Network video, you definitely should. The video is NSFW (strong language) but it brings joy to my life ^_^

*Pretentious Foodie Bullshit

Okay, so on to the food.

Ingredients:

1 large boneless chicken breast (thawed)

1 large sweet potato (peeled, quartered and sliced in 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces)

1 large red onion (rough dice)

Ethiopian spices (Mitmita, Berbere, mitin shiro) 4-5 tsp. total

Salt,  black pepper

butter 3 tbsp.

garlic (4-5 cloves, peeled)

lemon juice (1 medium lemon)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and chop sweet potato and onion. Melt butter in a large bowl and add 2 to 3 tsp of Ethiopian spices and lemon juice. Mix and match to your spice preferences. The mitmita is the most spicy, the berbere is a bit spicy and the mitin shiro is not spicy at all. Toss onions, garlic and sweet potato in the butter, lemon juice and spice mix. Coat well and then place on double layered foil that will become the pouch.

Rub the chicken breast with 2-3 tsp of Ethiopian spice mix and salt and pepper. Place chicken on top of vegetables and fold pouch tightly.  Bake for an hour or until chicken breast is cooked through.

This recipe was a huge hit with D. His only suggestion was that we have bread to eat along with it. Although I really enjoyed it as well, it was a bit spicy for me and I felt that it lacked something. The sweet potato was definitely a great choice, the sweetness worked well with the spice.

I appreciate any suggestions that you all may have, especially if you have experience cooking with Ethiopian spices etc.

I absolutely adore cooking but I will be the first to admit my lack of expertise! So, please! If you have wisdom, send it my way!

Flag Day!!!

Flag day was an absolute whirlwind. The night before I went to a show at the Kennedy Center with a good friend from undergrad. The show was a tribute to the works of Rodger and Hammerstein. It was awesome with a big heaping of awesomesauce. Thank you, Friend!!!

So, after a late night, I was quite tired the next morning but Flag Day beckoned. So many questions would be answered!

Where are we going? When are we going? What will the weather be like? Will I be able to get a job? How long will we be in DC? Will we get one of our high choices? What if we got one of our low choices? What if I immediately dislike the assignment we are given? What if I adore it?

These are all very plausible and understandable emotional reactions.

One of the big caveats about this job is the certainty that we will eventually have to go somewhere we don’t want to. It is just the nature of the job and world wide availability is a very real concept. The trick is getting past that initial feeling of: OMG, THEY WANT TO SEND US WHERE?!!?!!!???!! Ahhhhh!!!

Photo courtesy of Fark.com

and instead channeling my inner Tim Gunn and “MAKE IT WORK, PEOPLE!!!!”

Photo courtesy of Vitodibari.com

Or something like that.

All that aside, D and I are both over the moon excited about our first post. LOME, TOGO!! August 2012!!!!!!

Courtesy of Wikipedia

We only had about 8-10 posts listed as our high choices and Togo was one of them. We didn’t expect to get one of our high choices at all so we are very very happy that we did!!! D and I both are really excited about living in West Africa and we will be in good company. One of D’s classmates will be joining us at the same post and we have others in posts nearby. We consider ourselves very lucky.

I will share more info about Togo as I learn more about the post and country!

B

UAB Arrived!!!

Just a quick update:

 

Our UAB arrived last week! After opening all of those boxes our apartment was a complete mess! So much laundry to do and dishes that needed to be put away. We have nearly all of it done, still few loads of laundry that need to be washed. I was sad to find out that my blender and dough scraper were accidentally put in HHE instead of UAB. Oh well. I can do without them for now, I suppose.

Getting UAB is oddly a lot like Christmas, you forget about some of the stuff you packed and so somethings are a surprise!

D and I have been super busy the past week. I am finishing a huge project this week and I will be super glad to be finally done. I will be relieved of a lot of stress once it is finished and will have time to get to some crafty projects I have been wanting to do.

I’m going to get back to decimating the evil project! Hopefully by the next time I post I will have words of victory to shout!

Settling In

It has been a long road but we are finally  here! And boy, are we exhausted!

D and I arrived on Saturday night, a little before 8 pm after a very tiring drive. We were happy to get settled in and were very pleased with the apartment. It is awesome to have a great kitchen again and a huge king size bed!

After getting Winston settled in with his dinner and cat box, we pretty much crashed for the rest of the night.

On Sunday we had a meet and greet at one of the local bars to network with D’s fellow 163 rd class and the veteran 161st class. It was really nice to get to meet classmates and spouses. Everyone is super nice and excited, we definitely have a great group 😀

D started his first day of A-100 on Monday and from day one life has sped up quite a bit. The A-10o days are long and there is a lot of information to take in but I think the challenges of that forces the classmates to work together and help one another which is great because once we are dispersed to different countries the bonds formed during these training weeks really need to be strong enough to stand the test of distance.

This became very apparent on Thursday when the spouses  and EFMs (that’s me!) had our own taste of what the FSOs were going through day by day. We had a full day of training and got a chance to network with the fellow EFMs, partners and spouses as well as learning about all the programs that work on our behalf. It was nice to have recognition that although this life will be amazing, it will also be tough. Knowing that there are programs and people out there who are ready to help in whatever capacity is such a relief. It was also just so awesome to really get to chat with the other spouses. Exhausting but good day!

The weekend is finally here and what a relief it is. I started our weekend by making some banana pancakes. Tonight we are having spicy chicken sandwiches and home made french fries for dinner. Thank goodness for weekends! It has been a busy week and all I want is some good quality time with D (and Winston, of course) 😀

Packout is Imminent!

Only two days left  before the epic road trip to DC commences!

Oh my goodness, we are so excited to get out of this hotel room and into a real apartment! (Even poor Winston is antsy and sick of the small space! My fat boy needs his morning constitutional i.e. running up and down the hallway three to four times haha).

Tonight we have to pack up the things that will be going into the car with us and sort out all the things that belong to the hotel. Wouldn’t want to accidentally take any of their stuff! Early tomorrow morning (around 6 am) we will get up and sort all of our stuff in piles of HHE and UAB and put the car stuff in the car.

The movers should arrive around 9-10:30 tomorrow to do the weighing and packing. No clue how long it will take but we will have drinks and snacks for them!

After the packing is done our hotel will be a lot less crowded thankfully and we will head out to WV/VA early Friday morning. We will be visiting my family and staying in a hotel in my hometown on Friday night. Then we will head on to DC midday Saturday.

We are both very anxious to get started but also a bit nervous about what this new and unexpected life holds.

Whee!

B

Getting Ready for Packout!!!

In a week we will be doing our first Foreign Service packout!! So excited! So much work to do!!!

So far we have started an inventory of all our items: DVDs, CDs, Kitchenware, Books etc

Next we have to decide what goes in UAB, HHE, the things that go with us and what will go in storage. We also have to start thinking about what we need to buy. These are tough choices to make considering we have to choose wisely about what we choose to travel with us. I have been looking at gorgeous cookware that is both pretty and useful. The ability to go from the stove as cookware to table as serving dish is the goal!

Okay, so I know I have been throwing around some alphabet soup:

UAB: Unaccompanied Air Baggage- This is the shipment that will arrive within two weeks after we move to DC. UAB can weigh 450 lbs (counting packing weight); we will put the most important items in this shipment such as cookware, entertainment and clothing..

HHE: House Hold Effects- This is the big one! HHE can hold up to 17,000 lbs, however we can only get 7200 of that shipped overseas to us at one time, so if we had more than that in HHE it would be considered storage. Thankfully D and I have nowhere near that amount haha. Whatever we put in HHE, we won’t see until we are overseas for at least a month or two. We won’t have access to HHE while in DC but thankfully we can add to it.

Storage: Pretty much whatever in our HHE that is beyond the 7200 lb HHE shipment that will go with us overseas is considered storage. It is highly unlikely we would have such a storage but still good to keep in mind.

Consumables: If we are sent to a country where it is tough to get certain consumables, we will get a 2500 (ish) lb allotment for such consumables. Our consumable list will definitely include cat food, cat litter etc. Anything else will depend on where our first post is located and what it has in store for us!

We are not allowed to pack anything ourselves but we will be organizing the different shipments into piles so that when the movers get here on the 8th we will be ready!

So exciting!

B

Wedding Weekend, Great Friends and Giant Quesadillas!

I have been slow about blogging lately, the days have been moving quickly but I have been working on a post! Here is one I started a few days after the wedding. Beware, there be gushy mushy stuff ahead:

As most of you already know, D and I got married this past Saturday (8-6-2011)! The ceremony was simply amazing and we are both very very happy 😀 We both feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the group of amazing friends and family who have shown us such support over the past three years (our three year anniversary is only a month away! 9-6-2011) and appreciate each and every one of you!

We toasted with Ale 8 (Kentucky Ginger Ale) rather than champagne. Yum 😀
Lilies, Hydrangea, Daisies and baby Marigolds 😀

Our friend S officiated the ceremony and our friend B did all the photography with the help of her lovely partner K. Everyone did such an amazing job and we could not possibly thank everyone enough!

Bouquet that B and K assembled! They did such an amazing job!
D's boutonnière! One of the many things I crafted! Our friend B added the flower from my bouquet 😀

D and I stood in the creek as we said our vows, it was very moving and romantic ( I got a bit teary). The weather was perfect and the water was so warm!

We said our vows in the creek! Really!

After the ceremony we took some more pictures and then, as a group, decided where we wanted to go for dinner. D suggested this wonderful Mexican restaurant nearby and so we packed into our cars and headed over there where we enjoyed margaritas (for the non-drivers) and the biggest quesadillas I have ever seen! It was delicious and the company was even better 😀

Just Married!

By the end of the day we were all happy and exhausted, we said our goodbyes and headed on home. B and K, who had come from NYC to attend the wedding stayed with D and I until today when they left to see other friends before heading back to the East Coast. It was so wonderful spending time with them. We played lots and lots of board games, visited two bourbon distilleries (Four Roses and Wild Turkey) and ate yummy Vietnamese food. D and I were sad to see them off this morning but we were so happy that they were able to visit. We also had a close friend from Detroit who flew down for the wedding as well and it was wonderful spending time with everyone together, introducing old friends who had never met one another. It is always interesting to introduce different friend groups to one another, both mine and D’s.

After all the festivities of the wedding and visiting friends D and I have settled into a comfortable down time together, we made a trip to Louisville for D’s younger brother’s birthday, trip to Berea to have dinner with two wonderful people and drinks with another friend (Fantastic day!) but otherwise the past few weeks have been pretty uneventful. Winston is on a diet and had a bit of a chemical irritation in his right eye so we had to take him to the vet and get medicine for him (he is fine now!). The vet told us he really needed to go on a diet so we bought him special food and a measuring cup to ensure we are giving him the proper amounts. He is, naturally, very unhappy with this new change but he has already lost half a pound and probably more at this point! We spent Sunday at the farmers market with a good friend and had a wonderful time! There be apple cider donuts in our hotel room 😀 and watermelon. Yum!

Today we got our Foreign Service travel orders settled (for the move to DC) and the FS is officially recognizing us as a couple since we emailed them our marriage certificate! Shew! Nice to have that settled. Now we know when to expect the movers and when we need to get our packing sorted. There are inventories to be done!

This week will include lunch with my family, D and I both have a lot of work to do and we have the first of a few going away parties this saturday. Busy busy.

Sorry for the muddled post, this one has been worked on over the past few weeks so it definitely zigs and zags from one topic to another. Hopefully I can bring you a more cohesive post next time 😀

B

Move One, Two and Three

Move One

On Sunday D and I will be moving from our current apartment into an extended stay hotel here in Lexington. The lease is up on the 31st at the current apartment so we will be packing up the car and Winston for the relative comfort of the hotel. Hey, at least it has a pool (or so I’ve been told) and a kitchen. That’ll do.

D and I will be getting hitched! in Louisville on the 6th of August. We are planning a tiny impromptu ceremony in one of the parks in the city with around 15 of our closest friends and family. It will be a relatively low key affair. I will have a veil, bouquet, and pretty white sundress but otherwise very little fanfare. After the ceremony we will have dinner with our guests at a yet to be decided restaurant in Louisville. I am getting super duper excited. D and I got the marriage license on Tuesday and I was really happy to see that they still ask for your parent’s full name. It made me happy because I have been doing a lot of genealogy research for my family tree and marriage licenses have been very helpful. I like knowing my future family members might one day find my marriage license and it will help them build a picture of their ancestors 😀

Foreign Service Stuff

Everyone keeps asking when we are going to China so I thought I might explain a little further the process on here. Which involves explaining…

Move Two

The second move D and I will do together is the move to DC. We will be heading to DC around the second week of September. That is when D starts his A-100 class! During A-100, which is a six week intensive introduction to the Foreign Service and general diplomatic life, we will get a list called a bid list (probably around the second week). This bid list contains all the countries that have job openings and we will have to look at the list and bid on every country, deciding whether the country is a high, medium or low priority. We then will turn that list into D’s career counselor and they will discuss stuff with us and then we wait. Until the last week of A-100. One of the last days of A-100 there is a day called Flag Day. On Flag Day we find out where we are going to be sent abroad. D has worldwide availability so it could be anywhere.

Once we figure out where we are going we may leave very soon or if more language training is necessary we could be in DC another four to six months, possibly longer. Which leads to

Move Three!

The move abroad! It will involve lots of packing and sorting! I don’t have much to say about that yet but will definitely keep you posted 😀

Things are going pretty great here, I have a fat cat sleeping next to me and I can’t seem to shake the urge to constantly make rice pudding. There are definitely worse fates to be had.

B