Here are some of my disjointed thoughts as departure day got closer and closer!

It is here! We will board the plane tonight (August 9th) and land in Togo tomorrow! Oh my goodness! So excited!!!!!!


“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next.” Lewis Carroll

Lately I have felt very much like Alice as she tumbled down the rabbit hole. D and I have prepared this whole year for moving to Togo and now when it is finally within reach and becoming very very real, I find myself on very unstable ground. The Oakwood apartment that has been our homestead for this past year is no longer ‘our home’. I am anxious to move into our new home in Togo but there is also a supremely large part of me that is scared straight with all the changes that are coming to us. New continent, new job (hopefully), new friends and all on unfamiliar terrain.

I dread those first few days where I will be without internet or phone, in an unfamiliar land, without connection to the world that has always been known to me.  I try to reason with myself: it shouldn’t be that scary. After all, I lived a life of disconnection and seclusion for nearly the first twenty years of my life. I’ve lived in tiny hollows on the side of a mountain and deep in a valley where the mountains towered above, blocking out cell phone reception and rogue wireless internet signals. Laughing in the face of modern technologies. It wasn’t until college that I had regular access to the internet and I’ve only had a cell phone since senior year of undergrad. But I have also never faced a gulf between friends and loved ones like this before either. It is a daunting proposition.

I will have to put far more effort into making phone calls at odd hours of the night. For those who know me well, they know just how much I loath talking on the phone. But it will be a necessary inconvenience as many of my close family members are not internet savvy and thus unable to email, Facebook or read this blog. Also, it is just nice to hear loved one’s voices. There is also the knowledge that losing family members while I am away is a very real possibility and so each goodbye is is filled with uncertainty as to if or when I will get another hello. The possibility that I will be unable to pay my final respects. These are all realities of this chosen lifestyle.

I am certainly not a stranger to new beginnings but this one is going to be a doozy.

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OMG!!!!!  BUY ALL THE THINGS AT COSTCO!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, if I can give you one bit of advice from personal experience. Do not, please, DO NOT schedule your DMV driving test the same day that you plan on shopping for bras (super stressful, amiright, ladies?!) and doing your entire consumables shopping at COSTCO. It is not a good idea, it will not end well. I definitely failed my test that morning, the testing lady was SUPER mean and unprofessional and made me cry in the DMV parking lot. She definitely made me feel like the worst person in the world. Then we went bra shopping (UGH) and COSTO TRIP OF DOOM!!!!

By the time we got to Costco, I was so drained and zombie-fied and of course it was a Saturday, so the store was packed to the max! There is nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out how much shampoo you will need for two years while pushing a huge cart already filled to the max as others milled about me. D, my husband, tends to err on the side of conservative estimates and I tend to worry about not getting enough so we had to talk out most items and I had to fight my inner worry wort/anxiety demon that kept assuring me we were not going to buy enough of X amount of item and THE WHOLE WORLD WOULD END AND HAPPINESS WOULD DISAPPEAR AS WE KNOW IT! So yeah, stressful.

So, of course, once we finished shopping and paid at the register, everything was super simple. The Costco manager was expecting us, so he was able to have all of our stuff boxed up, crated and prepared for the shippers to pick it up the next business day. No fuss, no muss. The world did not end. Yet.

Then we went home and ate Chinese food (Happy Family!) and licked my wounds/vegged on the couch while watching crap tv.

This is what 405 lbs of kitty litter looks like!

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I reupholstered a chair!

So, we bought this barrel chair at JUNK in Brooklyn, NYC and I finally got around to reupholstering it! I think it came out pretty well for my first try!

My first attempt at reupholstering. It is a chair that is made out of an old bourbon or wine barrel

This is what it looked like before the big transformation:

The original chair.

I managed to finish the night before the movers came! Huzzah!

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Ahhh! The movers are here and they are taking all of our stuff! Bless my heart! I never realized how attached I was to THINGS until the packers came and carefully boxed everything up. I had to physically make myself sit on the couch and not get in their way and hover as they packed my spices and Kermit, my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer.

However, after the movers left, ZEN descended upon my being. It was out of my hands. And then an hour later I felt agitated again because I kept thinking of awesome things to cook and bake that involved all of my wonderful and beloved kitchen supplies. Yeah, I know, I’m crazy. Don’t judge! (Okay, you can judge, whatevs).

Also, I definitely have to call myself out for all my angst about the movers. They were totally awesome and efficient and I was totally WhiteWhining in my seperation anxiety/crazy/moving angst. Totally lame.

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3-5 days til flight!

I go from being agitated and wanting to be in Togo already to being quite calm about the whole situation. Lots of calls to family members and friends to say goodbyes. D and I both have a bit of a head cold/sinus thing, so lots of vegging. I am getting so excited about the teaching I will be doing and wondering what kind of classrooms I will get to teach in and what the kids will be like! Also, nervous! I am finally getting to teach!

August 6th- OUR ONE YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!!!! HOORAY!!!!!!!

August 7th- We had a lovely steak dinner and milkshakes at Ray’s to the Third to celebrate. Absolutely delicious! I highly recommend!

August 8th/9th- scurry to clean the apartment, repack the suitcases (since we have been living out of them), stress about flying with Sir Winston. We are taking him on the plane as carry on so I’ve been worried about having issues with that. Otherwise I am feeling really calm and excited about the journey to come! We are moving to Togo! Holy moly!

Let’s do this!

B

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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!

Tis the Season! (For an update)

It has been a while since my last post but life is moving quickly! Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas happened (WHOA!!!) and the New Year has arrived!

Thanksgiving weekend was quite good for our little family. My wonderful Mother-in-law who I adore was able to visit for Thanksgiving and we had an awesome time touring the Smithsonian museums with her

and introducing her to the deliciousness that is Peruvian Chicken and yucca.

Photo courtesy of http://howchow.blogspot.com/2010/05/trolling-peruvian-chicken-ledos-pizza.html

The visit was wonderful and we were so happy to see her before the move to Africa. Also, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian are really super cool! I saw Dorothy’s ruby slippers!

I have also been making friends among D’s co-workers. A few of the lovely ladies and I got together and attended a craft fair here in Falls Church. It was so wonderful! I bought a BEAUTIFUL new apron and a few gorgeous pieces of pottery: two mugs, one bowl and a huge cookie jar!

The ladies were also kind enough to invite me to join their newly formed book club and, although I have never been much of a joiner (judging by my one meeting stint in the Girl Scouts), I really enjoy these ladies’ company, so I figure I will give it a shot.  If I stink at it, well, perhaps whatever sweet treat I offer to the meeting will make up for my socially awkward nature. Either way, it is yet another opportunity to bake and that is always a happy time 🙂

Speaking of baking, I’ve been doing quite a bit of that lately with a fair amount of success. In November I attended a Cupcake and Champagne party. I made dark chocolate cupcakes with a cocoa and cayenne pepper buttercream frosting.

The party was so much fun and I got to know and spend time with some of the lovely people D gets to work with everyday. There have been many such get togethers since then. Most recently D and I hosted our first dinner party. D roasted some pork, made a mushroom crepe cake and I made my first loaf of Challah bread

I was surprised at how easy it was to make challah. Definitely my go-to bread from now on. I also baked some regular bread for sandwiches and such. We have been trying to make our own bread rather than buying it from the store. Eh, it is a work in progress 🙂

This bread makes excellent toast. I always use the recipe from the blog The Simple Dollar.

This year’s Christmas celebration was especially special for D and I. This was both our first Christmas together as a married couple but also this is the first time we have celebrated together at all. All the years before we each celebrated with our respective families and last year I was in NYC. So we did it right! We bought a tree, stockings and lights 😀

We’ve also came up with our own little holiday tradition of exchanging gifts on Solstice day rather than Christmas day. We made a special dinner on Solstice and left the Christmas cartoon watching for Christmas day proper.

D and I both now have Kindles!!! OMG it is awesome. So much reading!

We have definitely had a blessed holiday season this year and we are looking forward to all the New Year brings. I start French class on Tuesday, which will be an interesting challenge. Learning a new language has never come easy to me, but I am excited for the two month class. The class aims to get me conversational so that I can have a good foundation to build on in Togo. Although the time off has been nice, it will be good to have a busier schedule and I will get to socialize a bit more.

The New Year will bring a lot of changes for D and I but we are both very excited for what is to come. I am so thankful to start this year with D and I hope 2012 brings many blessings your 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) 😀