Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving.  It is probably my favorite holiday.  I’m spending the day cooking while the husband is at work – that’s what happens when you work on another country’s schedule. I would have loved to do a repeat of Fancy Thanksgiving from last year, but with the husband working, me just getting back from training, and so many of our closest friends out of town because plane tickets back to the U.S. are so darn cheap right now, the stars just didn’t align. We’re joining our friends at their apartment for dinner with their visit family tonight.  I’m making the turkey! Nom nom nom.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


People, you know what is absolutely hilarious? That people are upset that Starbucks just has plain red cups for the holidays this year.  I had one back when I was in DC, and I have to tell you – I didn’t even notice.

People, you know what I’m really excited about? The fact that I was in America long enough to experience both pumpkin and peppermint drinks seasons. It’s the little things in life.

Coffee cup

Apartment Tour

Home again and it feels so good! My month in DC is over, and I’m back in Rio. It is hot! Summer is almost here. Being gone for a month made Rio feel new again, which is kind of nice. It is a beautiful city – so green, with magnificent views. Going away for a while helped me to appreciate that all over again.

I think I promised you all an apartment tour sometime ago, and I am finally delivering. In case you needed more incentive to come visit us, now you can see our comfy home!  Guys, I seriously love our apartment.  I mean, we have all the regular issues that you get in an old building – floorboards coming up, windows that won’t stay closed, weird closets, lots of street noise, and a crappy water heater – but I still love it.  It is our first home together!  And we’ve really made it ours.  Plus, our view is amazing.  And the place is huge.

Of course, we have all the standard USG furniture pool stuff. Wouldn’t be home without it.  We’ve done a pretty good job of bringing in color and mixing in our own pieces, and with all our natural light I didn’t even feel the need to paint.  Our rugs from Morocco and Mexico certainly help!

Sally, of course, has the best view in the place.  She would accept nothing less.

(Hold your cursor over each photo for more info, or click for a slideshow.  Win for WordPress with the new features.)

DC Wrap Up

I wasn’t ready to leave DC this go round. (I mean, I was. I missed home. I missed the husband. I missed Sally cat. You know what I mean.)  I really do love DC. I love fall, I love being in the same place as some of my really good friends.  DC is great.  Yes, I’m sure after really living here for a few years we’ll be very ready to go overseas again, but right now we’re ready to be in America.  Such is life.

It is super fun/weird to see how much has changed in DC since I started spending long periods of time here in 2007.  There is an insanely hipster Cambodia/Taiwanese place on H street. There are new grocery stores everywhere. 8 years ago when we’d go to Chinatown, my friend’s dad would tell us to be careful because he was remembering what it was like 15 years before that.  How things have changed.

My trip was productive. I learned all about procurement, I got a handshake, and I even toured a few apartment buildings in preparation for next year. I think we’ve narrowed down where we want to live, which is a huge relief – I’m going to be moving back right after the Olympics.  Apartment hunting will not be happening in advance!

I didn’t go to a single museum or monument this time around, but there is always time for that. Bye bye for now DC!  See you next year.

Procurement Training

I spent the last four weeks in Procurement training, passed both my tests and now qualify for a contracting warrant for the U.S. Department of State.  This sums up my thoughts on Procurement training.  I was on the bus early on during the class, and one of my classmates, fresh out of A-100, was gushing about the course.  “Yes, it is very dry, but every day just confirms that I was right to choose Management cone!”  Every day that I was in the class confirmed for me that my personality is better suited to other types of FS work.  This is what you get when you fill out the application for the Foreign Service at 20 and don’t have a clue about what the different cones mean, or what you even like yet because you are still in college. Go figure.

Guys, I’m trying to conally rectify.  For you non-FS folks reading that going “what the heck did you just type…?” – conal rectification (yes, it really is called that,) is the administrative process to change career tracks, or cones.  I want to change from Management to Public Diplomacy. I can always just bid on only PD jobs instead of MGT since we are all generalists and are expected to be able to do any and all jobs, but you get promoted in competition with people from your same cone.  If I’m in competition with MGT officers and haven’t done any MGT work, it is very unlikely that I’ll ever get promoted.  I’ve been planning to conally rectify since Cambodia, and now that I have my next PD job I’m getting closer to meeting the requirements.

All that aside, I am glad I got to take procurement training.  I’ve already caught myself using what I’ve learned in keeping in touch with my team back in Rio and directing them through various ongoing procurement processes at post.  I mean, it is bone dry, but I am glad to have it because it will make me a better officer in the long run. I have so much more appreciation for GSOs now – they seriously have the hardest job at post.  I wish A-100 included a section on “how to be nice to your GSO –aka how to do purchasing/e-services requests/what the heck is ICASS?”

GSOs have to manage an extremely complicated government contracting process that we learn in only four weeks.  I know military officers going through the Defense contracting training right now, and it is a minimum of two years of training before they get their warrants.  And we have to follow the same regulations (more or less).  If that isn’t stressful, I don’t know what is.

In addition, GSOs at a small post also manage housing, motorpool, shipping, customs, visitors, and more.  Anything I can do to make their lives easier I will do, and this class was super helpful for that.  PD officers are notorious for not being specific in their asks from GSO, and I have learned just how important that is.  I’m sorry, my former GSOs from Phnom Penh.  I promise I’ll be better in the future.

Meet Bogart



And no, he isn’t mine. But he is probably the first dog that I wish could be. I’ve been spending time with my sister-in-law in DC, and she and her husband have a new puppy who is adorable. Clearly. I am very good at entertaining him while they unpack boxes. I’m useful! (I also provide an unsentimental and harsh eye when it comes to getting rid of stuff. I love organizing. It’s weird.)

Bogie is a Norwich Terrior, and he is full of energy.  He is awesome. I’m totally going to babysit when I move back next year.

Meanwhile, Sally is very glad that the husband is home, and what she doesn’t know about the puppy won’t hurt her.

Happy Handshake Day!

Woohoo for handshake day!  And for getting a handshake.  :)  You all knew I was only bidding on DC, but actually getting the official offer is a relief.  Starting sometime next summer/fall, I will be working in DC in the SCA Bureau Press Office.  I’m super excited to be finally getting back to PD work, to be coming back to DC, and to be done with bidding for a few years!  Now, to get the husband a job here too…

Fall Cooking Part 1 – Bookclub Brunch

Prior to heading to DC for this month of training, I had been having a lot of fun doing fall cooking at home in Rio.  I realize we are solidly in spring and moving into summer down in the Southern Hemisphere, but I was inspired by all the cooking blogs I follow.

Here in DC, my cooking is anything but inspired – hello hotel room microwave!  Did you know that adding stone ground mustard to microwavable mac and cheese really saves the whole dish?  Now you do.  On the plus side, I can get yummy things like fresh baby spinach and blueberries.  I’m not starving.

So, in order to indulge myself and be able to cook all the recipes I wanted to try without stuffing the husband and myself silly, I invited my book club over for a Fall Brunch.  Yes, I have started a book club in Rio!  Yay!  More on that later.

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Our brunch was influenced by several recipes I found online, and make ahead was a plus.  The menu was:

  • Pumpkin Spice White Russians – I followed this recipe over at A Beautiful Mess.  I used Kahlua instead of Bailey’s because it’s what I had, and I think I changed the ratios slightly, but that is easy enough to figure out.  Yummy!
  • Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread – mom’s recipe that I have been making for years.  It is still the best.
  • Gluten Free Pumpkin Pancakes – thank you Trader Joe’s, for feeding my gluten free friend.
  • Red Flannel Hash – I combined two different recipes, one called Fall Vegetable Hash and one from EatingWell called Red Flannel Hash.  I couldn’t get the brussel sprouts the first recipe called for, and I really don’t like fennel (from the second recipe.)  Bacon was a must. I mostly followed the first recipe, but followed the instructions for beets from the second.  I even steamed the beets the night before so I didn’t have to mess with it morning of when I was busy with other things.  The cook time on the whole hash was longer than the recipes called for, but that could just be my stove.  This disappeared.

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  • Apple Omelette with Cheddar and Thyme – food blogger What Should I Eat For Breakfast Today has a beautiful blog and does some really amazing recipes.  I followed her recipe for the omelette, although I had to use terrible cheese and I didn’t have fresh time.  It was also my first time whipping egg whites, and I didn’t know how far to go with it so I didn’t whip them long enough.  It still turned out great, but when I tried it again later that night for dinner (different filling, but I really, really wanted to get it right!) it turned out totally different.  The eggs baked into a foam, essentially.  It was like nothing I’d ever had before.

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Of course, I wrote out my recipes for what I actually did, but they’re all at home!  I’ll try to remember to update when I’m back in Rio and have them in front of me.  Cook away!

Date Night, DC

The husband and I had a great, busy few days while he was in DC.  He used the weekdays to meet and greet in various offices across DC, we caught up with friends, and we ate.  A lot.

We reserved Tuesday night for ourselves, since we spent most of our time together in the company of other people.  We made reservations at a really nice place in Old Town and were excited to have a nice date.  Excited, that is, until we ate out for almost all our meals Sat/Sun/Mon.  We decided to postpone our fancy dinner and to just wander Old Town instead.  Salads and Ben and Jerry’s anyone?  Isn’t marriage great?  :)